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”.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

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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Opinion: Enablement For All

I had the opportunity to tour a small business this week which makes cutting-edge prosthetic devices.  It was fascinating – technology nowadays has moved on so much that electronic sensors in an artificial foot can detect when you stub your toe on a curb and compensate for your loss of balance so that the foot/prosthetic device stays stable and you don’t fall.

We are all familiar with international athletes, ‘bladerunners’, who are able to achieve so much in their sport because of the specialist blade limbs that enable them to compete at the highest level.  What I wasn’t aware of was swimming ‘flipper’ limbs are also available, and a range of other devices.  This company makes all of them, enabling those who have been in road accidents or lost limbs through illness or in war, to live their lives to the full.  I came away in wonder, having seen how the devices are made out of sheets of plastic draped over moulds, simple materials changing peoples’ lives.

Enablement.  It is, in my opinion, what the Liberal Democrats are all about.  We exist to create a “fair, free and open society” and we value “liberty and equality.”  We enable.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: The case for a “Great Reform Pact”

The election draws near and the battle lines are being set -but they are being laid down on the principles of old, whilst the country cries out for change.  More than anything, voters yearn for responsive local Government and not authoritarian diktats from afar in London or Brussels. They want their voices heard. The two party system is broken but our democracy remains in the past.

We need leadership and a vision of a modern democracy that will give people a real say and the freedom to act.

Do Clegg and Milliband have the statesmanship to seize a unique opportunity this May? All the leaders know that in all probability they will have to do a deal after the election if they want to be in or share power.  So why not do a deal now, before the election?  If the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrats come together in an electoral pact there is every chance they will win a clear majority of MPs.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 74 Comments

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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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #408

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 408th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (18 – 24 January  2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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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.

 

Posted in News | Tagged and | 4 Comments

LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 15,800 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

 The Greens: The Lib Dem fightback begins (178 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Britain’s greenest party, the Green Party and environmentalism (99 comments) by Simon Oliver

The Green Party: should we be panicking? (22 comments) by Paul Walter

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Surely it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to part company with Alex Carlile

alex carlile - house of lords
After much provocation over the years, I have finally reached the end of my patience with Alex Carlile. The sooner he and the Liberal Democrats part company the better.

It was embarrassing enough to watch him give the green light to so many of Labour’s illiberal anti-terror laws, but when he supports something which threatens to scupper a key concession won by the Liberal Democrats, it is time for us to actively campaign for him to go.

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Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 27 Comments

LibLink: Michael Moore: The Smith Commission has delivered

The Vow deliveredThis was the week that the Government unveiled the 44 clauses of the Scotland Bill which will be debated after the General Election. Former Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore was a member of the Smith Commission upon whose report the clauses were drafted. He says in an article for the Scotsman that the Commission has delivered and “the Vow” has therefore been kept:

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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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Opinion: Let’s look at the harm caused by Page 3

Given that Page 3 wasn’t in The Sun this week, it sure took up a lot of media space, especially among Lib Dems. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that loads of us want to wade into a fight that was framed as free speech and sexual expression vs gender equality and quality news reporting. But that’s not actually what’s going on at all: so here is a rundown of what Page 3 is, and why it’s harmful.

Page 3 is normalising objectification of women. The Sun makes printing nude women for the sole purpose of titillation in a national newspaper, which would otherwise be totally weird, normal. Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context (see, 80% of the internet), but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news. “Women have breasts” is pretty much the oldest story there is. Unless, like my mother, your breasts make it into the paper because they are testing the new mammogram machine at your local hospital they don’t need to be in there. If the Guardian decided to swap Polly Toynbee for a massive naked man next week, I’d find that equally inappropriate, because quality reporting is not about getting your rocks off (unless you have a particular fetish for bad photos of Ed Milliband).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 60 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 13 Comments

Flags at half mast – the right way to mark the passing of an illiberal despot?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding “No.” When I saw yesterday that Westminster Abbey of all places was flying the flag at half mast to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I was horrified. The vomit-inducing tone of the tributes portraying him as some sort of reformer added to my irritation. If he was a reformer, Brian from the Magic Roundabout is a world champion sprinter to rival Usain Bolt.

I guess what intensified my overall sense of injustice was the chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats. Surely at least one of our parliamentarians should have openly criticised such a ridiculous decision. The only honourable exceptions I can find are Meral Ece and Mike Thornton, both of whom have been retweeting human rights information about Saudi Arabia and wry observations about the reaction to Abdullah’s death:

Most annoying was that it fell to a TORY to heap the most condemnation on the flags decision:

It’s all so different from 2007 when Vince Cable as acting leader boycotted the State Visit of King Abdullah, saying:

Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

He said he had also been critical of the Saudi regime’s treatment of Britons.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 37 Comments

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:

Posted in LibLink and News | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 11 Comments

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 …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 13 Comments

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:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 52 Comments

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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The Independent View: Progressive and pro-European voters must unite against Tory-UKIP chaos

Britain stands on the edge of a cliff with the General Election only 105 days away.  Will we vote Tory or UKIP for Euroreferendum chaos, lasting two years at least and putting thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and our long term peace and security at risk? Or will Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and all progressive voters come together in the marginal seats that matter to elect a Parliament for progress and reform and a Labour-led Government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister?  He has stood firm against the clamour for a referendum with considerable courage and nous.  Scotland shows how referenda, even with a 55-45 vote, can settle nothing, just open a can of worms.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged and | 68 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Lord Hugh Dykes writes: Chilcot delay is an utter disgrace

We have waited too long for the Chilcot Inquiry. I do not have to tell you this, the Lib Dems were after all the only one of the three major parties (despite the Tories fuss now) to disagree with going to war in Iraq.

I am proud to say that it was the Liberal Democrat party who marched officially as a party to protest against the war. The estimated 1.5 million marchers going along Piccadilly were subsequently all disappointed that the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, completely ignored their representations on the biggest march that had taken place in Britain in recent times.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments
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