Category Archives: News

Norman Lamb picks up an “Oscar” for his work on mental health

imageMinister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb MP picked up the prize for the “Best Use of Evidence” at the Political Studies Association Annual Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of Westminster”. These were handed out at a dinner which took place last night at Church House, Westminster.

The MP for North Norfolk was presented with the award for his work on mental health by former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in front of a packed audience of high-profile academics, politicians, political campaigners and journalists.

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Independent inquiry to probe handling of allegations against Councillor Alex Folkes

On Sunday, LDV’s Stephen Tall raised serious questions about the handling, by Cornwall Council, of allegations against Councillor Alex Folkes. Now BBC Cornwall reports a new development:

An independent inquiry will examine a council’s handling of allegations that one of its members was a “risk” to children, the BBC understands.

Cornwall Council warned schools and clubs in Alex Folkes’ Launceston ward not to allow him near children.

Mr Folkes has denied any wrongdoing and said he was cleared by police in 2006 after his credit card was cloned.

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A cute cross-party christening

Tom Watson is Labour MP or West Bromwich and general scourge of the Murdoch empire, which is no bad thing. He’s pretty much with us when he talks about the need to tackle politicians’ deference to the media.

He’s an old friend and university sparring partner of long-standing Liberal Democrat Federal Executive and Federal Conference Committee member James Gurling and this weekend became godfather to Gurling’s incredibly cute 9 month old son.

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Lamb urges online therapy for teenagers with Depression and McInnes urges Scottish Government to improve mental health services for young people

Norman Lamb has been talking to the Times (£)  about different ways of helping children and teenagers with Depression. This could include accessing therapy via an internet app. This would augment, to replace traditional face to face therapy:

MPs on the health select committee said this month that mental health services for children and teenagers were inadequate from prevention to crisis care, as they reported increasing concerns over cyberbullying and self-harm websites.

Mr Lamb wants to use online tools to solve some of these problems, including computerised cognitive behavioural therapy, online counselling and peer support networks for the mentally ill.

“If you’re a teenager and your world revolves around digital access, we must make sure you get access to therapy online. So these programmes are being developed. We’ve got a taskforce looking at how we can modernise children and young people’s mental health and that’s one of the key elements to it,” he told The Times.

“What I want to achieve is a much more seamless service that allows you access online, face to face or over the telephone, whichever is appropriate.”

Some programmes had already been shown to work, he said. “These platforms are evidence-based so the risk is very low that they’re not appropriate. Some people may need more than that so you have to have access to a gradation of different type of service.”

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What do do if you haven’t had a ballot paper in the party Presidential Election

Over the last few months, the party has had the best Presidential election contest it’s had in years, with first four, then three candidates travelling the length of the country to meet and engage with members and answer their questions.

Now it’s almost over. Voting closes tomorrow at noon.

Ballot papers were sent out at the end of October to all members by post. Each member had an option of returning the green ballot paper, or using the unique information in it to vote by post.

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…Lords push for a stronger Modern Slavery Bill

Parliament is never short of Bills coming from the Home Office, but the Modern Slavery Bill is different.  At the end of the second reading in the Lords last week, the Minister pointed to the warm reception given by every speaker who followed this with seven minutes on all the things that could be added to it.  The view on the Lib Dem benches, like others, was to welcome the Bill both for what it is and for the opportunity it provides to do even more to address the abomination (and very big business – this is often highly profitable …

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Opinion: The assessment boycott and the need to protect students with disabilities

I have just started university and all is going well, except in one particular area. I have not received a single piece of work back from my university tutors since my course began. This because of a assessment boycott instigated by the University and Colleges Union (UCU). They are is a dispute with the group that represents the heads of most universities in the UK (UUK) over pensions. I am in the same boat as thousands of other university and college students in the UK. this is not only very annoying it is also very disruptive the my university education. As a student with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), this includes myself as I have Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. This is putting a massive amount of undue extra pressure on me and many others at the beginning of our university lives. I have made a brief video which explains this further:

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Opinion: ALDE Congress: Après le deluge, liberalism reclaimed?

Rainy Lisbon by vidixitIt had been raining in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Indeed, it had been raining for so long and so hard that local taxi drivers couldn’t remember it being worse. Not, perhaps, an auspicious opening for a meeting of European liberals, although for the Germans and ourselves, the notion of poor political weather might well have been vaguely familiar.But, gather we did, and amongst our midst were strangers, hoping to be friends, and some of the new MEPs and European Commissioners, showing their faces and networking. There were emerging issues to discuss – what to do about Russia, how to grow the economy, what to do about the digital economy, privacy and data protection – and a desire to reclaim liberalism from those who use it as a term of abuse.

The first order of business was the ALDE Party Council meeting, but I’ll cover that separately.

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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference

Willie Rennie speaking at Lib Dem Spring conference, Liverpool 2008Here is Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference in Dunfermline this Saturday.

Thank you to everyone who sent kind wishes following my period of absence from the political stage. I was undergoing an operation to replace a mangled disc in my neck.

It was an emergency, not for any medical reasons, but because our campaign director Adam Stachura said it was hindering my canvassing technique.

Lying on the theatre trolley as the needle was about to be injected into my hand the doctor declared she knew exactly who I was.

It was even more alarming that she looked remarkably like Nicola Sturgeon.

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Opinion: What’s that you say, Mr Robinson?

Peter robinson by alan in belfastThis weekend,  Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson addressed his party conference for the last time before the General Election and launched his ire at losing his seat in Westminster last time out. Talking of the DUP candidate’s chances for East Belfast next May he said:

There may be other unionists in the field, but they will only serve to divide the pro-union opposition to the flag-lowering, parade-stopping, gay marriage-supporting, pro water-charging, holier-than-thou Alliance Party.

It’s an interesting choice of words, which drew applause from his audience but needs a serious look at the implications of what they mean, for our sister party in Northern Ireland.

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Nick Clegg taking questions on mental health on Mind’s Facebook page today

nick clegg live tweet town hall 1st may 2014In a Facebook first, Nick Clegg will be taking questions on mental health over on Mind’s Facebook page this lunchtime, starting at 12:30 pm.

He put this brief video on his own page to explain why he thinks this is important and is quoted on Mind’s website:

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An overview of Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

Scottish liberal democratsFor the first time in 5 years, and only the third in the almost 15 years we’ve been back in Scotland, I missed a Scottish Conference this weekend. I had a particularly unpleasant bug that kept me in my bed for almost 3 days. Be gentle with me because I’m still not quite recovered.

The event had keynote speeches from Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and leader Willie Rennie, a discussion on the manifesto led by Jo Swinson and motions on subjects such as access to mental health services for young people and putting more NHS resources in areas of deprivation – a patient premium. The conference also passed a landmark motion calling for decriminalisation of sex work. You can have a look at the motions up for debate here. There was, I am told, even a good old-fashioned tammy on amending Conference Standing Orders which the Establishment won – but only after a counted vote.

My colleague Dave Gorman, from Falkirk gave a brief summary of the day on Facebook and I have his permission to reproduce it here:

My experience of being a Liberal Democrat, and the vitriol and nonsense written and spoken about us, causes me to write this. Today we agreed policy on, inter alia, widening participation to democracy including giving a duty to electoral officers to stimulate voting; providing new rights to sex workers and decriminalising it; extra funding for GP practices based on special funding in deprived areas; new support for poorer workers and much more. I remain proud to stand with fellow Liberal Democrats to promote opportunity and to promote the rights and opportunities of the minority, the oppressed and the poorest. So there.

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Alex Folkes: Cornwall Council and its chief executive have serious questions to answer

Many Lib Dems will know Alex Folkes. He’s a Lib Dem councillor on Cornwall Council, and was a member of its cabinet until earlier this month, when he stood down to “deal with a personal issue”. I noticed it at the time, hoped it was nothing too bad, thought no more of it.

Then on Thursday night I read Alex’s 1,500-word blog-post, ‘The truth about why I resigned and the claims being made against me’.

It is an extraordinary account which, if shown to be true, must surely lead to the resignation of Cornwall Council’s chief executive, Andrew Kerr. It was Mr Kerr who has asked Alex to resign from the council over claims he poses a “potential risk” to children. Last week, without giving Alex any advance notice, the council wrote to all schools and youth clubs in his ward about him and issued a press release to say they had done so. Why? Here’s how Alex tells it:

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How Lib Dems should talk about immigration

british future immigrationThis week saw the publication of an important report from the think-tank British Future called ‘How to talk about immigration’.

Its central thrust is that the majority of the British public’s views about immigration are more moderate, pragmatic and nuanced than the polarising debate often allows:

How to talk about immigration challenges both the pro and anti-migration voices to respond to the public’s desire for a sensible conversation about immigration.

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By-election update: Lib Dem progress in Stockport

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Three principal council by-elections were fought yesterday alongside the Parliamentary contest in Rochester & Strood.

In Stockport, the Conservatives held on to their seat in Bramhall South & Woodford despite a hard-fought campaign by the Liberal Democrat team. Polling day saw many volunteers from across the Greater Manchester area descend on the Stockport MB ward in an attempt to clinch victory from the Conservatives. However the Conservative candidate polled 53.2% to secure victory by 578 votes. Liberal Democrat candidate Jeremy Meal managed to increase the party’s …

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 11

Congratulations to Jon Featonby, who continues to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 11, having amassed a whopping 675 points. Not far behind is George Murray (663), then Sam Bowman (659).

A bit of a gap has opened up between the top three and the chasing pack: fourth-placed Andrew Wiseman is 34 points back. However, just 69 points separates the top whole of the top 10, a gap that can easily be closed. After all, where we work we win, right?

For information only, the bottom placed team has 205 points, dangerously close to a lost deposit.

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Compromise signalled on future of TPIMs

The Guardian and other outlets are reporting that the new anti-terror bill to be published next week will include a power to force individuals subject to TPIMs to relocate within the UK, subject to a restricted definition of terrorism and a higher burden of proof.

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Emily Thornberry resigns over tweet

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has resigned from the front bench over a tweet from Rochester which shows, at best, a gulf of understanding between the Labour front bench and working class “white van man”.

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Race, Extremism, Recruitment & Inspiration: the EMLD Presidential Hustings

EMLD Hustings - LD RadioThis week the Ethnic Minority Lib Dems became the first and only party AO/SAO to host a presidential hustings, with Issan Ghazni very ably chairing what for me was the most interesting of the handful of debates I’ve seen so far. He introduced the evening by noting that the UK is becoming ever more diverse and that our party’s lack of ethnic minority representation is an existential issue. The candidates then faced a range of excellent questions covering not just diversity in the party and the failures of the government to advance race equality but other issues such as countering radicalisation, social cohesion and the rise of the far right.

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Rochester & Strood by-election: Ukip win, Lib Dems lose 11th deposit

Mark Reckless won his bid to be re-elected an MP under the UKIP banner last night, following his eve-of-conference defection from the Conservatives. That this wasn’t at all a surprise — the swing from the Tories to UKIP was 28% — says something about the febrile dynamics of politics at the moment. Support for Labour in a seat they held until 2010 also slumped. Geoff Juby for the Lib Dems trailed in fifth place behind the Greens, having shed some nine-tenths of the party’s May 2010 vote. This was Lib Dems’ 11th lost deposit of the parliament.

Here are the votes:

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Three thoughts this Transgender Day of Remembrance

1911715_10154912243065565_3205825898850673008_nToday is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to pause and think of all those transgender people who have lost their lives just for being who they are across the world. I read the list of people who are being remembered in 2014 and it’s pretty harrowing to think of all those young lives lost through prejudice. Everybody should be free to express their identity without fear or attack.

A study earlier this year showed the high rates of suicide and attempted suicide amongst transgender people compared to the general population. We can’t stand by in the face of such evidence. It’s important that we make sure that everyone has the care and support that they need.

Paris Lees writes in the Guardian today about friends who have died far too soon and asks us all to show solidarity with transgender people.

I  spoke at the TDOR ceremony in London last year – one of the biggest in Europe, certainly in Britain, and possibly in the world. It was draining and moving and lacked the glitz and glamour of the well-funded galas and awards ceremonies that gay charities and magazines are able to throw at this time of year. It’s an event of which mainstream society is barely aware. Most of those attending were trans themselves, and there was a rawness and intense empathy with the suffering of those we remembered. I mean no offence to the wonderful people who give so much of their own time and emotion to organise TDOR, but we deserve better. We deserve better coverage in newspapers. We deserve better recognition at the political level. We deserve to feel like it is not just trans people who are moved and outraged by the culture of violence and abuse towards us here and around the world.

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Final Reminder: All votes in party committee elections must be cast by noon tomorrow

Here’s all you need to know:

How do I vote?

Voting papers were distributed by email to all those federal voting representatives for whom the party had an email address on the morning of Monday 3 November. It came from Electoral Reform Services and has a two part security code and a link to enable you to vote.

Those for whom the party did not have an email address were sent a letter advising them how to vote online and if they weren’t able to do that, to contact LDHQ for advice.

If you haven’t had either of these and you are a Federal Conference voting representative, contact [email protected] as soon as possible.

When do I have to vote by?

Thursday, 20th November at noon. That’s tomorrow to you and me. In fact, it’s 17 hours from now. Best do it before you go to bed tonight. NB this is not the same as for the Presidential election which closes on 26th November. 

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Shirley Williams promotes Community Award in memory of West Midlands student

Shirley Williams groupCommittee member of West Midlands Lib Dem Youth and local party diversity officer, Stephen Sherwood died aged 25, earlier this year. Despite having two kidney transplants and losing his sight, Stephen was involved in his local community and planned to stand for Herefordshire Council in 2015. Everyone who met him was amazed by his ambition and determination to overcome the obstacles that life had thrown at him.
Herefordshire Lib Dems have launched a new community award competition in memory of Stephen.

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Charlotte Henry resigns from the Liberal Democrats

Prominent blogger and journalist, Charlotte Henry, has today resigned from the Liberal Democrats. She explains her reasons on her blog:

Today, with genuine sadness, I am resigning from the Liberal Democrat party.

I joined in 2009, becoming an intern for Don Foster MP. There are few better ways to get a political education than chasing after Don. Since then I’ve campaigned and consulted for candidates, held senior roles in the youth wing, and stood for the London Assembly and my local council. However, I can no longer remain in the Liberal Democrats.

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David Ward MP: Jerusalem synagogue attackers “driven to madness by failure of international community to deal with Israel”

David Ward MP’s tweet on the Jerusalem synagogue attack has been widely covered although, for him, it is relatively restrained:

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Jeremy Browne hits out at “arbitrary” mansion tax

Jeremy Browne - Minister for Crime PreventionIn today’s Times (£), Jeremy Browne slams the Lib Dem plans for a mansion tax:

Plans to introduce an “arbitrary” mansion tax on expensive homes will “undermine the fundamental principles of private ownership”, a former Lib Dem minister has warned.

photo by: ukhomeoffice
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Welsh Liberal Democrats to hold Assembly debate on Transgender awareness

Transgender pride flagThis week, as well as being Anti-Bullying Week, is Transgender Awareness Week. Thursday marks the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial to all those transgender people who have been injured and killed as a result of hate crime.

Tomorrow, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are holding a debate in the Welsh Assembly that aims to make life better for Wales’ 31,300 transgender citizen. The idea is to persuade the Welsh Government to actually put some walk to the talk. For those 31,300 people, there is no Gender Clinic in Wales. While violence against transgender people is a hate crime, there’s been little done to actually make people safer.

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All hail the Casked Crusader and his cross party supporters!

The Casked Crusader

Greg Mulholland and MPs from all parties should be toasted (in the drinks sense not the fork over the fire sense) in every pub in England tonight. Greg’s amendment to the Small Business Bill, giving pub landlords in tied houses the right to a fair rent, squeaked through the House of Commons by a margin of just 15 votes.

28 Liberal Democrats and 15 Tories defied the Government whips to pass the measure, overturning the Government’s usual majority of about 60. It’s a good, transformative liberal measure which takes power from large companies and gives it to struggling landlords. Gareth Epps deserves a whole heap of praise as well for his pretty tireless campaigning on the issue.

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The tale of Danny Alexander and the Big Raspberry*

So, Danny Alexander has been having lunch with some journalists today. The conversation, according to Kevin Maguire, was mature and relevant, discussing the important issues of the day.

You would have to be really sad to type “Danny Alexander fart” into Google, wouldn’t you?

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Lib Dem “senior strategists”, what are you thinking?

I know that in the run-up to an election, not every story that newspapers print, especially those newspapers which are hostile to us which is, let’s face it, all of them, is grounded in accuracy.

You would think that we would help ourselves, though. Who on earth has said in the hearing of the Telegraph that the party fears that Danny Alexander will lose his Inverness seat?

Danny Alexander will lose his seat at the next general election unless there is a radical turnaround in fortunes, a senior Liberal Democrat strategist has privately warned.

The source believes the Chief Secretary to the Treasury’s closeness to the austerity cuts and George Osborne will create an “anti-Danny” backlash among constituents that could topple him.

It raises the prospect of one of the four most influential figures in the Coalition being kicked out of politics in less than six months.

Whoever wrote this article knows nothing about the proud, liberal tradition in the Highlands which is deeply offended by the SNP Government’s indiscriminate use of unregulated stop and search and armed police patrolling their peaceful communities. Danny has been vociferous in standing up to them, and on their concentration of resources in the central belt rather than on providing a fit for purpose trunk road to the north.

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