Category Archives: Op-eds

The PM is building a wall, and Northern Ireland is going to pay

Theresa May’s long awaited speech on Brexit was notable both for what she did say and, perhaps more conspicuously, for what she did not.

On Northern Ireland specifically, the Prime Minister declared that the maintenance of the Common Travel Area will be an important priority during the negotiation and that the UK will work to deliver a ‘practical solution’ so as to avoid a return to the borders of the past.

The practical solution posited by Mrs. May was subject to the caveat that the integrity of the UK’s immigration system must be protected. This, the Prime Minister suggests, is eminently achievable given that the CTA existed well before 1973 and the UK’s entry into the EEA.

This contrasts with remarks made immediately prior to the Referendum in June, when May claimed it would be “inconceivable” to imagine that there will not be any changes on border arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, if the UK were to pulls out of the EU.

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Observations of an expat: The hip-thigh bone theory of the world

It is time to explain my hip thigh bone theory of the world.

The theory is based on the 1920s African-American  spiritual “Dem bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.”

The ditty in turn was based on a Biblical passage in which a collection of dry bones reassemble themselves   before the astonished eyes of the prophet Ezekiel .

The foot-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual is a roof raiser in evangelical churches around the world. It is also a popular song in young children’s anatomy classes.

But to my mind, Its main value is as a perfect metaphor of how the  rapidly shrinking and interconnected world has become increasingly dependent on its constituent parts (or bones) working together.

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May’s “Hard Brexit” causes tensions in previously strong UK-Dutch relationship

Despite all the sugar-coating in her speech, the “Hard Brexit” announced by prime minister May didn’t go down well with Dutch businesses, many of whom have done business with Britain for decades.

The combination of the threats uttered alongside the Hard Brexit option, and a series of recent stories in Dutch newspapers about extradition letters being sent to Dutch housewives by Tory immigration ministers, seriously changed the way many UK-loving Dutch think about being in Britain, and British policy attitudes.

That point was today brought home to me, when I met a friend whose family had been visiting the Lake District every summer for decades. He told me that he didn’t feel as welcome in England as he used to, seeing the way the May government is treating our mixed-married compatriots who also love Britain. He pointed out that May’s “walk away” threat puts British-Dutch couples in complete limbo. 

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Claire Tyler writes: Breaking through the class ceiling

Too often, success in accessing our top professions is down to the lucky accident of birth. Too often, structural inequalities mean that young children find themselves imprisoned on an inescapable path. By the age of five, there is a clear academic attainment gap between children from rich and poor families. This increases throughout school. The benefits of being born to wealthy parents do not just accrue to the talented – in fact, less-able, better-off kids are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright poor youngsters. The resultant domination of our top professions like medicine, law, finance and the arts by the elite and independently educated is staggering.

The case for social mobility is not just a moral one. It also makes business sense. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2010 found that failing to improve low levels of social mobility will cost the UK economy up to £140 billion a year by 2050. Some top businesses understand this, and are working hard to widen access.

More must be done to widen access to elite professions; on the part of schools, universities, businesses and the government. This is the conclusion of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, of which I am co-Chair, and which released its report this week. Titled ‘The Class Ceiling’, the report is the culmination of a detailed inquiry, with the help of the Sutton Trust, over the last year. The inquiry looked at the causes and extent of the problem, investigated what is currently being done, and recommended tangible policy actions.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 18 January 2017

Happy new Year!  The most recent meeting of the Federal Policy Committee took place on 18th January 2016 in Portcullis House, Westminster.  This was a very well attended meeting indeed, it being the first of a new cycle of Federal Policy Committee meetings.  This committee has a three-year term.

We welcomed a large number of new members the committee.  There had been a substantial change in committee membership following the elections.  They included Elizabeth Jewkes, Alisdair McGregor, Chris White, Paul Tilsley, Qurban Hussain, Christine Chueng, Jim Williams, Sally Burnell, Catherine Royce, David Weston, Susan Juned, Jonny Oates, Tony Greaves, Kamran Hussain and Heather Kidd.  Andrew Wiseman attended to represent the Federal Conference Committee and Richard Cole represent the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

Composition of Federal Policy Committee and Committee Elections

Tim Farron MP remains as the chair of the committee.

There were elections for the post of Vice-Chair.  There were three vacancies; one of them was reserved for a Parliamentarian (the old M.P. Vice-Chair).  The contenders were Duncan Brack, Jeremy Hargreaves and Sarah Ludford and they were all elected without opposition.

Lizzy Jewkes and Alisdair McGregor were appointed to the Policy Equalities Impact Assessment Group.  That group conducts an audit of each policy paper to ensure that the authors have thought through and considered the equalities aspect of their work.

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Victory for Liberal Democrats in fight to strengthen Victims’ Code

The Government has agreed to back Sal Brinton’s calls for a strengthened Victims’ Code following a hard fought campaign by our Party President.

During ping-pong of the Policing and Crime Bill the Government made concessions on the principles of Sal Brinton’s amendments which put the discretionary Victims’ Code on to a statutory footing. The current situation sees thousands of victims let down every day because of inconsistent and unenforced practice by those in the criminal justice system.

The Government has now agreed to a review of support for victims reporting back within six months, including consultation with victims groups and others. It also agreed to strengthen, through legislation, anything necessary for the agencies dealing with victims to ensure they fulfil their duties, are appropriately trained and monitored in the delivery of their support for victims.

Sal Brinton said:

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Obituary: Peter Grender 1936-2017

Peter Grender, Dad, showed tactical genius from an early age.  So determined was he to win the heart of my Mum – Iris, the girl he met at the school dance, that he offered to memorise her phone number for his mate who had spent the evening dancing with her and promptly pretended to forget it. When Iris went out with another boyfriend, Peter would pop round for a regular cuppa with Iris’s Mum, his innate charm won the day!

He was a mix of generosity, wit, creativity, relentless attention to detail but most of all a loyalty and warmth that won and kept him friendships of all ages.

At school, St. Dunstans College Catford, he formed strong friendships that lasted his whole life.  After national service he went into sales and advertising joking that he started at the bottom with sales of laxatives and condoms, so the only way was up.

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