Tag Archives: featured

When Molly from Sherlock met Miriam

In the bar on the Monday of the Glasgow Conference hotel last October, a smiling party press officer told me that Louise Brealey, Sherlock actor and writer, had been following Miriam Gonzalez Durantez around all day in order to write a profile for Red magazine. I’ve been looking out for it ever since and it’s now appeared. It’s a delight to read, so sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and enjoy it.

The two women seem to have developed quite a rapport during the day, and that comes across in the article.

I met Louise at a Sherlock Convention (I could pretend I was there because of the Teenager, but I did get more involved than I anticipated because Louise and Benedict Cumberbatch were on the guest list) last February and was very impressed by the fact that she insisted on staying until every single fan who wanted one had her autograph. She spent time talking to each person and didn’t even take a proper meal break.  Having seen her in action, I can imagine her and Miriam getting on very well.

She picked up that the atmosphere of Conference was not quite the gloomy and doom affair the press made it out to be:

The newspapers have decided the Liberal Democrat conference is a bleak affair, but this morning the lobby of Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza thrums with cheerful party members necking coffee, shouting shop and forking sausages. ‘Are you thinking beyond May?’ a councillor from Wells asks a co-forker over his congealed fried eggs. The latter’s reply is inaudible.

This was the first time that Nick and Miriam had been interviewed together, too. Louise was sitting in the very seat I sat in when I went to a meeting with Clegg in that very room so I found her description of its corporate opulence quite amusing.  She, like many others who have met him, found Clegg “nice, friendly, bright, normal.” It’s just a pity we can’t get him on a one to one with 60 million people by May.

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Charles Kennedy MP writes…Our challenge for 2015 is to make positive case for UK political reform

 

As the BBC Radio Scotland self-promotional message has been reminding us at regular intervals throughout the holiday period 2014 certainly was “Scotland’s Year.” The best of times, the worst of times. From the sporting triumphs of the outstandingly successful Commonwealth Games and the hosting of the victorious Ryder Cup through to the referendum and ending on the tragedy of the Glasgow bin lorry crash we have never been out of the news.

The ever-perceptive journalist and commentator Iain MacWhirter (like myself, essentially, a federalist – unlike myself a Yes voter) reckons that the referendum represented the moment at which Scotland became “psychologically independent.” It is an interesting reflection and one which will be further tested as soon as May in the looming Westminster general election.

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The General Election year is here – let’s make it a good one

 

2015.

It’s here.

Because of us, we’ve known exactly when the General Election would be since the Autumn of 2010. Taking away the ability of the Prime Minister to slot in an election at a politically expedient time is a good thing.

Anyway, this year is going to bring its challenges, its tears, its tribulations and, we hope, its joys. And they will just start with the General Election in May.

So, fellow Liberal Democrats take a breath, a few swigs of bubbly and enjoy today – for tomorrow and every other day until May 7th, we knock on doors. Nobody will tell our story for us. We have to do it for ourselves with heart and soul. We have a good one to tell. Even at a time when the country was strapped for cash, we did a whole load of good for children, for women, for anyone on a low and middle income. We did a lot of what we said we’d do. Kids from poorer backgrounds are performing better because of the money that Nick Clegg sent to spend on them. Families now have the choice over who takes the leave when a baby is born, something that Nick Clegg had been banging on about for years and Jo Swinson implemented. That policy sums up what liberalism is all about – giving people the right to make choices about their own lives that suit them. Those changes in the mental health system? Driven through by Nick Clegg. Sure, we’re not feeling the effect of them all yet, but the cultural change has been started. That’s why we need Norman Lamb in office as long as possible to finish the job. And there’s our Steve Webb. A proper pensions expert in charge of pensions. He’s done a great job of making sure that the pensions system is fairer for everyone, and more liberal, giving people more choice and power. And then there’s our Lynne Featherstone making a huge difference for women and girls across the world, taking action on sexual violence, education and FGM. And was there not something about same sex marriage too?

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Book review: Michael Bloch’s “Jeremy Thorpe”

jeremy thorpe book coverThe publication of this book was reportedly delayed until after the death of its subject. Some might have expected, therefore, a ‘hatchet job’. (In fact, the delay was at the insistence of Jeremy Thorpe, who co-operated with the author to the extent of meeting him around twenty times to discuss his life). Instead, it seems a balanced, comprehensive, fair, even (in its concluding chapter) affectionate, portrait of its subject.

Nevertheless, the book pulls no punches in relating the events before, during and after the famous Old Bailey trial at which Thorpe and his fellow defendants were unanimously acquitted by a jury. It presents an apparently honest and complete account of Jeremy Thorpe, including some astute observations as to his character, such as his tendency towards fantasy and need for danger.

The Norman Scott thread and the trial for conspiracy to murder takes up about a fifth of the book. Bloch lays out, in sometimes mesmerizing detail, the labyrinthine unravelling of the story.

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Congratulations to Liberal Democrats in the New Year honours list

 

We’ve already mentioned Paddy Ashdown’s great honour in the New Year list:

ORDER OF THE COMPANIONS OF HONOUR (CH)
The Rt Hon Jeremy John Durham Baron Ashdown Of Norton-Sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE. For public and political service.

Sincere congratulations go to:

CBE – Councillor Erica Kemp. Lord Mayor of Liverpool. For public and political service. (Liverpool, Merseyside)

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First same-sex marriages take place in Scotland

 

At just after midnight last night, the first same-sex marriages took place in Scotland.

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas message 2014

Willie leader launch in front of Rail Bridge

Willie issued his Christmas message in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Glasgow on Monday:

Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy in Glasgow. And we will stand with them as they deal with their pain and grief in the time ahead.

2014 was a year like no other.  The Games, the golf and the big vote. This year Scotland rose to the challenge and we did well. We showed that we are a sporting and welcoming nation.  And we showed that democracy matters with the silent majority winning the day.  As the late Arthur Montford would often say there was a “stramash” – but Scotland won.

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Support fund set up for Alex Folkes

You might remember Stephen Tall’s article about the way Liberal Democrat Cornwall County Councillor Alex Folkes had been treated by his council’s Chief Executive, who had branded him as a “potential risk” to children and written to youth groups to say so. This unelected official even called on Alex to resign as a councillor and publicly said so. All this action was taken despite there being no actual evidence of wrongdoing.

As Stephen said at the time:

Alex is determined to establish his innocence and clear his name (the latter especially hard in cases like this). He has not only resigned from the cabinet but also voluntarily suspended his party membership and referred himself for investigation under the Lib Dems’ own disciplinary procedures.

Cornwall Council and its chief executive Andrew Kerr have a number of questions to answer.

If Cornwall Council has evidence of any wrongdoing by Alex that should be shared with the police so they can act on it. Has this been done? It appears not, or at least if it has the police don’t regard the evidence as meriting re-opening an investigation, according to a police statement reported in the local paper: ‘”We are not investigating him,” the force spokeswoman said. “It is an internal investigation by the council.”

On what basis, then, is Cornwall Council warning local people of a risk posed by Alex, and on what basis is it demanding his resignation? Why has Alex been given no opportunity either to hear the allegations against him, or been subject to any form of due process investigation so he can defend himself?

Cornwall Council’s press statement suggests they have based their decision publicly to name and shame Alex based on information received from the police — yet if the police have decided not to charge Alex with any crime why has the Council used its powers to pronounce him guilty as not charged?

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Nick Clegg’s Christmas message 2014

It has cute children, Nick doing what for him is fairly sophisticated cookery and a message of Christmas that unites everyone.

The text in full follows:

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Kirsty Williams’ Christmas Message 2014

rally kirsty williams 1In her Christmas and New Year message, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams has challenged the other parties to make a “strong commitment” to bringing more powers closer to the people of Wales.

Kirsty also spoke of her hope for the passing of her More Nurses Bill, which will go through the Welsh Assembly scrutiny process in 2015, saying that it has the potential to be the “good news story” that the Welsh NHS needs.

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Jo Swinson slams gender stereotyping of toys – and is attacked by Jeremy Browne

If you’ve been buying presents for children these days, you’ll doubtless have noticed that there seems to be a bit o a gender divide in the way toys are marketed. For the girls, you have dollies, little puppies, things you brush the hair of and put in houses. In some stores, these things are housed in garish pink aisles. For the boys, you have anything remotely interesting. Science sets, dinosaurs, space stuff. For role playing, girls get to dress up as nurses or princesses while boys get to do exciting world-saving superhero stuff.

This should be offensive to all liberals, who have a massive respect for the individual. Children should never be told that a particular toy is for them or not dependent on their gender. Jenny Willott, when she was standing in for Equalities Minister Jo Swinson, said that gender stereotyping of toys limited children’s ambitions and even harmed the economy.

Toys are a hugely important part of our children’s learning and development. It is of course for children and their parents to choose the toys they play with, as we were just discussing. They should be able to make those choices freely from a full range of toys. How our children play helps to shape their aspirations for the future, and I want those aspirations to be based on their abilities and interests, not on stereotypes. I value the right of every single child to be treated as a unique individual and to be given the opportunity to explore their own interests and develop their own potential and talents, wherever they may lie. That is important not only for children now playing, but for the future of the economy.

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Jo Swinson MP on new measures to rank companies’ human rights performances

2014Business_Forum_headerIn early December I attended the 3rd annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

The Forum gave an opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss how we can ensure universal human rights standards are upheld in business practices. As a Liberal Democrat and an internationalist I know, on an issue as important as this, co-operation with our global partners is the best way of ensuring transnational businesses maintain their responsibilities to their employees and their consumers.

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What does Alex Salmond think he’s playing at?

 

When he saw the writing on the wall and was desperate to get people to vote Yes, Alex Salmond made a last ditch appeal on the Andrew Marr Show the Sunday before the independence referendum. He said that people had a once in a generation or even a lifetime chance to vote for independence and they should take it.

Now, it was fairly clear to me and I expect most other people that he absolutely didn’t mean what he was saying. There was no way that the entire nationalist movement was just going to give up and take up crochet if they lost. Of course they were not. They sincerely believe that independence is the best option for Scotland in the same way that I believe that a liberal approach to our problems is the best way to run a society. I’ll never give up my quest to see a truly liberal world.

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Tribute to Jeremy Thorpe

NPG x167152; Jeremy Thorpe by Walter Bird, Copyright National POrtrait Gallery, London some rights reservedJeremy Thorpe’s funeral was held last Wednesday at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. It was attended by around 400 people including all five leaders of the Liberal party and the Liberal Democrats who succeeded Jeremy Thorpe: David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg. There was a gathering afterwards at the National Liberal Club. The following tribute was delivered at the funeral by Nick Harvey MP, and is reproduced here at his suggestion.

It is a great honour to be asked to say a few words today about the political life and times of Jeremy Thorpe, though I do so with considerable humility as many present here witnessed and lived the Thorpe era first hand, whereas I was still at school at the time.

To describe Jeremy’s footsteps as giant ones in which to follow in North Devon would be a huge understatement.

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Morrissey Progress Report – first thoughts

Morrissey Progress ReportAs promised earlier, here are my first thoughts on Helena Morrissey’s progress report which she published earlier today. There is so much in the report that I could go in to but these are the main points I’ve noticed.

The party needed to come out of this well, and show good progress in 18 months. To a certain extent it does, and the people who needed to come out of it most well were the leader, chief executive and president, the holders of most power in the party and who are perceived by the public as its face. They were praised for their commitment and for what has been achieved. It was the lack of progress at regional and local level that concerned Morrissey and she wants to see that changed. In many respects I agree with her. However, those of us who value the say that grassroots members have in this party should make sure that there is no “mission creep”. It may be a temptation to take more power than is strictly necessary to the centre and we need to be vigilant on this point.

Morrissey outlines the solid progress that has been made so far on each of her recommendations but is clear that there is still more to do. She suggests further action on two broad themes – structural reform and specific action to make sure that people are aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them.

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Helena Morrissey evaluates party’s progress on her recommendations

Last year, Helena Morrissey published her Report into the Processes and Culture of the Liberal Democrats and made 9 recommendations for change. Here are Stephen Tall’s and Caron Lindsay’s thoughts on it from then.

It was always intended that Helena would come back and evaluate the party’s progress on implementing her recommendations. Her progress report is published today and can be seen here.

This is what she has written in the foreword:

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Vince’s Royal Mail privatisation: independent report concludes “the right decisions were made”

An independent report by Lord Myners published today has concluded Vince Cable and the Government made “the right decisions” during the process of selling off Royal Mail.

royal mail sell off

The BBC explains the background:

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Fixed-term parliaments: 56% of voters support them, finds YouGov

I’ve written before about the fact I like fixed-term parliaments: In praise of 5-year fixed-term parliaments. You may remember that a few years ago, former Cambridge MP David Howarth tried to introduce them. Then in the Coalition Agreement, they became reality.

YouGov has asked the public what they think about them, and you can see the result below courtesy the New Statesman’s May2015 polling website:

yougov fixed term parliaments - 1

photo by: garryknight
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Opinion: London’s house clearing and what the Focus E15 campaign tells us

The introduction of the Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit changes is adding fuel to the gentrification of our urban centers, throwing out many small businesses that can just afford the London Living Wage, and pushing micro urban economies into a transition that will inevitably see the marginalized and low income workers evicted from London’s salubrious centre zones.

Local Authorities (LAs) are already reconfiguring their homeless departments which, if pursued to their natural conclusion, will see changes in their service delivery because officers will have to eventually move out with their service users – starting the same homeless process all over again in the outer areas.

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Lib Dem Lawyers on Judicial Review

House of Commons at NightThe Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is returning to the Commons today after being ‘batted’ back in ping-pong proceedings between Lords and Commons.

Lib Dem peers working with the crossbenchers are refusing to approve two measures:

1) The Government’s Secure College plans for under 15s.
The Lib Dem Lawyers Association are not the experts in this field, but are concerned that MPs should consider all the risks and issues raised by leading experts. The Lords amendment would exclude under 15s from the Secure College until such time as Parliament agrees that it is safe to send them there.

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Vince speaks out against “devastating and ideologically driven” Tory spending cuts plan

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterThe Tories have been “well behaved” over the past few years because the Liberal Democrats have kept them on a tight leash, apparently. So said Vince Cable on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. He said that we were now getting a glimpse of what they would be like without that leash, adding that the consequences of their spending decisions would be that there would be around half as much money to spend on Police, defence, local government and social care.

He highlighted the differences between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat approaches to the economy and what a vote for each would mean:

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Dear Liberal Democrat MPs: Judicial Review restrictions are a messy compromise too far.

Dear Liberal Democrat MPs,

Tomorrow you will be asked for the second time amendments which the House of Lords has made to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The Government wants you to severely restrict the right of citizens and organisations to use Judicial Review to examine its decisions and those of local authorities. This interferes with a key check on government power.

I don’t think any of you would have come up with this idea on your own. The Liberal Democrats are there to challenge entrenched power and vested interests, after all. This measure is one of those “messy compromises” of coalition.

Anyone who has ever been in any sort of relationship, business or personal, will know you don’t get things your own way the whole time. You have to do things you would rather not do. However, there have been a number of times when we have accepted Conservative measures and had to revise our support for them after they became law because the evidence showed that they were the wrong thing to do.

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Can Murphy and Dugdale resurrect Labour’s fortunes in Scotland?

Labour Party logoSo, we know that Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale will be the new leadership team for Scottish Labour. Murphy won the leadership with 55% of the vote and Dugdale won the deputy post with 63%.

The result was announced at the Emirates – the one in Glasgow, not, as I initially thought when I was told yesterday, the one in London. But Labour wouldn’t be so stupid as to announce in London when their last leader quit after complaining that Scotland was treated as a branch office.

Murphy is a Big Beast, having been part of the last Labour government for 9 years. He was a staunch Blairite and, of course, voted for the Iraq war and all of Labour’s authoritarian policies from ID cards to 90 days detention.  A pro-war blairite seems hardly in keeping with the zeitgeist, it has to be said.

He’s a deeply polarising figure. It’s hard to see how he can unite the Labour Party, let alone the country. His rhetoric way back when he was Secretary of State for Scotland was divisive and he’s continued in that vein. In 2010, he described the divide between Labour and the SNP as Patriots vs Nationalists, language which I find at best unhelpful, at worst irresponsible. I wrote back then about how wrong I felt it was to use patriotism as a political weapon. Particularly when our country is recovering from an emotionally bruising referendum, it’s even more nasty, brutal and irrelevant than ever. Even combining it with the word “optimistic”, as he did this morning, makes me feel queasy.

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MPs to debate curtailing judicial review on Monday as rebel Lib Dem peers face wrath of senior party figures

house of lordsYesterday we told you about the Liberal Democrat rebels in the Lords who voted against the Government’s plans to restrict judicial review and to reject the plans for the new secure college to be open to girls and under 15s. It’s worth adding that the NSPCC are totally opposed to the secure college plans. Penelope Gibbs from the Standing Committee on Youth Justice wrote in an LDV article two weeks ago that young children and girls would be put at risk if this were to go ahead.

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Clegg’s letter to Burnham: “you may have inadvertently misled” Commons on Labour’s NHS privatisation record

clegg on leveson 2Nick Clegg fielded Prime Minister’s Questions today, during which he noted that Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is “the only man in England who has ever privatised an NHS hospital”. Mr Burham complained that Nick had misled the House of Commons over the issue of Hichingbrooke Hospital, accusing him of “sheer inaccuracy”. The Lib Dem leader lost no time in responding:

Dear Andy,

I see that you raised a Point of Order in the House of Commons and that you accused me of “sheer inaccuracy”. I am always happy to confirm the accuracy of what I have said.

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Paul Burstow MP writes…We need urgent action on home care

Care in the home Some rights reserved by British Red CrossThe extra £2 billion for health care services announced in the Autumn Statement last week is fantastic news. It is testament to Norman Lamb’s effective and high profile campaigning for urgent funding for the NHS, as well as the hard work behind the scenes by many colleagues making the case.

But in reality these additional funds will not be enough to put the NHS on a sustainable footing. As many of us know only too well, social care is in crisis, and with an ageing population, the existing strain can only become greater. If we don’t address this issue urgently, we risk creating a wholly avoidable additional burden on the NHS which would put its stability entirely out of reach.

photo by:
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Opinion: Localism is dead – what hope for Local Government ?

Sheffield Town HallThe Localism Act was introduced in November 2011 on a promise of new freedoms and flexibilities for local government, new rights and powers for communities and individuals, and a guarantee to make the planning system more democratic so as to ensure decisions about housing reflect local community wishes. Even the most ardent supporters of this coalition government will be hard pushed to provide evidence that localism has done anything of the sort.

Instead, what we have witnessed in the past four years is a constant reduction of local government budgets …

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Game on in Gordon: Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine has to defend seat against former First Minister Salmond

imageIn the biggest surprise since the sun last rose in the east, Alex Salmond will announce today that he’s going to be standing for the Westminster Parliament in the Gordon Constituency which is currently held by Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Sir Malcolm Bruce.

It’s almost a year since Christine Jardine was selected to fight the seat. She has been leading a fun and spirited campaign since then which saw voters in Gordon reject independence by almost 2:1. Her campaign manager is the party legend who masterminded Nicol Stephen’s election campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Salmond should underestimate them at his peril.

Salmond represents part of the Gordon constituency at Holyrood. He no doubt thinks that he can do as he did in 2007, swan in to the seat and win. Certainly the SNP will resource his campaign to the max and there are plenty new members in that party to help out.

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Jeremy Thorpe – a life in pictures

There are a host of fantastic photographs of Jeremy Thorpe in the archives. He had a real sense of showmanship to which photographers responded. Here are a few images which reflect his life.

Posted in Obituaries | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

And it’s good-bye from me as LibDemVoice Co-Editor…

Today marks the countdown to my final day as Co-Editor of LibDemVoice. I guess I could say the past seven years and seven months have flown by, but actually it seems like a long, long time since I started here. Tony Blair was prime minister, Ming Campbell was Lib Dem leader, and I was still a councillor.

I think I officially took over as Editor (from the site’s co-founder Rob Fenwick) on 31st May, 2007, though I’d started the Golden Dozen round-up of the best of the Lib Dem blogs a few months earlier.

A couple of years later, …

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    @John Tilley "It is obvious that the rightwing press are drip-feeding nonsense about the NHS . As Dr Royce says in her article — ”...
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    Stephen - I've not tried predicting 2015 results under STV; they'd depend heavily on how voters would react, with UKIP and Green support presumably less...
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    Caron Lindsay Of course I do. I am not, however, that happy about Nick’s rather melodramatic description of what he was doing as “Taking money...
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    I have not seen any of these things - I try not to see them in order to stay reasonably sane. All the parties have...
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    More than that, they send a clear message that we aren’t a party ruled from the top down, we’re an active and growing party in...
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    Sam Phripp More than that, they send a clear message that we aren’t a party ruled from the top down, we’re an active and growing...