Norman Lamb MP writes…Liberal Democrats will fight relentlessly for NHS to have funding it needs

Today Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England published his 5-year Forward Look, setting out the challenges facing our health and care system in the coming years.

It makes sobering reading.  Simon Stevens sets out the huge scale of the financial challenge facing us in the years ahead as we continue to adapt to an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living longer with multiple chronic conditions.  We also need more investment to ensure that people with mental health problems can get the same standard of care and support as with physical health.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats set out their priorities for the NHS.  We committed to investing at least £1bn extra in our health and care system in each year in the next parliament.  £500m of that will go to mental health to ensure mental health patients get fair treatment, and can access the support they need.  And by the end of the next parliament we will give each carer £250 a year to recognise the immense contribution they make to society.

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Teacher workload – a concern north and south of the border

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats in conversation, an Indiegogo campaign

In April of this year, I organised a fundraising dinner for Simon Hughes in central London. Between courses we interviewed Nick Clegg, Lynne Featherstone and Simon about their early political interests and experiences. The answers were inspiring, the anecdotes hilarious and the audience were treated to a fascinating glimpse into the reasons why MPs get involved with politics in the first place.

The performances of Nick, Lynne and Simon challenged the all-too-common misperception that MPs are simply career politicians and members of a remote political class, far removed from the lives of the ordinary British public. Instead, the interviews highlighted a real diversity of backgrounds, professions and motivations in those who enter politics. After dinner, I experienced a eureka moment when a guest came to me and said, “If only the public could see the side of Nick we witnessed tonight”.  It was immediately evident that the interview format we trialled that evening could translate well into film, providing the party with a new and persuasive campaign medium.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Don’t despair, we can help those whose lives are threatened by climate change

Tim farron photo by liberal democrats dave radcliffeTim Farron has been writing for the Guardian about the extent of the practical problems faced by communities around the world as a direct result of climate change. Last week he met with someone from the Philippines who knows only too well what climate change means to their islands:

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Early years pupil premium – local allocations announced

school childrenThe government has announced the regional allocations for the Early Years pupil premium.

Nurseries, childminders and other early years providers throughout the country are set for a cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.​

But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – ​will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a …

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Opinion: In for a cent, in for a Euro?

Euro by Alf MelinThis is probably a stupid idea.

I thought I’d get that in before you do, because it probably is, and even it’s not you’re probably still going to think that it is. Nevertheless I’m going to say it anyway because frankly right now British politics is somewhere up a creek and Nigel Farage is running off with the paddle.

How about we hold an in-out referendum on European Union membership on the first Thursday in February?

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Horwood and Burstow take part in Westminster Dog of the Year

Guide dog puppyThis year’s Westminster Dog of the Year gets underway shortly. The aim is to celebrate that great bond between dog and human and to promote responsible dog ownership.

Last year, the Liberal Democrats were represented by Tessa Munt and Poppy. This year Paul Burstow and Martin Horwood are taking part.

Paul takes part with his dog Indy, who came to them as a rescue dog 4 years ago:

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The Liberal Party and the First World War – event in London next month

War gravesIn this year, a hundred years since the coming of war in August 1914, the conflict is remembered chiefly for
 its impact on the millions of ordinary men, women and children who were to suffer and die and over the following four years. Lives were altered forever and society transformed. But the war had political consequences too: empires fell, new nations emerged and British political parties and the party system underwent profound change – a transformation which plunged the Liberal Party into civil war and caused it to plummet from a natural party of government to electoral insignificance within a few short years.

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Shouldn’t Parliament Square be for protesters?

Parliament square by Paul WalterThe name Donnachadh McCarthy means something to those of us of a certain age. Donnachadh was once a Liberal Democrat and he was proper Awkward Squad. I spent many hours arguing with him on Cix, which was where all online Liberal Democrats hung out back in the day. Quite often I agreed with him and even when I didn’t, I realised that he was the sort of pain in the backside that every leader needs. Liberals have always been particularly bad at venerating their leaders. Willie Rennie described us, the day he became Scottish leader, as a party that doesn’t want to be led.

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Liberal Democrat storms to by-election win – in the House of Lords

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentWe have a new Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian tonight after a by-election win. It’s a wee while since we could say that. But it’s a very different type of by-election and one that raises more than a little disquiet. I have to say I find it pretty objectionable that you can get a seat in Parliament not through election by actual voters but because of the circumstances of your birth.

The House of Lords Act of 1999 left 92 hereditary peers in place after the Labour government backed down from full reform. That’s the Labour party, blocking reform at every turn whether in government or opposition. When one of them dies, there is a by-election held to admit a new one. The electorate is the whole House of Lords.

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Kirsty Williams questions Welsh First Minister on “lack of ambition” for young people

Kirsty WilliamsKirsty Williams seemed choked with the cold when she questioned First Minister Carwyn Jones yesterday but her fighting spirit was undiminished as she took him to task for what she called his government’s aspiration towards mediocrity rather than excellence in the wake of the annual Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report which said that poorer children in Wales were significantly less likely to obtain 5 GCSE’s including Maths and English. Even at the age of 3, children in Wales were falling behind those in England and Scotland in terms of vocabulary. While children in England caught up with those in Scotland by the age of 5, children in Wales fell further behind.

In his response, Mr Jones had to point to the “Pupil Deprivation Grant” as being part of the solution.

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Opinion: Decision making in the Liberal Democrats

libby on the wall3

The Liberal Democrats could be on the verge of a major change in the way in which we conduct our internal business.  We have already decided to move to OMOV for Federal Conference, and that will result automatically in all members of the party being eligible to stand for the elected positions on our Federal Executive.  We have also already decided to move to no less than 30% female representation for the elected seats on the FE, which will automatically weight the FE to at least 15% women (a token gesture by people who don’t understand the issue).

I have proposed, as a part of my agenda for election to the FE that we should move to having all seats on the FE directly elected and on a 50/50 +1 split of male to female members.
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The Independent View: Ministry of Justice costs reforms undermine Vince Cable’s aim of tackling rogue directors

Statue of Justice - The Old BaileyA key message the Business Secretary Vince Cable has been keen to stress during his time in government is the need to tackle rogue directors: he’s announced plans to produce “stronger deterrents” and “more robust sanctions” to quash ‘dodgy directors’. Dr Cable’s – and insolvency minister Jo Swinson’s – policies on protecting creditors from rogue directors are certainly worth developing, but they are at risk of being undermined by policies being put forward by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice has been seeking to tackle the costs of litigation, but its reforms will end up having a big impact on the insolvency profession’s ability to combat rogue directors and will have disastrous and costly consequences for small business creditors and the taxpayer.

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Lord Andrew Phillips writes…Reflections from the campaign trail in Clacton

Clacton beach huts photo by Nick PageI have a lifelong affinity with Clacton. It was the nearest seaside resort to my hometown of Sudbury, but more relevantly I was parliamentary candidate for the Harwich division, as it was then called, which included Clacton, in the General Election of 1970 (albeit for Labour – I saw the light three years later!)

On the face of it one should want to forget all about the Clacton results as quickly as possible. But there are some bright spots, and some insights which may be worth sharing.

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LibLink: Hannah Thompson on her successful campaign to outlaw revenge porn

hannah thompsonEvery time I read about what Hannah Thompson went through, the ordeal of not knowing when and where photos which she had intended only for private consumption would end up next after her former boyfriend abused her trust, it makes me want to cry. Partly in empathy, feeling for what she went through, partly in anger that anyone could do that to a former partner, partly in total admiration at the way she has calmly and reasonably campaigned for what happened to her to be made an offence. This week the House of Lords passed the amendment which makes revenge porn illegal.

Hannah told her story to the Telegraph, first of all talking about the powerlessness of not knowing where these photos, which should never have seen the light of day, would resurface, especially when the Police said there was nothing they could do:

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Voting for the next Lib Dem party president starts a week today

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderA week today, Wednesday, 29th October, ballot papers will be sent to all c.44,000 Lib Dem members enabling us to vote for the next Party President in succession to Tim Farron, who’s held the post for the past four years. Other than the party leader, the presidency is currently the only other post in the Lib Dems determined by a vote of all its members.

Three candidates successfully secured nomination — click on their names to follow the links to their campaign websites:

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LDVideo: Vikki Slade on Free School Meals in action

In Channel 4’s Political Slot this week, Lib Dem candidate for Mid Dorset and North Poole Vikki Slade finds out how the party’s policy of free school meals for 4-7 year olds is having a huge impact locally. You can watch it here.

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ALDC’s by-election report: 16 October 2014

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Last week saw ten principal by-elections contested across the country with the Liberal Democrats recording two victories. In York, former city council leader Andrew Waller was re-elected following a resounding Lib Dem victory in Westfield Ward, defeating the Labour Party candidate by 1,216 votes in second place. Andrew who had lost his seat in the 2011 local elections, polled 60.2% and was able to capitalize on a fall of 28.3% for Labour’s vote share from 2011 to give the party their ninth councilor in York.

The Liberal Democrats were also victorious in Rutland with Sam Asplin narrowly winning in Whissendine by 13 votes (51.8%) ahead of the Conservatives. Sam now joins Gale Waller as the party’s second representative on Rutland Council. Turnout was at 34.7% which is the highest of the known turnouts for this week’s by-elections. Prior to the by-election, the ward had an Independent councillor which led to Sam’s team attempting to market itself as a source of opposition to the Conservative run council. Whissendine is a compact village with an electorate of around 1,100 voters which allowed the local Liberal Democrats to run a strong, largely leaflet based campaign. Sam’s Agent John Hughes said, ‘We saw it as being better to give all voters several leaflets than to see maybe half of them once on the doorstep’. The Lib Dem team also stated that they managed to take advantage of apparent complacency on the part of their Conservative opponents, who had expected an unopposed victory.

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Opinion: Nick Clegg, want to win the women’s vote? Try working with one.

Lib Dems celebrate 100 years of women councillors - Photo by Martin TodThis week, Lib Dem Women went public with our campaign to lobby Nick Clegg to promote more of our brilliant women, and especially to ask one of them to join the Cabinet. This weekend, it was announced that he has no intention of another reshuffle before the General Election.

Here’s why that’s a really bad idea. It’s not just because the Liberal Democrats have plenty of exceptional and capable women who deserve more senior positions. We do, of course, but if we were talking about experience and ability alone we should have done this in 2010. Annette Brook taught economics for nearly two decades before she became a councillor, mayor and then MP; Susan Kramer had a long and successful career in infrastructure and transport finance; Lorely Burt ran her own award-winning training and development business; I could go on. Nothing about these women suggests they are less capable than, say, Jeremy Browne or Danny Alexander.

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Is this the front page of the next Lib Dem manifesto?

Ryan Coetzee, recently appointed the Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy, was snapped today clutching papers which look like they might reveal the party’s top four priorities for the 2015 manifesto.

The four priorities read:

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Opinion: Gough Whitlam: Farewell to a reformer

Gough_Whitlam_bust by WikiTownsvillian

I’m an avid consumer of the politics of other countries, including that of Australia which borrows so much from our Westminster system yet, viewing its Parliamentary proceedings on-line, some might say its politics are even more robust than our own.
I first became interested in Australian politics at around the time of the original coup when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister after ousting her own Party colleague Kevin Rudd.
Three years and three days later, of course, Mr Rudd got his own back when he took back the crown, albeit to shortly thereafter lose it again when his Labor Party lost the 2013 election.
Since then I’ve read up on a number of other former Prime Minister’s down under, from Bob Hawke to Paul Keating, from Robert Menzies to John Howard. Each, of course, led in their own style and according to their own philosophies and beliefs. But none were as mythologised as the Grand Old Man who has passed away today: E Gough Whitlam, Australia’s 21st Prime Minister.
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LibLink: Sarah Teather: Tackling revenge eviction – a step closer

Sarah Teather was one of the five Liberal Democrat MPs who won a spot in the annual ballot (actually a big raffle) for Private Members’ Bills. John Hemming is tackling secrecy in the family courts, Andrew George the Bedroom Tax, Martin Horwood is trying to stop parking on pavements while Mike Moore wants to enshrine the 0.7% aid target into law.

Sarah’s bill is to stop your landlord chucking you out in the street if you complain about poor conditions. So called revenge evictions cause huge problems. She’s written a blog for Shelter explaining what her bill would do and why it is necessary:

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Opinion: The other side of the immigration debate coin

There are some things in life that go hand in hand

In the UK it is a General Election and talk of Immigration Controls

In every general election since Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech Labour and the Conservatives have sought to out-do each other on the toughness of their respective policies on immigration Usually the war of words starts at about the same time as the political parties start their election campaign. This time round the battle has already started even though the General Election is some six months away And the reason? The Tories are running scared of UKIP as Nigel Farage sets himself up as the only  gatekeeper who can be trusted to keep immigrants at bay and land election defeat on Conservatives the back of it.

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A sneak preview of the Scottish Autumn Conference Agenda

This year’s Scottish Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference takes place much later than usual. It’s been delayed by the Referendum and will take place in Dunfermline on Saturday 22nd November. There’s just about enough time for Presidential candidates to come and chase some last minute votes.

The preliminary agenda has just been published and it’s busy. Six policy debates, two keynote speeches, a  devolution discussion, a thank you reception for our former MEP George Lyon and two lunchtime fringe meetings crammed into one day.

The policy motions include:

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Martin Horwood MP writes…Reducing the negative impact of violence on international development

Every five minutes a child dies from violence.

This appalling statistic, released in a new report from Unicef UK today, shows that violence is not confined to an unlucky few or even to war zones. Across the world, millions of children bear the brunt of an epidemic of violence that is often hidden or ignored and that threatens their rights to a healthy, safe and fulfilling life.

Violence manifests itself in many forms. Unicef UK’s research reveals that more than 125 million women, most in early childhood or adolescence, have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). In some regions, the child murder rate is shockingly high, especially for teenagers.  For example, an adolescent boy in Latin America is 70 times more likely to be murdered than in the UK.

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Opinion: Should all-member ballots replace conference on policy votes?

Laptop and mobileThe Liberal Democrat conference’s decision to support the use of One Member, One Vote (OMOV) in federal conference decisions is to be welcomed. It means any member who attends conference can vote on conference decisions, not just leading figures and those elected by their local parties to be conference representatives. While this is all very good news, we can go a lot further.

Instead of conference making policy decisions, it is a logical next step to give all members the power to make policy regardless of whether they attend conference. We can do this by conducting all-member online ballots.

The most obvious benefit of this is it would enormously increase participation in decision-making in what is already, by miles, the most democratic of the four biggest UK parties. It seems fairly obvious ordinary members should have a say on the policies their party proposes, without having to fork out hundreds of pounds to attend conference. Older and wealthier members are more likely to attend conference because they have more time and money, meaning policy-making is less representative. Letting all members have their say would eliminate these problems.

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Opinion: Tackling tax avoidance should be a top manifesto issue 

pre manifesto documentIn the flurry of press coverage over recent UKIP success, the steady rise of the Greens is usually ignored (including by the broadcast media who are excluding them from the pre-election debates).

The Greens have taken the left-wing protest vote which of course we used to get.  On the doorsteps in Hornsey and Wood Green, disillusionment with politics is clear to see – not because of immigration or Europe, but because the burdens of austerity are not seen to be shared equally.  One of the main sources of outrage is tax avoidance.  Major corporations are still paying minimal amounts of tax, and this means that the Exchequer is getting many billions less than it should be.  Local government spending continues to be cut, public sector pay continues to be almost flat, and the pressure on benefits for those of working age remains.

The Conservatives have made considerable noise on the subject of tax avoidance.  But as of 2013, the UK’s top 100 companies still had over 8000 subsidiaries in onshore or offshore tax havens, and the ‘tax efficiency’ industry continues to flourish.  The lobbying by large corporate donors to the Conservative party means that although some of the more outrageous tax avoidance schemes have been shut down there remains a huge discrepancy between the profits made and the tax paid by many companies. There is some good news on a proposed ‘Google tax’ which aims to clamp down on companies shifting profits between different countries; however the danger is that it will be significantly watered down after the big corporates have had their say, in the way that the new General Anti Abuse Rule (GAAR) has been.

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Linda Jack drops out of race for party president

linda-jack-6The election for the new president of the party is underway. Ballot papers will be sent out on Friday  to all members of at least one year’s standing to everyone who was a member on the qualifying date at the end of September.  

Candidates had to collect 200 nominations from conference representatives across at least 20 different local parties, with no-one allowed to nominate more than one. Traditionally the candidates try to get the requisite signatures at Autumn Conference, but this proved to be a particular challenge this year.

Linda Jack has issued this statement:

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Obituary: Susan Taylor – Another great Liberal light goes out

susan taylorIn the early hours of Thursday 2nd October 2014, long term Liberal activist Susan Annemarie Taylor (née Annemarie Susanne Goldschmidt) quietly passed away at the grand old age of 95 in Newcastle.

Susan was known in South London as one half of a fearsome Liberal duo with husband Brian who passed away in August 2013. Along with Brian she joined the Liberal Party in 1955 (having previously voted Conservative if rumours are true).

They set about persuading the good voters of Bromley that Liberal was the way to go, played a role in several famous London by-elections including Orpington in 1962 and Bermondsey in 1983, and toured the country in their trusty caravan helping Liberals all over the place include son Michael in Yorkshire and daughter Wendy in Newcastle.

Susan ran a fearsome committee room on election day. Woe betide any activist who thought they could have more than a quick sit down and a cup of tea; Susan would soon send them out again with leaflets to deliver or doors to knock until the polls shut. Although she did once famously confess that “I can’t get excited if Brian isn’t the candidate”.

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Opinion: And you thought EVEL was difficult…

Manchester Town Hall ClockOur party has saddled itself with a totally unworkable policy on devolution, but the formulators and protagonists of devolution on demand simply don’t understand why it’s a passport to total confusion.

Let’s consider a future House of Commons where legislation is being considered for schools. A vote is needed. Ah, but not everyone can vote because there’s been some devolution.  Let’s see now. This legislation won’t cover Scotland and Wales or Northern Ireland, but neither will it cover Yorkshire (except for Selby which opted out), Cornwall, the city regions of Manchester and Birmingham (minus Solihull which didn’t join) and of course education is now the responsibility of the Mayor in London and a quango in the North East. So who exactly will be able to vote? And if an English Committee for English laws is OK in the Commons what will happen in the still unreformed House of Lords?  Will it be necessary to stop peers who come from the devolved regions from voting?

photo by:
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