Opinion: Beware conflating offence with racism – Don’t demand David Ward’s expulsion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently saw for the first time the new monument commemorating the sacrifices paid by the men of RAF Bomber Command during World War II. It was a moving memorial, as well as an interesting one. We don’t celebrate the deliberate firebombing of German cities these days: we are thankfully queasy about the thought of the mass targeting of civilians. But the erection of this monument shows that although we – uncomfortably perhaps – understand that those fighting that awful war were compromised morally by their actions, we nevertheless sympathise with those who believed that the missions they flew had some military and economic justification.

I ask people to bear this in mind when considering whether or not David Ward should have the whip withdrawn for his tweets expressing sympathy with Gazans (some of whom are) firing rockets at Israeli cities. Some – many – will find the implications of what he says offensive. But we should be careful about citing offense as justification for the sacking of our political representatives. Especially as liberals.

As others have said, we would not call for the expulsion of an MP who expressed sympathy for Israelis motivated to extend their period of military service in reaction to the rockets fired from Gaza. We do not call for the expulsion of MPs who defend sales of British arms to Israel, even though we know there is a strong likelihood of their being used against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

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David Ward: “if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”

A year ago David Ward, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, had the party whip temporarily withdrawn after he accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel”. Though he apologised for blanket-labelling he said he would “continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms” and has tonight lived up to his word on his Twitter feed:

david ward tweets

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In Full: Nick Clegg’s speech to the Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoIt’s hard to imagine the event that took place in London today happening 20 years ago. Yes, of course, we knew about Female Genital Mutilation and Child and Enforced Marriage, but it wasn’t a mainstream political issue. Now, we’re seeing concerted global action, and the UK Government is involved up to its eyeballs, as Julian Huppert told us earlier. I couldn’t have imagined Mrs Thatcher or Sir Geoffrey Howe talking openly about the need to tackle these issues. But today, David Cameron, Philip Hammond, Theresa May, Justine Greening and Nick Clegg were all present at the Girl Summit. Here is Nick Clegg’s speech which closed the proceedings.

Take some time tonight not just to read this, though. Have a look through the Girl Summit Twitter feed and look at some of the stories and experiences that were shared, of girls as young as 12 pulled out of school and forced to marry. Read about how this problem is particularly bad at the moment in the Syrian refugee camps. It’s harrowing, but you also get a glimpse of all the work being done globally to bring these practices to an end. Today’s summit must only be a staging post in a much longer journey and now that the issue has hit the political mainstream, it must not be allowed to fade until it’s sorted.

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Paul Burstow writes … Depression touches all of our lives

Depression #5 (staring at the park)Depression affects as many as 1 in 4 of us in our lifetimes, 1 in 10 adults at any one time. So the truth is, it affects all of us – whether we have experienced depression ourselves, or as partners, parents, children, siblings, friends and colleagues of those who have, and may well still suffer. The misery that it brings is cruel and pernicious – we know it shatters lives. But despite the fact that depression touches all of our lives, it is still far too poorly understood.

As Minister for Mental Health, I awarded government funding to the Time to Change campaign to challenge the stigma of mental ill health and I’m pleased to say that the funding has continued throughout this parliament, and should, in my view, continue in the next. It has been very successful and has helped change mindsets in a range of fields. Celebrities and politicians have been brave enough to talk publicly about their own experiences of depression, and it has helped.

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Julian Huppert writes … The first Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoToday London hosts the first Girl Summit. Liberal Democrats in Government across every department have made the issue of gender inequality a priority. We understand that none of us can move forward if half of us are held back and this means tackling inequality and violence against women and girls wherever we find it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage are two of the oldest and most extreme ways girls are stunted and harmed for life and we have made a commitment to work with Governments across the world, NGOs, faith leaders and communities to end these abhorrent practices.

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The Right Hon Norman Lamb MP

LDV awards norman lambNo, that isn’t an error.

Norman Lamb has just been made a member of the Privy Council, which entitles him to be given the Right Hon treatment.  That privilege is automatically bestowed on Cabinet ministers, the Leader of the Opposition and senior judges, but other ministers are added from time to time.

From my research (ie a quick look at Wikipedia), I have discovered that the Privy Council advises the monarch, and in the past was the most powerful body in the country. Today, its powers have been transferred to the Cabinet, which technically is a committee of the Privy Council.

Membership is for life and at present there are 600 members of the Privy Council.  They only meet in full on the death of a monarch, or, intriguingly, when the Monarch gets engaged, which last happened in 1939.

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Lord Sharkey calls for convictions for homosexuality to be posthumously disregarded

While the attention yesterday evening was on the Lord’s debate on revenge porn, Lib Dems were also supporting another amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, this time on posthumous pardons for men convicted of homosexuality.

During the debate, John Sharkey explained that 75,000 men were convicted of homosexual acts under laws repealed in the 1960s. Legislation passed in 2012, gave 16,000 of them still alive the right to apply to have their convictions disregarded, but this left 59,000 similarly convicted, but now dead, unable to get such redress. Last year Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon.

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Martin Horwood writes …Tony Blair’s legacy

Tony BlairTwenty years ago yesterday Tony Blair became Labour Party Leader. The man who delivered a landslide victory for Labour in 1997 is now seen as a polarising figure in British politics.

Blair loved to be seen as a ‘modernising’ force in his party. Whether it was the abandonment of Clause 4, the drinks receptions for celebrities or leading a Government which was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, this was a world away from ‘Old Labour’.

As Prime Minister, however, there is no doubt it was his approach to foreign policy that defined his premiership.

Britain’s involvement in the illegal war in Iraq left a particularly indelible mark. Blair seemed to offer Parliament a choice. But his case was built on sandy foundations: his personal word that the intelligence case presented to MPs had not been exaggerated or ‘sexed up’.

Blair had used his own personal charisma to defeat opposition to his changes to the public sector and indeed to the Labour Party itself. He used this tool once again in making the case for the Iraq invasion, alongside a particular brand of political ‘spin’ that grew to typify Labour’s approach in office.

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Opinion: Sustainability, where do we go from here?

Economy-in-the-UKOur party is not addressing continued economic growth. Our leaders talk about growth solving our problems and recovering pre 2008 living standards, rather than about creating prosperity without growth. Growth through conspicuous consumption is still being sold as the road to recovery.

There are three real stumbling blocks:

  1. High living standards and rising prosperity extolled by almost all parties are only possible by expropriating the living standards of the world’s poorest.
  2. We depend heavily on the rest of the world, especially developing countries, for food and are still reducing farmland in the UK.
  3. Our energy supplies depend on unstable regimes in the Middle East and Russia and we have not begun to address self sufficiency in basic energy.
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Stephen Lloyd MP writes… The jobs agenda – a lot done, more still to do for single parents

Budding Artists Create Holiday MasterpiecesIn my constituency of Eastbourne, one in four households with children is headed by a single parent. This mirrors the diversity of modern families across Britain, where families come in all shapes and sizes, and reinforces my commitment to support and promote policies which enable each and every one of these families to balance work with bringing up their kids.

I am proud of the coalition government’s record on job creation and bringing down unemployment – reflected in the latest statistics out last week which showed that unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in nearly six years – but recognise that there is still more for us to do to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the economic upturn.

This week, single parent charity Gingerbread has published a new report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery, which highlights single parents’ experiences in work and of finding work. In reading the report, I was struck by how motivated single parents are to work and support their families – indeed 60% of single parents are already in work – a fact which is reinforced by the stories I hear from the single parents I meet at my constituency surgeries.

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The Independent View: This is the right time to drive forward integrated health and care

nhs sign lrgThe NHS is becoming too big to fail. Like a more benign version of the banks, it has become such a vital part of our national life, with such a slick lobbying machine and such a powerful public profile that it has become hard to challenge. So when the system starts to creak, everyone from MPs to doctors immediately shouts for more money. The problem is that more money may not solve the problem, but simply allow the NHS to subsist in a state of perma-crisis.

The only way out …

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Liberal Democrat amendment making revenge porn a crime to be debated today – watch Hannah’s story

"Frozen Poetry" - Houses of Parliament, LondonThis afternoon, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in the name of four Liberal Democrat peers, Jonathan Marks, Olly Grender, Liz Barker and Sal Brinton, will be debated in the House of Lords. Its effects would be to make it an offence to publish a sexually explicit image of a person without their consent, punishable by 6 months to a year in prison.

photo by: Gaurav Pradhan
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TTIP — the US-EU trade deal. What is it, and where is it up to?

Container Ship tradeAt last year’s autumn conference, the Lib Dems pledged to support a new trade agreement between the European Union and the United States — known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The motion, ‘Strengthening the UK Economy’ (pdf), called on the coalition to:

Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

Since then there has been significant …

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Opinion: Is the rethink on the Bedroom Tax too little, too late?

Clegg axe bedroom taxThe Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (the ‘bedroom tax’) has not met its intended outcomes. This has led to an apparent U-turn by the Liberal Democrat leadership, based on evidence published in the interim policy evaluation. This report highlighted the economic hardship experienced by those affected and that the accelerated demand for downsizing has been difficult to meet.

It is to be applauded that Liberal Democrats appear to have responded to evidence which suggests that the policy isn’t working. Also to be welcomed is the intention to …

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Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

Teacher Tom at Canterbury994I’m a governor at Seven Sisters Primary School and South Grove Children’s Centre in Tottenham, where we’ve been running a programme for two-year-olds from deprived backgrounds for the last three years. We’ve tracked the progress these children make, and it’s clear there are real benefits. This is a good Lib Dem policy, aiming to break down the barriers that hold back children from poorer families.

In September, the eligibility criteria for the programme will be widened, so that around 40% of two-year-olds become eligible. In Haringey, that means that …

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Our Climate Change bulldog #slfconf

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul Walter
WARNING: Contains strong hagiographic content, which some readers may find disturbing.

On Saturday, while much of the country was enjoying the sunshine, I spent two hours studying and listening to The Right Honourable Edward Davey MP FRSA.

In the wonderful surroundings of the new headquarters of Amnesty International, Ed addressed the Social Liberal Forum conference on “Energy and climate change – the balance between state and market”. He was then interviewed by four bloggers: Jonathan Calder, Matthew Hulbert,

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

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 17,000 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

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Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland becomes first MP to play rugby for GB

Greg GB 3Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North, made a little bit of history last week:

On Saturday 12th July I had the huge honour of becoming the first MP to pull on the famous Great Britain white shirt with the red and blue ‘V’, and play for his country at rugby league. I was selected as part of the 20 man GB side who defeated Australia in the over 35s international in Warrington.

How did he get on? Well, you can find out over at the party’s Ad Lib

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Clegg refused to speak to Gove “for months”, told Cameron “life is too short” to continue rowing

Nick Clegg Q&A 19That’s the claim in today’s Independent:

Nick Clegg has refused to speak to Michael Gove “for months”, according to a source close to the Deputy Prime Minister, revealing the extent of the breakdown at the heart of the coalition.

Mr Clegg was involved in a number of vicious stand-offs with Mr Gove over his unpopular, reformist agenda before his shock demotion from Education Secretary to Chief Whip in last week’s reshuffle. The row escalated after the Lib Dems forced through a free school meals policy for five- and

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Jo Swinson launches Lib Dem campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace

jo swinson Alex Folkes/Fishnik PhotographyIn an email to party members, Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister for Consumer Affairs & Equalities, has launched a new campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace:

Shockingly, in 2012 women were paid nearly 20% less than their male colleagues. It is an unacceptable difference and one the Liberal Democrats are determined to tackle.

Today we’re announcing plans to require large companies to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers. This will create pressure from staff and customers to close any pay gap and

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The Lib Dems’ ‘bedroom tax’ U-turn: new poll on what the voters think about it

Spare Bedroom Photo by Flack JackThe Lib Dems announced a few days ago the party’s 2015 manifesto would propose reform of the ‘bedroom tax’ / ‘spare room subsidy’, which would means no tenant would have any of their housing benefit withdrawn unless they had turned down an offer of a smaller property.

It was a long overdue climbdown – as I wrote in April 2013: “The principle of the ‘bedroom tax’, then — to try and maximise the availability of social housing and reduce the chronic waiting lists — is

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My pick of 15 top books to read this summer

reading summer - photo by hans van der bergThe newspapers are awash with summer best-reads at the moment, as well-known writers pick the books to relax with by the pool. You know the kind of thing: “It’s at this time of year I typically embark on re-reading Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, translating it into Russian (which I’m learning to relax as I prepare for my Grade 8 piano exam) from our rustic cottage in Tuscany.” Or, alternatively: “Here’s a book written by my mate.”

Always eager to copy a …

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Tim Farron’s Beveridge Lecture in full: “Let’s say a huge yes to active, ambitious, liberal government and build a new consensus”

Tim Farron MP speaks at the rallyLib Dem party president Tim Farron delivered the Beveridge Lecture at this weekend’s Social Liberal Forum conference. Here’s what he said…

William Beveridge never led our country or our party. But he changed both in a spectacular way.

He was a humble man, a good man and so I am going to make an assumption that he’d want to know what social Liberals plan to do next, rather than hear us eulogise about him.

It’s a massive honour to be asked to give this …

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Lib Dems need to stick their head above the parapet on immigration and asylum seekers #slfconf

Immigration breakout Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterLiberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a thoughtful and impassioned break-out session at the Social Liberal Forum conference today.

Suzanne Fletcher gave some interesting updates from her key involvement in the recent policy working party on Immigration, Asylum and Social Cohesion. Suzanne stressed how important it is for policy-makers to get their terminology right. Illegal immigrants get mixed up with asylum seekers. Asylum seekers get confused with refugees. Deportation gets conflated with removal. It’s not just the Daily Mail …

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeWhile the UK media has been focusing on Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle and what it means for the Tories’ 2015 election strategy, an even bigger shake-up has been taking place in the running of the European Union. A bit like during the Lib Dem European election campaign, the most frequently heard words this week in Brussels and Strasbourg have been “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and this time it is all about our own.

The last time we were in Strasbourg two weeks ago the Parliament sorted out who got what …

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Nick Clegg on Sunday Brunch this week

According to Channel 4′s Sunday Brunch, Nick Clegg will be appearing on their programme on Sunday at 10 am.

The programme tweeted about it today:

Our slight worry is that they generally ask the guests to cook on this programme and we know that, shall we say, cooking isn’t Nick’s strong point. Not only that, but one of the other guests, Millie Mackintosh, was on Celebrity Masterchef recently and, in the opinion of some, …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes… Exit checks and the Eurotunnel: A logistical nightmare

EUROTUNNEL calaisThe Coalition Agreement included a commitment to reintroduce exit checks by the end of this Parliament.

But any means of noting or recording who enters and who leaves the UK was removed in 1998 by Labour, who considered the checks, ‘an inefficient use of resources … contributing little to the integrity of the immigration control’. Clearly, today’s debate on immigration has moved on considerably.

Since the early ‘Noughties’, successive attempts have been made to restore some form of border records, principally through the introduction of technology-based checks for anyone departing the UK as part of a new ‘e-Borders’ programme. It …

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Review of 2014 European and Local Election Campaign

Election count progressingAfter the elections in May, the Leader tasked a group with reviewing the elections, assessing what worked and what didn’t, and produce recommendations to improve our campaigning for the future.

On Monday, the Review Group presented our findings to the Leader and later to the Federal Executive. I am pleased to say that they endorsed both the report and its recommendations, and we will now set about putting them into practice well in advance of next year’s elections.

In what was the most-read Party email in some time, more than 700 …

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Opinion: Lib Dem ‘hypocrisy’ on bedroom tax unfair

Axe the bedroom tax - photo by Funk DoobyI have to defend accusations my party is being ‘hypocritical’ over its stance on the Bedroom Tax.

Thanks to Liberal Democrats being in control in Stockport we were able to introduce a local policy with our hardship fund that meant our residents would not have to pay retrospectively if there was nowhere to move into. Therefore according to Chris Bryant or Labour’s definition there is no bedroom tax in Stockport.

In Stockport the Lib Dem-led Council used the powers at its disposal …

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By-election update: A very near miss

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)

This week saw nine by-elections in principal authorities – Argyll & Bute, Cornwall, East Dorset, Harrogate, two in Herefordshire, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Oxford and Redditch.

In Harrogate Clare Skardon held Hookstone ward for the Liberal Democrats with 51.7% of the vote; an increase of 9.1%. Cllr Skardon successfully managed to squeeze all her opponents’ share of the vote: the Conservatives acquired 32.1% of the votes (-1.8%), UKIP were third with 12% (-4.3%) and Labour came last with 4.1% (-3%). Cllr Skardon puts her …

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    For what it is worth (and I'm afraid it's worth very little) I support Caron — and I strongly support bettering the quality of political...
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    @Richard Dean The politician's trick of using a non-apology apology (its never usually a real apology if the word 'sorry' is immediately followed by the...
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    From the Scottish Government: Question: Will universal postal services be maintained in an independent Scotland? Answer: Yes. This Scottish Government recognises the importance of postal...
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    @Mark Did you notice that your three-word sentence can have several meanings? Maybe if you do, you might start to understand how awful the piece...
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    Richard, I think not.
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    Mark, part of the problem is that there is so little big print to read. As GF notes it took stern action to get even...