Category Archives: News

Tim Farron calls for Lords reform in wake of Sewel

Tim Farron has written to party leaders and cross-bench peers calling for Lords reform in the wake of the Lord Sewel scandal.

Tim argues that this is not just about one bad apple, but rather it is about a system which is rotten to the core and allows unelected, unaccountable people to think they are above the law. It is yet another sorry reflection of an undemocratic system, and more than ever highlights the Liberal Democrat case for reform.

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Writing by Simon Titley

Simon Titley was a member of the Liberator Collective from 1985 until his death, aged 57, on 31 August 2014.

He became well known for both the quality and quantity of his contributions to the magazine and for the wit, insight and erudition he displayed.

A selection of 40 of his best articles, at least from among those of which we have electronic copies, is now available free on the Liberator website at the ‘writing by Simon Titley’ drop down.

Simon’s articles range over everything from Liberal Democrat strategy to the decline of the middle-class dinner party, from liberals’ difficulty with …

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The new Israeli proposal

Recently I’ve been interviewing Israeli and Palestinian scholars and activists about the prospects of alternative voices in the peace process: namely the BRICS countries and whether they might make a difference.

The general impression seems to be no. Last year’s failed talks by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the re-election of an intransigent Netanyahu government have meant little change. Although the BRICS countries (and the EU) have called for a different, more multilateral response, this is unlikely to happen. Much of this is down to BRICS’ self-promotion and separation of political rhetoric from their prioritisation of economic relations with Israel’s hi-tech and – especially in the case of India – arms industry.

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Why I went from being Rugby Green Party’s general election candidate to a revived Liberal Democrat activist

Terry-WhiteI have defected to the Liberal Democrats following differences with myself and the national Green Party. I have rejoined a party I left at the start of the previous government as a result of the direction I felt the party was heading in, but I am confident in the fight back of the party following the election of Tim Farron as party leader and the spirit of the modern party.

I have therefore stepped down from my role as co-ordinator of Rugby Green Party as well as the role of chair of the under 30’s branch of the midlands region of the party.

There is ambition in the Green Party definitely. But that is all there is. Ambition. I believe in democracy and the fact that the Green Party protested about the fact the Conservatives won a mandate to govern the country is simply sickening. I don’t like the Conservatives as much as the next Green Party member but I also respect the process of an election.

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A trio of Lib Dem Lords stand up for LGBT+ Asylum seekers

It was Home Office questions in the House of Lords this week. Three Liberal Democrat peers asked questions about the treatment of LGBT+ people in the asylum system and abroad which has to date been pretty awful. The first was Paul Scriven who asked whether the recommendations to change the disgraceful way LGBT+ people seeking asylum in this country are treated. Here’s the exchange in full:

Lord Scriven (LD): To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to implement the recommendations in the report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration of March–June 2014 regarding the handling of asylum claims made on the grounds of sexual orientation, and if so, when.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, the Home Office has been actively working to implement the recommendations. An updated asylum instruction considering sexual identity issues in the asylum claim has been issued. Approved training for staff is under development. These will ensure the sensitive and effective exploration of asylum claims based on sexuality. The Home Office is conducting “second pair of eyes” checks on all such claims to ensure the consistent recording of cases and more accurate data.

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Lamb and Williams warn on care cap delay

As Care Minister, Norman Lamb (and his Liberal Democrat predecessor) were pivotal in ensuring that the cap for care costs was introduced. The Conservatives have now delayed its implementation by 4 long years. Norman described this as an “outrageous betrayal of people at their most weak and most frail. He said:

This an extraordinary and devastating u-turn from the Tories and an outrageous betrayal of people at their most weak and most frail with conditions like dementia.

Crippling care costs need addressing urgently. In coalition we designed a solution that would help and was affordable. Local authorities have spent millions already preparing for the introduction of the cap, yet we now hear the Tories are turning their back on it. This delay is a total waste of public money.

The distress and heartbreak that people feel when a loved one is in care, is being exacerbated by the fear of how to pay for it. We must not allow this to continue.

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Federal Executive urges party to stand in Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

Way back in 2011, the then Federal Executive created, shall we say, a little light controversy by deciding not to fund any Liberal Democrat campaigns for Police and Crime Commissioner on the grounds that we didn’t support the idea as it concentrated too much power in the hands of one person.

After much discussion, the party did eventually contest 24 out of the 36 contests in England and none in Wales.

The posts are up for election again next May and FE discussed the party’s approach to them at its meeting last Monday. This time it’s very different. The recommendation FE made was that the party should endeavour to fight every seat. The PCC elections mean that the whole of Britain will be voting for something on the same day (there are devolved elections in Scotland, Wales and London as well as local elections as well) and it’s an important test of national opinion.

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Tim Farron talks to his local newspaper on becoming Lib Dem Leader:

The first people Tim Farron called on becoming Liberal Democrat leader were his local paper, the Westmorland Gazette. Here are some highlights of his first in-depth interview as leader:

Turning his local success into a national phenomenon

This is a big deal. It will be a great responsibility and I will work tirelessly to fight for Liberal values.

There are real challenges ahead but we have shown in Westmorland how we can succeed and we want to make a difference all over the country.

“A fairer, greener, freer Britain”

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And this is why MPs doing casework is important

I’ve heard quite a few people say that MPs should concentrate on making laws and not act as “glorified social workers.” I totally disagree with that approach.

I’ve also heard politicians, ministers, even Liberal Democrat ones, confidently tell meetings that it’s fine, such and such a problem is fixed and the service in question is now working well when any service user will tell you that this is far from the truth.

This is why it’s so important for MPs to understand what problems people are facing and to take action to fix them.

One example of this comes from Orkney and Shetland. We all know that claiming benefits is s bit of a nightmare, particularly if you are required to have a Work Capability Assessment. If you live in a remote area, and they don’t come much more remote than those two islands, you could find yourself waiting for a very long time for that assessment, leaving you temporarily out of pocket.

Island residents took their concerns to local Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael who flew to Aberdeen last week to meet contractors Maximus (who replaced ATOS). The Shetland News reports:

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Veronica German to head South Wales East list for Welsh Assembly elections

Former AM Veronica German has been chosen to lead the South Wales East list for the Welsh Assembly elections next May.

From the Welsh Lib Dems website:

A democratic postal ballot of all members in the region chose the following candidates for the regional list in 2016:

1. Veronica German

2. Paul Halliday

3. Bob Griffin

Veronica German is a former Assembly Member for the region who has served as the Welsh Lib Dem spokesperson on health, local government and equalities. She is a former county councillor in both Newport and Torfaen, and worked as a science teacher for over 20 years.

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Jo Swinson highlights need for better management to increase productivity

It sounds obvious, but well-,managed employees who feel part of a team with a shared goal perform better. Sadly, not all employees work under good managers who are able to get the best out of their teams. This week, Jo Swinson highlighted the need for good management as WSB reports:

“The role of good management skills needs to be more prominent in the thinking about productivity,” Swinson said.

One of the biggest challenges we face in dealing with the productivity dilemma in this country is about improving the quality of management skills.

She said the lack of managerial training was an “ingrained

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ALDC’s by-election report – 23 July 2015

Neil Houston Long DittonLiberal Democrats had another good night in yesterday’s five principal council by-elections with the bonus of a parish council gain in Seaford, Lewes, East Sussex.

Holding Long Ditton ward on Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey following a Lib Dem resignation was a healthy result and a welcome return to being on the council to Neil Houston. Neil was born in Liverpool and brought up Norfolk served as a Lib Dem councillor in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames till 2014.

Sadly we did not stand a candidates in New Tredegar Ward of the County borough of Caerphilly in Wales nor in the Harrow Road ward of Westminster City Council in London. In both cases Labour had comfortable victories with increased votes of 82.5% and 75.4% respectively.

In North East Lincolnshire Roy Horobin stood for the Lib Dems in Croft Baker ward which we held up to 2010 and had an encouraging result, leapfrogging UKIP to come third behind Labour and the Tories.

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Lib Dems Strasburger and McInnes seek answers on whether parliamentarians’ communications have been intercepted

In the House of Lords this week, Paul Strasburger was quick to question the government on whether Parliamentarians’ data was being scooped up by GCHQ in contravention of the 49 year old Wilson Doctrine which prohibits this.

The exchange is as follows:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which methods of communication used by members of either House of Parliament are not presently subject to the Wilson doctrine.

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord may be aware, there is an ongoing litigation in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal on the Wilson doctrine. In fact, there is a hearing tomorrow. One of the issues that the tribunal is looking to consider is the scope of the doctrine. Given this ongoing litigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at present.

Lord Strasburger (LD): My Lords, David Anderson’s recent report confirmed what we already knew from Edward Snowden—namely, that, every day, GCHQ is hoovering up the private data of millions of innocent citizens without the informed consent of Parliament. Can the Minister explain how the Government manage to comply with the Wilson doctrine by excluding the private data of parliamentarians when they are scooping up everyone else’s indiscriminately?

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Can you help with a research project about civic participation in London next week?

From the LDV inbox this week, a request from Jorge Miguel, a research student at University College London’s Institute of Education for volunteers to help him with a study he is carrying out about civic participation:

The research aims to explore the reasons for participation in civic and political groups and it is based on interviews to people involved in different civic or political groups. With this purpose, I would like to interview three people who collaborate with your organization in a voluntary basis (not being paid for it). The views of the people participating in the interview are not thought to represent the view of the organization, just the personal stories and reasons of each person to get involved in a particular organization.

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Double by-election success and a new 18 year old councillor for the Liberal Democrats

The #libdemfightback continues with two good by-election wins in the south east. First of all, Neil Houston held on to the Long Ditton Ward of Elmbridge Council:

LIB DEM – 770

CON – 611

GRN – 79

UKIP – 61

And in Seaford, in East Sussex, 18 year old Isabelle Murray, who wasn’t even old enough to vote in May, won the Seaford Central ward on the Town Council by quite some margin.

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It’s time to change the distinction between voting and non-voting members at Conference

A couple of years ago, when we moved house and constituency, I had the new experience of going to Conference with a second class label hanging around my neck. I did what I could to carefully adjust my pass so that my picture and name was facing out. But these passes have always had a mind of their own and I would walk from Hall to Fringe all too often as someone labelled as ‘Member’ rather than the important or well-connected ‘Voting’ people.

And now we have thousands of new members, some of whom will be looking forward to their first conference. Pretty well all of them will be unable to vote. Nor will a good chunk of the party’s activists who have stood locally in May.
This distinction between voting and non-voting members doesn’t separate the activists from the sleeping members. It seems primarily to protect privilege, to protect the well connected, those with the ear of the constituency officers. It is a privilege in a thoroughly conservative sense.

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Laura Kuenssberg appointed as BBC political editor

laura kuenssbergThe BBC has announced that Laura Kuenssberg is to be its new Political Editor, succeeding Nick Robinson who is moving to the Radio 4 Today programme.

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Lib Dem digital guru Rathe talks to Guardian about internet communications

The Guardian has taken an interest in the deluge of emails being sent out by the Labour Party recently. Our head of Members and Supporters Austin Rathe is quoted in the piece explaining the difference between Labour’s approach and ours.

Most of what is being done by both party’s has been poached from the Obama campaigns.  But while Labour have been more indiscriminate in their approach, the Liberal Democrats have sought to build relationships with people. All those emails with pictures of cute babies that the Labour Party use to harvest your email address are not well used. Over to Austin:

They knew nothing about you except that you’re an email address,” says Rathe. “And they just throw everything at you. It’s a sledgehammer approach – it’s watching what went on in the States and learning all the wrong lessons, just thinking that you just have to send a lot of email. But you’ve got to talk to people about things they’re interested in, it’s got to be driven by that.” Rathe’s party uses email more to focus on achievable local goals than the big national picture. “We build relationships with people on issues that they care about,” Rathe adds. “And we give local campaigners the tools to do it themselves.”

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I’m not currently a member of the Lib Dems, but I’m teetering…

I do support the party and have done since before it was the Lib-Dems. As “Chairman” of the Plymouth Polytechnic Liberal Society in the early 80s I worked with other “grown-up” Liberals to get David Owen re-elected in his Devonport seat in those heady days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance.

I campaigned with David Penhaligon, I played host to Paddy Ashdown, I had lunch with David Steele. I can remember times back then when 8 MPs seemed a far-off fantasy.

But I’ve drifted from time to time too. I voted for Tony Blair’s New Labour and was broadly behind his policies for all of his time at number 10. I may even have supported the invasion of Iraq, but at the time I thought someone had worked out the endgame, which it turned out they hadn’t. When Brown blustered his way into Downing Street I saw the end was nigh, and I felt that bad times were coming, and it was second nature to resume my former allegiances.

When Nick Clegg went into coalition with the Conservatives, I believed it was what the country needed: a Liberal voice at the heart of Government, and a much-needed break on the ruthlessness of the Tories. To be honest, I must have been out of the room when Nick Clegg made his promise to scrap tuition fees, and I could never see why people harped on about it, ignoring all that was right about Lib Dems in power.

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Lib Dem peers challenge “outrageous gerrymander” by Tories

The Government has ignored Electoral Commission advice and brought forward changes to the way we register to vote. Individual electoral registration was brought in during the last Parliament, but electoral registers would have contained existing data until 1 December 2016. They have now moved this forward to 1 December this year.

Liberal Democrat peers didn’t miss this announcement sneaking out as MPs and Peers head off for Summer recess and they have laid down motions in both houses of Parliament to try to defeat it.

The Guardian has the details;

The Electoral Commission had advised the government in June to spend another year transferring voters on the old household-based register to the new individual register, but ministers want to short-circuit the process so that it is completed by December 2015, and not the end of 2016. The commission says there are 1.9 million names on the household register that are not on the individual register

The cleaned-up register will form the basis of the parliamentary constituency boundary review to be conducted before the 2020 election that will both reduce the number of seats and see a redrawing of the boundaries in favour of the Conservatives.

Although this is clearly an issue for the Boundary Review, surely this will also drop nearly 2 million people off the register for the European Referendum if it happens before 1 December 2016. Might that give an advantage to one side or the other? Given that it’s most likely to be young people who drop off the register, it could minimise the Yes vote.

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Petition asking Labour to oppose benefit cuts sweeps the internet

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 08.23.03Lib Dems will be familiar with the many petitions launched by 38 degrees attacking us during the Coalition years in which the iniquities of the changes to benefits was a constant theme. Given that 38 degrees have frequently said that they do not support the Labour Party, it might have been expected that they would have something to say about Labour’s extraordinary decision to abstain in the vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on Monday evening- but they have been silent. The nice balance – 184 Labour MPs abstaining with a Govt majority of the same number is just the sort of thing that might have been expected to get their attention!

They can’t be ignoring it can’t be because there is any doubt about the effects of the cuts, independent organisations like the Child Poverty Action Group and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made clear the damage that will be done to the poorest families, particularly by the £6 bn cuts in tax credits.

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Nick Clegg on life as a constituency MP

Nick Clegg has been spending a lot of time in his constituency recently. He was there regularly as Deputy Prime Minister, but now he unconstrained by office, he can afford to get up there during the week. He spoke to the Star:

The ‘trappings of power’ have gone, with a security team reduced, the ministerial Blackberry returned and fewer staff – it is a big change from striding along the corridors of power in Whitehall to campaigning on tree felling in Sheffield.

As it happens I’m really enjoying having more time to work in the constituency again,” insists Mr Clegg.

When the Conservatives and SNP argued each other to a standstill on fox hunting, I was able to jump on a train and went straight to the leaving party of a headteacher at Dore Primary School – I would never have been able to do that before.

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Paddy on power, pacts and poultry

On Monday night, Paddy Ashdown took to Reddit to take questions from Liberal Democrat members and supporters. Here are some of the highlights:

Power to the people:

Hi Paddy, How do you think the State should be reinvented? Which parts of the State would you shrink, and which part would you grow? Which Departments and bodies should the party seek to abolish, and which ones should we expand or create? An Example would be the Scotland Office. Should we abolish it or should we merge it with the Wales and Northern Ireland Offices? And what about Departments such as BIS ot Quangos like Tech City UK?

Paddy’s response:

Take power and devolve it closer to the people. The state should deal only with this things at national level (our Defence, Foreign Affairs, Macro-economics). Westminster would do much better of it did much less. All decisions which turn on the delivery of public services (health Education, welfare etc) should be taken, within a framework of national entitlements, at the lower level closer to the citizen. This is what Liberals back to Gladstone have always believed. The fundamental difference between us and Labour and the Tories is that we believe in a state based on powerful citizens, not strong state dependent on powerless subjects.

Pacts:

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Kirsty Williams AM writes… An ambitious Liberal Democrat plan for the NHS Welsh people need

Today at the Royal Welsh Show I launched our party’s 3 point-plan for Wales’ NHS that puts patients first.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a wide range of policies and proposals for reforms to improve our health service, but today I wanted to highlight the three key parts of our plans for the NHS ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

The 3-point plan is as follows:

Guaranteed access to your GP: People are fed up of finding it a real struggle to make an appointment and to access their GP.  In this day and age, everyone should be able to make an appointment easily – that is what the Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver. We would properly invest in an ‘Access to GPs’ scheme to guarantee a prompt appointment and extend GP opening hours.

End mental health discrimination: I am proud that our party has led on this issue across the UK. Only last month the Welsh Liberal Democrats revealed that in just two years there has been a 472% increase in young people waiting over 14 weeks to receive mental health services. That is a disgrace, which is why we would oversee a culture change to ensure mental health is treated on a par with physical health. We would ensure that patients with mental health issues have an equal right to access treatments as those requiring physical care.

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Tim Farron writes to Harriet Harman asking her to oppose Welfare Bill

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to Labour’s interim leader Harriet Harman to ask her to ensure that her party opposes the Government’s Welfare Bill.

Here is the text of his letter:

Dear Harriet
The Conservative Government last night brought forward plans for £12bn of cuts to welfare that will directly impact millions of people across the country including the poorest families in our constituencies.

The Conservatives do not need to make these cuts, especially at the same time as giving tax breaks to millionaires.

The people who will be hit by these changes need someone to give them a voice in Parliament and fight their corner, and last night Labour failed to stand up for them.

You have said that you do not want to oppose absolutely every saving that the Government suggests, but these cuts will hurt the poorest in our communities.

Cuts to employment support allowance, lowering the benefit cap and slashing tax credits for those in low paid work are not policies that any progressive should support.

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Tim Farron speaks against the Welfare Bill

Yesterday in the Commons, Tim Farron gave his first speech as party leader, against the Welfare Bill, highlighting the effects of the ESA changes on people with mental health conditions, the effects on young people, and on the working age poor. He criticised Labour’s confusion over the bill in deciding to abstain, although 48 Labour rebels voted against.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for families, whether they are hard-working or just desperate to be hard-working. We will not let the Conservatives through choice, or the Labour party through their silence, unpick our welfare system.

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Ryan Coetzee to set up company to co-ordinate Yes to Europe campaign

The Financial Times reports that a cross-party group is setting up a company with the aim of co-ordinating the Yes to Europe campaign. It is being funded by Lord Sainsbury amongst others.

It seems that Will Straw is expected to take on the role of executive director. He stood as a Labour candidate in May, and is better known as the founder of the political blog Left Foot Forward. He is also the son of Jack Straw.

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Cracking the WHIP

There’s a new kid on the block, and it’s called WHIP (website, Twitter, facebook). First watch this video:

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Jack Straw to be part of Freedom of Information review

Nicholas Winterton, Cyril Smith (1928-2010) and Jack Straw, Members of Parliament for the textile towns Macclesfield, Rochdale and Blackburn respectively, stand outside 10 Downing Street in London on 10th June 1980.

Over the weekend the Cabinet Office announced a review of the Freedom of Information Act. Now it is always sensible to check any act that promotes civil liberties against actual practice. But alarm bells started ringing when the members of the review panel were revealed.

Chief among them is Jack Straw, who brought in the Act in 2000 as Home Secretary. But he is now saying that “inquiries about ministerial communications and the formulation of government policy should not be allowed any more”. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that the secrecy surrounding the development of government policies, especially the role of lobbyists, was precisely why we needed freedom of information. He has also said that citizens should be charged for FoI requests. Interestingly ‘a Labour source’ has distanced the party from his appointment, saying that Straw is acting in a personal capacity, and not representing the party, and that “If the government were genuinely interested in improving the workings of the act, it should have chosen a more balanced panel.”

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Farron’s first Sunday media marathon

Tim is doing the media rounds this morning with interviews on Marr, Murnaghan (at 10:20) and John Pienaar (at 10:35).

Here are some tweets from his Marr appearance:

adding that he wanted them to join the Liberal Democrats to fight the Tories on the appalling things that they are planning on doing.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 28th Jul - 10:37pm
    The Tories also promised to contunue with parity of esteem for menatl health. Let's see if they do.
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 28th Jul - 10:27pm
    People who quote JM Keynes should actually read him. Keynes was writing at a time when government was less than 20% of the national economy...
  • User AvatarTim Hill 28th Jul - 10:19pm
    You are very welcome Jakob.
  • User AvatarTim Hill 28th Jul - 10:18pm
    Richard is right in a way. Just imagine how much it would have been cut over the 5 years without Paul and Norman being Health...
  • User AvatarDavid 28th Jul - 10:11pm
    I notice no lib dems MPs have defended his right to use drugs in his private life if that is how he chooses to spend...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 28th Jul - 10:11pm
    Fao Richard Underhill. 28th Jul '15 - 8:27pm "The current Tory government is cutting spending on mental health now that we are not there to...