Three ways our democracy is being undermined

The articles that have appeared after the BBC’s referendum debate in Glasgow have given a lot of prominence to that one man who blamed the state of political discourse for his confusion as to how to vote.

This was too interesting not to comment on.

The audience was divided into leavers, remainers, and undecideds.

Leave and Remain both have their own ‘Project Fear’. Leavers tout a cultural crisis in the form of mass migration. Remainers raise the spectre of economic catastrophe.

Fear Projects, whereever they come from, are a concerted attempt to sway the public with threats dangerous enough to repeat frequently in scarce media time.

On the face of it my generation ought to be the most engaged generation there has ever been. Social media has turned every one of us into campaigners and journalists: we auto-report our lives and volunteer our opinions publicly. We are also happy to parrot or share anything we agree with.

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Johnny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Johnny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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Holding Kirsty to account

When set against the backdrop of our worst performance in a National Assembly election, Kirsty Williams’ elevation to the Welsh Cabinet is nothing short of remarkable. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most powerful Assembly Members in the Senedd Chamber; she may be a lone Welsh Lib Dem voice, but the power to make or break the Welsh Government is hers.

With Kirsty’s support the Welsh Government can command 29 votes, the same as the opposition (less the presiding officer and deputy). A tied no confidence vote results in the presiding officer voting in favour of the status quo. Simply put, Labour’s First Minister Carwyn Jones loses his insurance policy if he doesn’t keep Kirsty onside.

The Welsh Party overwhelmingly endorsed the agreement at a special conference by more than 4 to 1. It is a huge, huge gamble, but it has nothing left to lose. With a Cabinet post comes profile, coverage and exposure that a sole backbench Lib Dem would never have. If you think the Party struggles to get coverage at the UK level, our Welsh coverage is next to nil outside of an election. Frankly, it gives the Welsh Liberal Democrats relevance in Welsh Politics when we should, according to our vote share, be irrelevant.

Without an Assembly group from which to take counsel, or to hold her to account, it also places Kirsty in a very powerful position in her relationship with the Party. With the Party’s endorsement under her belt, she can effectively operate as an independent and take decisions as she sees fit. So what measures will she be judged against, and who will hold her to account?

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Why I’ve just joined the Liberal Democrats

Hello! My name is Tom Sutton and I am a 16-year-old student from the Wirral Peninsula near Liverpool currently sitting my GCSEs and I want to just explain what brought me to the party.

I have been interested in politics since I was about 8 or 9. I was a Labour supporter who liked Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. This was probably due to the fact that my parents owned a rather successful business during that period so I personally saw prosperity under their rule. I always said my favourite PM was Brown because in my mind, he managed to prevent national bankruptcy during the dark days of recession.

When the 2010 Election came along, I was hoping for another majority or a Lab-Lib Coalition as the Lib Dems were my second favourites. This to me seemed feasible after the result but it went differently. So I spent the last 5 years of my life calling the Tories fit to burn. However, I was indifferent to the Lib Dems. That indifferent, I would often forget they were there as you could’ve easily thought there was a Tory majority!

The same thing occurred at the 2015 Election and I hoped that the electorate would “see sense” as I was livid with Tory policies such as the Bedroom Tax and the GCSE reforms and thought we needed real change. Then the result came and it was a shock. What the biggest shocks for me were the colossal drop in Lib Dem seats and the massive rise in SNP seats. I felt the Lib Dems’ pain, but I still supported Labour.

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We are all leaders

There is a simple yet important question we need to ask ourselves if we are to rebuild our party: Am I a leader?

It is a simple question but one we rarely ask. Leadership has become defined by the extraordinary, by those who are able to do things which many others cannot, but this means that when we do show leadership – even for a short period – we undervalue it or worse, we don’t acknowledge it at all.

During the recent local elections I stood (for the first time) as a paper candidate in my local ward. Despite my small chance of success (earning 5% of the vote would have been seen as a major coup) I decided to press on regardless and printed some leaflets. As the local party hadn’t resources to spare for a FOCUS run I decided to pay for some out of my own pocket and create Street FOCUS, meaning I only had to print 50 or so at a time. The major issue I focussed on in the tight roads of my local area was Residents Parking Permits and whether Blue Badge holders should have priority parking outside of their homes.

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New #3000children website launched during Lib Dem members’ webinar on refugees

Last night, Sal Brinton hosted an online meeting for party members on the subject of refugees. Also taking part were Baroness Shas Sheehan and Bradley Hillier-Smith, who have been on several visits to the refugee camps and Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary’s Suzanne Fletcher who, among many other things, has campaigned successfully to end the appalling “red doors” for asylum seekers  policy. Suzanne was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from ALDE.

I consider myself reasonably well informed on the Refugee Crisis, but I found that I learned things during the webinar. The panel outlined a series of things that we can do to help the refugees, from making the case by writing to the local papers to donating money and equipment to the camps.

Brad described the conditions in the camps in France – appalling and unsanitary. None of the big charities are allowed to work there so the relief effort is carried out only by teams of volunteers.

Sal also told us that Syrian refugees still in the massive camps in the region are locked in. They can’t go anywhere else. This is the case in all the countries except the Lebanon. Our sister party there has ensured that they can get out, mindful of the experience of the Lebanese refugees during their civil war 30 years ago.

Shas has another trip to the camps planned for next week and will be putting out another appeal for supplies. She is also trying to organise a co-ordinated Liberal Democrat volunteer event for the end of July.

During the webinar, the part launched a new campaign site devoted to the issue of child refugees. There’s a timeline of all the issues and a link to Alf Dubs’ petition.

If you missed the webinar, you will get a chance to hear the recording. A link will be emailed either later today or tomorrow if you are a party member. 

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Liberal Democrats need to oppose this government with more passion and rage

Thank heaven we have had no major crises while our Government is weak and split. The lordly predecessors of the present set must have turned in their graves when Cabinet responsibility was temporarily abandoned, in defiance of historic practice. The ghosts should then have howled when leading Tories began to spit insults at each other and denounce the supposed lies of their colleagues.

Yet we are stuck with this Tory Government, in or out of the EU. This collection of sophisticated predators, who systematically promote the interests of their own kind and seek the further enrichment of the moneyed classes despite the deep inequalities in Britain, know how to survive.

Where was Iain Duncan Smith’s consciousness of his Government’s preferring tax cuts for the wealthy when poor and disabled people, hit by his benefit cuts, were struggling to survive? Those were the days when David Cameron’s response to Nick Clegg’s attempts to adjust the balance of taxation in favour of the poor was ‘But our donors wouldn’t like it’, and the reply to requests for more public housing was ‘It would only create more Labour voters’. Yet, only this year did Duncan Smith apparently find his conscience and notice that the parrot-cry of ‘We are all in this together’ was false.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 28th May - 9:33pm
    @J Dunn But Sal Bringing supports reform that'd get rid of her job for life. If only Tory MPs in safe seats would do the...
  • User AvatarJ Dunn 28th May - 9:26pm
    "Sal.....pointing out that our democracy is far from perfect and essentially gave Ann Widdecombe a job for life." Our imperfect democracy seems to have worked...
  • User AvatarFrank Bowles 28th May - 9:14pm
    Welcome Tom :-)
  • User AvatarR Uduwerage-Perera 28th May - 9:07pm
    Oddly I do not find it comforting that even more people are joining the ranks that I and other EMLD members were aready members of...
  • User AvatarR Uduwerage-Perera 28th May - 8:59pm
    I consider this a very worthy investigation, especially if we can demonstrate that our Party has acted totally appropriately, and if not, we have the...
  • User AvatarChris Rennard 28th May - 8:39pm
    The urgent need to register young people by June 7th in order to enable to vote in the referendum was the subject of a Lib...