Category Archives: News

Norman Lamb writes … Tackling conversion therapy in the NHS

It may seem hard to imagine, but until 1992 the World Health Organisation classified homosexuality as a form of mental illness. Academic studies have shown an extraordinary prevalence, not too long ago, of therapists seeking to ‘convert’ gay people to become heterosexual – treating people’s sexuality as an illness rather than an inherent part of who they are.

In recent decades, society and the medical professions have fortunately come a long way. Most people now recognise that this as dangerous nonsense.

But there remain a few counsellors who still believe in the “treatment” of homosexuality to combat same-sex attractions.  I said nearly a year ago now that, although there was no evidence to suggest that such practices were taking place in the NHS, I wanted to do all that I could to put an end to them once and for all.

As Liberal Democrats it is incredibly important that we work to create a society which is not only more tolerant and open, but also one in which people are able to access support which helps rather than harms them when they are struggling with issues like their sexual orientation.

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Julian Huppert writes … On shoehorning the Snooper’s Charter into the Counter Terrorism Bill

To my shock and dismay a small group of unelected peers are trying to shoehorn the Communications Data Bill (known as the Snooper’s Charter) into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill as an amendment. This is a bad idea, and also an abuse of process. It would mean that neither the Lords nor the Commons would get a proper chance to discuss the details of what is a massive infringement of people’s privacy.

I served on the Joint Committee Nick insisted on, and we spent a year scrutinising it – and tearing it to shreds. Yes, we need the intelligence services to be able to do their job, but in the words we agreed unanimously “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should”.

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How the Daily Mirror works

There was a curious story in the Daily Mirror over the weekend. It incorrectly refers to Chevening as ‘Nick Clegg’s estate’, and ‘the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister’s land’ when it is, of course, a property owned by the Government. It is usually made available to the Foreign Secretary so s/he can entertain Foreign ministers in some privacy.

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Paddy Ashdown’s voice

PAddy Ashdown by Liberal DemocratsLiberal Democrats have always treasured the charismatic Paddy Ashdown. He has an engaging style in public and comes over as warm, realistic and credible; he is also very good at rallying the troops.

It seems that others beside the Liberal Democrats have noticed the pulling power of his voice, including an agency for voice-over artists which has now recruited him.

The Guardian reports the story  and refers to his ‘authoritative, reassuring tones’, but also highlights concerns by some party members. It quotes a ‘senior Liberal Democrat’ who said…

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Three things you need to know about the new powers going to Scotland

There are some very interesting articles about the forthcoming Scotland Bill, the details of which were unveiled on Thursday, in today’s press.

The Tories were trying to back out and Clegg, Alexander and Carmichael wouldn’t let them

According to Michael Moore in Scotland on Sunday today.

 It is not a surprise to me that the Conservatives fought tooth and nail to remove some of the key elements of the Smith agreement.

We saw in the commission itself they adopted two or three different positions in the space of 48 hours on welfare and were clearly in touch with London colleagues at every stage.

We resisted it there and I am glad that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have resisted it in terms of the bill. There is no question in my mind that without Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg digging in on this over the last crucial 48 hours before the bill was published, we would have ended up with the whole Smith process unravelling.

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Burns Night Special: John Knox’s Address to the Haggis, 2015 General Election Version

A year ago, John Knox wrote an article on this site advocating a new kind of politics by minority government after the General Election. He now comes to our attention again having delivered a beautifully crafted General Election themed Address to the Haggis at the Edinburgh South Burns Supper on Friday night.

He’s given us his permission to publish it in full. Some of you may struggle with the exact language, but I’m sure you will pick up the gist. Enjoy.

Fair fa’ your honest sonsie face

Great chieften o’ the puddin’ race

Aboon them a’ ye take your place

Painch, tripe or thairm

Well are ye worthy o’ a grace

As lang’s my arm.

 

The groaning trencher there ye fill

Your hurdie’s like a distant hill

Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o’ need

While through your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

 

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Shared parental leave will deliver the flexibility that couples want

We missed this when it was published last week but it’s no less relevant now. Shared parental leave becomes a reality in the next few months. Parents will be able to decide which of them takes the time off from their work to stay at home following the birth of a baby. Jo wrote about this for the New Statesman’s Staggers blog:

Under the new rules, mothers will still take at least two weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.

Research published by my department this week underlines the importance of shared parental leave in allowing parents to choose a pattern of leave that fits their own family situation. People are rejecting dated stereotypes about the roles of men and women. Parenting is a shared endeavour and many fathers understandably want to spend more time at home when they are adapting to the demands of a new baby. Shared parental leave will let couples choose how to share their childcare responsibilities in whatever way works best for them, and enable both parents to spend time developing that vital bond with their baby in the early stages.

Our survey found the majority of people believe that childcare should be the equal responsibility of both parents and less than a quarter of people believe that the mother should have main responsibility for childcare.

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Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

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UKIP’s official health spokesperson: “I have no experience in health whatsoever”

Louise Bours MEP, UKIP’s health spokesperson, made a startling admission to the Independent in an interview published today. She said:

One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.

I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.

So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever, she says.>

On one of the key battlegrounds of the election, UKIP’s designated spokesperson is basically saying she’s sorry, she doesn’t have a clue.

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Nick Clegg takes questions on Men’s Health UK’s Facebook page

Nick Clegg's men's health q and aOn Thursday, Nick Clegg took part in a question and answer session on the Men’s Health UK Facebook page. The magazine has published some of the session here.

He talked quite movingly about the need to tackle the stigma attached to mental health to make it easier for particularly men to talk about their illness:

 One of the keys to changing this is to ensure that mental health trusts work with families and friends of patients just as much as with the patients themselves. When I visited the superb Mersey Care trust last week I met a patient who told me that when he was in hospital for a heart operation he received a constant and welcome stream of visiting friends and family. Yet when he was in a mental health ward for five months he received only three visits during his whole time there. That says all we need to know about the crippling effect of the stigma that still surrounds mental health. That’s why campaigns like Time to Change are so vital.

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A sign of the trouble Labour faces in Scotland?

Liberal Democrats face their challenges in Scotland, there’s no doubt about that, but what about the party that that for so long dominated Scottish politics? The Evening News reported this week that the Labour Party has had to cancel a fundraiser due to lack of interest in one of their key seats in Edinburgh:

Deputy Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, local MP Sheila Gilmore and a shadow minister from Westminster were among the speakers lined up for the Edinburgh Eastern fundraising event on Saturday.

But after poor ticket sales, the local party executive decided to cancel the supper, promising refunds to those who had booked.

Former Edinburgh East Labour party chairman Paul Nolan said the event had been a popular fixture in the diary for many years and usually attracted up to 150 people.

But he said he understood fewer than 50 tickets had been sold and admitted the situation was embarrassing.

He said: “It is worrying that we can’t get members to come to a fundraising Burns Supper two or three months before an election.

“If we can’t get the activists motivated, it’s going to be even harder to get ordinary voters to turn out on polling day.”

Mr Nolan said last year’s Burns Supper had raised around £1000.

Edinburgh East will be a key constituency at the general election in May as Labour fights to stop a predicted advance by the SNP across Scotland.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Only way to make blue go green is to add yellow

Over at PoliticsHome, Tim Farron has been showing up the Tories, who voted in favour of loosening controls on air pollution. Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder opposed the plans:

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Shirley Williams on A life in politics

The Daily Politics has been running a series of interviews with political figures in their A Life in Politics series.

This week it was Shirley Williams talking about her varied career and personal life. Look back not he formation of the SDP, her passion for education reform and the prospects for the Liberal Democrats in the election, saying “we’re bound to be a main factor in another coalition.” Oh, and don’t call her indecisive.

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Welsh Lib Dems get good media coverage for new website launch

Welsh Lib Dems weibsiteNew websites put Welsh Lib Dems at forefront of web campaigning” screams the headline on Wales Online. Not bad coverage for the launch of a website, albeit one using the new .wales and .cymru domain names.

Kirsty Williams is quoted as saying:

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Julian Huppert’s Green opponent in trouble for Twitter transphobia

One of the best moments for me of the debate on the Same Sex Marriage Bill was when Cambridge’s Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert spoke out against elements of the Bill which would cause real heartache and injustice for transgender people and their partners. His understanding, sensitivity and eloquence on these matters was second to none. Of course he was well briefed by Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell among others but he put his head above the parapet to try and secure fairness for people who are all too often marginalised.

His expertise on this matter (and many others) is a …

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ALDC’s by-election report – 22 January 2015

Just two principal council by-elections took place yesterday. In Fife (UA), SNP held their seat in Kirkcaldy East, winning 47.3% of the first preference votes, 372 ahead of Labour who had topped the poll in the ward’s previous election in 2012. The Liberal Democrats finished 6th out of 8 candidates with 1.3% of the vote.

In Wealden (DC), the two-candidate contest in Crowborough West saw the Conservatives hold one of their two seats in the ward by winning 58.7% of the vote in defeating the UKIP candidate by 138 votes.

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Debates plan disadvantages the Liberal Democrats

Well, the new debates plan is even worse than the old one for the Liberal Democrats.

The original plan was that there would be a series of three debates involving Cameron and Miliband, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband and Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage.

This led to David Cameron showing more empathy to anything Green than he has had since he hugged that husky and refusing to take part if the Greens were excluded.

The new proposals create  the worst of all possible worlds for the Liberal Democrats:

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Willie Rennie warns SNP over ID database

Willie Rennie got a pretty good splash of headlines yesterday after he raised his concerns over SNP plans to create a massive ID database in Scotland. The Scotsman has details:

The Scottish Government is considering an extension of the NHS central register, which is already the “most complete and authoritative record of individuals in Scotland”.

It currently covers about 30 per cent of people, but ministers want to extend this and share information stored with more than 100 government agencies – including HMRC for tax ­purposes.

A similar population register was ditched south of the Border when controversial and expensive plans for ID cards were scrapped in 2010.

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Brent Central’s Ibrahim Taguri appointed as Liberal Democrat Race Equality Champion

Ibrahim Taguri selected for Brent Central
Ibrahim Taguri was born and raised in Brent not far from the office he wants to take over from Sarah Teather in May. Last Summer he wrote of his ambition for the area:

Yet I was lucky. My mother was single minded when it came to our education as children. That was our route out of poverty. I was also lucky in many ways, so when I had opportunities I was able to make the most of them. That’s why when Sarah Teather announced she was standing down as MP, I knew I had to take the opportunity to represent my community. My job as an MP will be to challenge those structural barriers that prevent people getting on in life as well as to support the most vulnerable in our society on a day to day basis, helping them to escape a cycle of despair.

That’s why, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, I will be dedicating my first term in parliament to eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020. A goal set out but the last administration and continued by the coalition. Yet the target is in serious danger of being missed as political parties continue to embroil themselves in blame games and semantics.

I believe that focusing on this issue we can tackle many of the great challenges of our time; improving life chances no matter where someone was born, integrating physical and mental health services; increasing housing stock to not uproot families; providing more educational opportunities and making work pay.

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Another Lib Dem website brilliantly topical error message – a pity it’s out of date so quickly

I wish I had seen this yesterday.

Page 3 error message

 

A brilliant response to the debate over Page 3.

The party has been doing this a few times with its error messages recently. It’s very amusing and it also directs people to relevant policy on the website.

Unfortunately, as we’ve all found out, the Sun was trolling us all along. Former presidential candidate and new member of the Diversity Engagement Group Daisy Cooper said this about the Sun’s behaviour on Facebook:

So, pretending to stop Page 3 was just a bit of fun. Raising expectations then crushing them in a humiliating way. Classic abusive behaviour.

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Lord Clement-Jones writes…Out and about on the doorstep

Tim Clement-Jones in WatfordFar be it from me (or at their peril anyone else!) to ignore an injunction from our General Election Chair Paddy Ashdown, so my New Year’s resolution has been to commit every Friday up to the start of the campaign proper to campaigning in a target or held seat. All the polling data shows that we have good prospects in a number of target seats.

There was an excellent response and name recognition for Sandy Walkington on my first Friday in St Albans, a constituency I helped in when he first fought it thirty years ago, and with a terrific local team. Last Friday I was with Dorothy Thornhill’s team (see pic) in both ends of the Watford constituency (it takes in part of Three Rivers) and it was great to see, and campaign alongside, really committed councillors and activists.

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Opinion: Should Britain copy Obama’s capital gains proposals?

President Obama has announced proposals to increase taxes on the wealthy and help those on lower incomes (such as by boosting tax credits). The plans include reforms to capital gains tax (CGT): increasing its rate and ending a loophole. Should we do the same in the UK, and how do the Lib Dems’ proposals compare?

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Opinion: Deliberately offensive cartoons did not begin in Paris in the last few weeks

george iv a voluptary gillray
James Gillray: “A voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion”, 1792, depicts the Prince of Wales at the time.

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The Green party – should we be panicking?

This post is reserved for new and infrequent commenters. “Infrequent” is defined as having post less than five comments in the last month.

Yesterday, a poll showed the Green party ahead of the Liberal Democrats by two points. Last week, figures showed that the Green party overtook the LibDems (and UKIP) in terms of membership numbers.

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Nick Clegg tells Chilcot: People will think your report is being “sexed down”

Following tonight’s news about the further delay in the publication of the Chilcot Report until after the election, Nick Clegg has written to Sir John Chilcott to ask him to get on with it.

Here’s his letter in full 

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Dr Cable, I presume…

I was a wee bit amused by this story from the Spectator about Vince Cable:

Word reaches Steerpike that a number of staff working with the Business Secretary, who has a PhD in Economics, have been advised to refer to him strictly as Dr Vince Cable in written correspondence.

‘We were a bit surprised that Vince Cable won’t do as that’s what we are used to but it apparently has to be Dr Vince,’ a mole whispers.

A Liberal Democrats source says that far from coming as a request from the business secretary himself it’s official guidance that in formal correspondence politicians are referred to by their full title.

The reason I’m amused, apart from the fact that this is obviously another of those “there must be an election coming on” stories, is that I’ve always found Vince to be one of the least pompous politicians I’ve ever met.

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16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales have every right to be disappointed

This week the Scottish Parliament and Westminster both pass a Section 30 Order. Section 30 is the bit of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows powers to be given from Westminster to Holyrood. Two years ago a Section 30 Order gave the Scottish Government the power to hold the referendum on independence. This week’s transfers the power to the Scottish Parliament to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the next Holyrood elections which take place in May 2016. It will have to be confirmed by the Privy Council in March but that’s just a formality.

This means that young people in Scotland will have a say on the way their health, education, transport, justice and housing systems are run. We know that giving young people the vote was a massive success in the referendum. My heart swelled up seeing them head into the polling station with real excitement and pride on 18th September. There is surely no excuse for denying them the say at any level. Scottish 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote at Holyrood and local elections – but when it comes to Westminster, they will have no say. Of course this could all change if the next Parliament legislates. They surely can have no excuse to delay.

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Now, about those secret party elections we told you about the other week…

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about those important party elections, details of which were hidden in an obscure corner of the party website. Well, our stirring did generate a few nominations which meant that there were a good few contested positions.

Federal Executive members voted over last weekend and the results were declared last night. Here they are in full:

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“What I need is what I think the Liberal Democrats are proposing” says Labour’s Peter Mandelson on Mansion Tax

Well, well. Who would have thought Peter Mandelson of all people would back a Liberal Democrat policy over a Labour one?

The Guardian has the story:

Speaking on Newsnight on BBC2, Mandelson said he favoured finding new ways of taxing property in Britain. But he added: “I don’t happen to think that the mansion tax is the right policy response to that. I think it’s sort of crude, it’s sort of short-termist.

“What we need is what I think the Liberal Democrats are proposing and that is the introduction of further bands that relate to different values of property within the council tax system. That’s what I would like to see. It will take longer to introduce, that’s true, but it will be more effective and efficient in the longer term than simply clobbering people with a rather sort of crude short term mansion tax.”

Mandelson is the latest senior Labour figure to criticise the party’s plan to impose a tax on properties worth more than £2m to help raise £1.2bn towards the £2.5bn costs of a new “Time to Care” NHS fund. This is designed to support 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 5,000 more care workers by 2020.

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Nick Clegg’s speech today on mental health

Nick clegg by dave radcliffe, liberal democratsThis is the full text of the speech Nick Clegg gave today at the Mental Health Conference that he co-hosted with Norman Lamb. You can see a video of part of the speech here.

Imagine breaking your leg, only to be told that your nearest care facility was half way across the country, with a long waiting list and no guarantees about when you’ll actually get the help you need. Or developing diabetes but being too scared to tell your family, friends and your boss about what’s happening, because you’re worried about how they might react and possibly losing your job.

If any of these things happened to someone with a serious physical health condition in our country, there would quite rightly be outrage. It would be on the front page of every national newspaper and dominate Prime Minister’s Questions every week. People would be out on the streets calling for reform. But this is exactly the kind of second-class treatment that people with mental health issues have had to endure for decades.

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  • User AvatarHywel 26th Jan - 9:14pm
    Alex - in which case why were these amendments not tabled at an earlier stage so they could get the in-depth scrutiny they need and...
  • User Avatarstuart moran 26th Jan - 8:53pm
    Excuse my typing - for 'principals' please read 'principles'
  • User Avatarstuart moran 26th Jan - 8:53pm
    Lord Carlile Nice to see you join in the debate and engage with the discussion I have not posted on this article, and I must...
  • User AvatarAlex Sabine 26th Jan - 8:42pm
    @ Paul Walter "...His voice is a very particlar type. Indeed, his voice is very recognisable as Paddy... Why hire Paddy when you can hire...
  • User AvatarAlex Carlile 26th Jan - 8:40pm
    I have read all the above with interest. On terrorism I speak as an individual: I have always made that clear, and have never been...
  • User AvatarBolano 26th Jan - 8:38pm
    @Paul Walter As someone with some experience of this kind of thing... he wouldn't need a studio at home for a start. One microphone, a...