Category Archives: News

Nicola Sturgeon appoints controversial Brexit Minister

In the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum, Nicola Sturgeon played an absolute blinder. She seemed like she was the only grown-up in power. She was calm, she was reasonable and she put up a massive big tent that allowed all parties to unite. Well, not the Tories, but who cares about them in Scotland, anyway?  Given the chaos they have inflicted, as Brexit gets underway, I suspect that their good performance in the Holyrood elections will turn out to be a high water mark.

Within days of the result, the Scottish Parliament debated and passed a motion which authorised the First Minister and the Scottish Government to look for a way to preserve Scotland’s relationship with the EU. It was not, Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament, about independence.

However, let me be clear that if the Government concludes that the best or the only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU is through a referendum on independence, we will return to Parliament with that judgment and it will then be for Parliament to decide. I am emphatically not asking Parliament to endorse that step today. A vote for today’s motion is not a vote for a referendum on independence.

I was glad to see that the Scottish Liberal Democrats backed Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts. Everyone seemed to be working together well with the SNP even removing wording from the motion to make sure it was  something all the parties except the Tories (who ultimately abstained) could sign up to.

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Hate crimes up 42%, but Tories give discrimination helpline contract to controversial G4S

With hate crimes up by 42% since the EU referendum result, the Conservative government is privatising the EASS (Equality Advisory and Support Service) which is a lifeline for people facing human rights issues or discrimination.

After a tendering process, they are awarding the contract to G4S. The same company which has demonstrated shocking track record of human rights breaches, and for failing government contracts wasting millions in taxpayers’ money. Prime Minister May wishes to put them in charge of the national helpline responsible for providing support to people facing discrimination, something which is deeply concerning considering their history.

This would be like putting BP in charge of enforcing environmental protections. On top of that, there are claims that the government may have failed to follow all the necessary steps before awarding the contract to G4S. Online campaign group SumOfUs is currently trying to fundraise to bring a legal case to reverse the decision to award G4S the contract.

With G4S’s very public failings, surely the company has no business anywhere near a contract like this. 

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Lib Dem Jobwatch Special: The ALDC edition

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)The Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners is recruiting. Here are the jobs they are currently advertising:

Campaigns Officer (Full Time, Manchester)

Local Government Scale SO1-SO2 (Currently £25,440 – £29,558)

Work with the leading campaigning organisation within the Liberal Democrats as one of our two national Campaigns Officers.

We are looking for someone who can bring their own campaigning experience and ideas –not necessarily gained within the Liberal Democrats – to help us enable Liberal Democrats to campaign effectively in our communities and win elections. Experience and ability around online campaigning will be an advantage.

Deadline for applications NOON 28 September 2016

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‘Don’t let the SpArC go out’ campaign reaches another level

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Little did I know that the press release I put out on August 8th would hit national TV. The following day our funding crisis at SpArC – the Bishops Castle Leisure Centre in south west Shropshire –was front page of the Shropshire Star. Most of the County has been given a year’s reprieve to try to find revenue funding for their Leisure Centres. Not so for four centres in the South of the County. We face an extra 25% cut and a cut of £65,000 in education funding  for SpArC alone.

The community are rallying. We are fundraising to raise £50k to insulate the pool, the building and reduce energy costs and usage. We have raised over £36k already. The cuts for us this year were a kick in the teeth.

Last week I was minding my own business delivering leaflets (for our by-election) at the base of the Longmynd with my colleague Cllr Nigel Hartin from Clun (who had just been bitten by a farm dog) when my mobile rang – a novelty in itself with our poor mobile signal –  Channel 4 News wanted to come and film. Could I get parents and children there? Was this possible? It is August. Teme Leisure who run the Centre pulled out all the stops and parents and children poured in. We managed it together.

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Reminder: Wikipedia editing event at National Liberal Club tomorrow

Last week, Kat Bavage told us about an event at the National Liberal Club in London tomorrow. Liberals will gather to pore over the NLC’s vast array of historical resources and edit Wikipedia entries to make sure that the Liberal and Liberal Democrat contribution to history is properly recorded. Kat said:

The irony is however that although very many people read Wikipedia’s content (half a billion people a month or thereabouts) very few actually engage in creating it. In the UK there are perhaps only around 15,000 editors, and of these the majority only occasionally chip in to correct a typo

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What would you do if you were the Mayor of Calais?

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Inside the Jungle in Calais

I was part of a Local Government Association delegation last week to the ‘jungle’ in Calais.

The ‘camp’ is essentially a shanty town with tents and shacks (including ‘restaurants’) built from scrap materials. It is set in sand dunes next to an industrial estate and alongside one of the key roads heading towards the Channel Tunnel. Its occupants are mainly male and there are over 800 residents classed as children – including many teenagers. The bulk are Afghan, fleeing Taliban conscription and in places combat zones. There are some Syrians as well as Eritreans and Somalis.

The authorities are clearly hostile to the camp: residents feel that the inhabitants are responsible for nuisance and crime. The response to this in March was partial demolition –which meant that 127 children simply disappeared. Meanwhile the CRS (the riot police in other circumstances) harass the inhabitants – confiscating phones, destroying SIM cards – and using plastic bullets, which can cause life-changing injuries.

The camp does not officially exist. Nevertheless, provision has been made for some inhabitants to go into adjacent freight containers – adapted to provide a form of accommodation, aimed at women with younger children, because of the dangers posed by people traffickers in the main camp.

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ALDC’s by-election report, 19th August 2016

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Last night saw nine principal council by-elections take place across the country, with Lib Dem candidates standing across the board.

In Redcar & Cleveland Carole Morgan and the team comfortably held Ormesby ward following the resignation and sad passing of Ann Wilson, a tireless local campaigner and ward councillor since 2009.  Carole and the Lib Dem team ran a strong campaign on protecting local green spaces and opposing the Labour controlled council. Councillor Morgan was elected with an amazing 75.4% share of the vote – up 37.3% since 2015! UKIP struggled into second place with 10.6% (down 6.8%), and Labour came in third with 9.7% (down 9.4%).

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