Guy Verhofstadt talks Brexit some more…

This speech was given by Guy Verhofstadt MEP was delivered on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg:

The British Parliament may be shut down, we are clearly showing today the European Parliament is not.

Eurosceptics like bashing Europe by saying that the European union is undemocratic. And they repeated that today. Well, Juncker or Tusk can do a lot but at least they cannot close the doors of this House. So, if the Eurosceptics here want to look again for a ridiculous comparison with the Soviet Union (as they often do), from now on they can point their finger to Westminster

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Help make the Lib Dems the renters’ champion

On Tuesday morning, the last day of conference, I moved a motion calling on conference to support renters. To support them by instructing our party to scrap section 21 of the housing act (1988). Section 21 is the part of the act that allows no-fault evictions. You can see the debate that followed here. Please do watch it, but to save you time, I’m very happy to be able to tell you that they did. So, it is now party policy to scrap section 21, either directly as a government, or indirectly, in response to a vote in the Commons, or in response to a consultation (and of course, one is already running and offering that very approach).

But as I said in my speech, as I have in other LDV articles, I’m interested in more than just scrapping a pernicious piece of legislation. Section 21 is the legislative bullet of no-fault evictions, but it’s not really the cause. There are in fact many causes. In my speech I identified the biggest. We have too few homes, whether for rent or for purchase. And what are available are either too expensive for the vast majority of our fellow citizens, or are in seriously unfit for habitation, in dangerous states of repair or maintenance.

I, like many people, am not in a place to be able to afford to buy a home anytime soon, so I will be reliant on the private rental market (a term I hate as much as I hate the term ‘luxury’, which seems to appear in front of every new home advert my news feed seems to see fit dangle in my face) for the foreseeable future. And in itself that’s not a problem. I’m not a ‘stuff’ person, so ownership has never been the epitome of existence for me; I’m much more of a Gig person, using my local cycle hire scheme to get around and buying ‘pre-loved’ tech whenever mine finally gives up.

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22 September 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

Well, I’m not sure what happened there, as I thought that I’d set this for 10.30 yesterday evening. Nevertheless, here are yesterday’s official press releases…

Scrapping Ofsted must be the beginning of the end of teaching to the test – Lib Dems

Responding to today’s announcement by the Labour Party that they will campaign to abolish Ofsted, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran MP said:

It is always good to see the Labour Party copying another key Lib Dem education promise, just as they followed us in calling for SATs to be scrapped, here they are trailing in behind again.

The

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Riding the enthusiasm wave, some thoughts going forward and a Presidential race update…

Well, that was a pretty good Conference, wasn’t it? Passion, enthusiasm, and a whole bunch of people I’d never met before. I have to admit that I left Bournemouth rather more enthusiastic than I was when I arrived.

And so, what to do with all of that enthusiasm? Well, I’d like to try a few things.

Firstly, our new members are still feeling their way into the Party, and that offers an opportunity for the various groups withing the Party – Specified Associated Organisations, Associated Organisations, thinktanks, pressure groups and the like, to reach out to new people. So, if you are …

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Willie Rennie’s speech to Federal Conference: Lib Dems stand for the majority of Scots

Willie Rennie made a keynote speech to Liberal Democrat Conference on Tuesday. It was the best speech I have ever heard him make. A very clear statement of why the Lib Dems stand up for the majority of Scotland’s people – along with some literary advice for David Cameron. Jenni Lang’s introduction is worth watching too for a wee secret.

It’s becoming a tradition to spill some beans about Willie when introducing him for a speech. Borders candidate Jenny Marr told Scottish Conference how he’d turned up to a Wintry canvassing session in Aberdeenshire wearing pyjamas underneath his clothes to keep warm.

Enjoy.

The text is below:

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The speeches that got away

If you put time and energy into writing a Conference speech, went through the agonies of sitting through the debate and didn’t get called, don’t let your effort go to waste. Send it to us at [email protected] and we will put it up here.

Also, let us know which speeches made at Conference were your favourites and we’ll clip them on here.

 

 

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Party awards for Lizzie Jewkes, Roderick Lynch, Alice Bridges-Westcott and Bernard Greaves

One of the best bits of Federal Conference is that bit just before the Leader’s Speech (before the bit where they pass round buckets and demand all your money like you have any left at the end of Conference) where the Party President announces the winners of the Party Awards.

It was great to see some fantastic people honoured this year:

First up was the Patsy Calton Award, awarded by Liberal Democrat Women in honour of Patsy Calton, our much loved MP for Cheadle who died in 2005.

Sal said:

The winner has been a party activist, parliamentary candidate, and member of a number of party bodies, including Lib Dem Women.
She has achieved what few do. She challenged UK government policy in relation to tax, through her speeches and work in the Liberal Democrats.

At one conference she spoke about the potential to lift ordinary men and women out of poverty, by changing the income tax threshold, persuading Conference to make it party policy, and it was also in the 2010 Manifesto.

David Cameron famously mocked the idea until, in coalition, the idea was taken up through meetings with Conservative Ministers, who eventually agreed to make the change.

For ordinary people, particularly low-paid women, this has been an amazing and effective way to help families and part-time workers.

For her outstanding contribution, the nomination for the Patsy Calton Award is made to the amazing Lizzie Jewkes.

The Harriet Smith Award is open to any member who has never achieved elected office, but has served our cause with excellence and commitment.

I was thrilled to see Roderick Lynch, Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality win.

This year the winner of the Harriet Smith Award is a nationally recognised businessman/entrepreneur and was nominated by many people this year due to his tireless work fighting against racism. .

He reaches out to diverse communities that are under represented and has successfully launched a black history month campaign that went viral, passed diversity conference motions and transformed our party’s approach to race equality.

Described by those who nominated him as a man of integrity and candour who works very hard. He is a man with infectious passion, a role model for members of colour, and particularly for future MP’s. One person described how he is ‘helping others flourish and find their path in the party as a black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic person’.

Our winner is the Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality. So Conference please, welcome to the stage Roderick Lynch.

The President’s Award went to someone who has arguably done more than anyone else to establish us as the party of LGBT rights.

Here is how Sal introduced him:

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Edinburgh march for Europe: Worrying news about EU negotiations and Alex Cole-Hamilton speaks

People took to Edinburgh’s streets today to protest about Brexit and climate change. The European Movement in Scotland organised the event which was very vibrant and well attended.

Our Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton gave one of the keynote speeches. As he finished, someone behind me (name redacted to protect the guilty) muttered “Understated as ever.”

Alex condemned the shutting down of Parliament and said that we would continue to fight Brexit on the streets, in the tv studios and at the ballot box.

Also speaking at the rally was the author of Article 50, Lord Kerr.

He was intensely critical of the Prime Minister, saying that Johnson and the truth were strangers and that even if shutting down Parliament wasn’t found to be technically illegal, it was definitely improper.

He also revealed that Boris Johnson’s negotiators had asked for everything relating to workers’ rights, environmental standards and social policy to be removed from Theresa May’s deal. This should not be surprising given that the agenda of the right wing Brexiteers is to turn this country into a Singapore style deregulated  economy where hard won  safety standards, workers’ rights and human rights are minimised.

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Observations of an ex pat: Consequences

Sir Issac Newton was one smart cookie. And in my book his cleverest discovery-cum-pronouncement was Newton’s Third Law which is quite simply “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Sir Issac was writing from the viewpoint of a physicist. But the metaphysical philosophers were quick to apply the rules of the natural world to the philosophical and political realm, especially Newton’s contemporary John Locke who coined the phrase “unintended consequences.”

The ethics of consequentialism go back to 5th Century BC Chinese philosopher Mo Di. In the West, they were later picked up 100 years later by the Athenian Demosthenes. Basically both men argued that the consequences of one’s actions are the ultimate basis for political action and that the action should be based on the amount of good created by the consequence of that action.

Another way of putting it is that our political leaders have a responsibility to carefully examine every conceivable intended and unintended consequence of their thoughts, words and deeds before opening their mouths, despatching a tweet or issuing a military command.

Unfortunately there is scant evidence to indicate that most of today’s politicians are bothering to even consider the consequences of their actions beyond the publication of the next opinion poll, although sometimes their time horizon extends to the next election.

The two current best examples of consequential failure can be found in the Anglo-Saxon world on either side of the Atlantic. President Donald Trump is notorious for dashing off explosive tweets without giving a moment’s thoughts to the consequences. This week he has told the world that America is “locked and loaded” and that war against Iran is an option following the drone attack on Saudi oilfields. What are the possible consequences of such words—or ,if followed through—actions?

On the minus side a war with Iran would make the Afghanistan or Gulf War look like a walk in the park. There would be a probable retaliatory attack on Israel; total disruption of world oil supplies; possible Russian intervention on the side of Iran; a split with America’s allies in Europe and the possible break-up of NATO which would strengthen Russia’s position in Eastern Europe.

On the plus side, Trump will have shown that he is tough; that America’s Middle East allies can count on the US to come to their defence; an anti-American Jihadist-motivated Iran will, hopefully, be eliminated from the Middle East equation. The embarrassment of the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis will finally be expunged. America, if it wins, will emerge as the supreme power in the Middle East able to dictate terms in the Arab-Israeli conflict and control the flow of oil.

It is now clear from David Cameron’s memoirs that he failed to think through the consequences of calling a referendum on continued British membership of the EU. He simply assumed that the vote would be remain. Assumptions are one of the most dangerous of political actions. Cameron failed to take into account the divisive nature of the debate and as a result his legacy and his country has been badly damaged.

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21 September 2019 – today’s press release

Labour must come clean about their Brexit plan – Lib Dems

Responding to reports that Labour will only decide which way to vote in a People’s Vote after a general election, Liberal Democrat shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake said:

It is totally unfair of Labour not to be clear about their plan in government.

Through choosing whether to support leave or remain after the election, millions of remain Labour supporters could help elect a leave government.

Instead remain supporters must back the Liberal Democrats in a general election. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit.

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Jo Hayes – why I am a candidate for Federal Party President

I was a founding member of the Liberal Democrats and have worked for it as a volunteer ever since. Over 30 years, I have done everything from deliver leaflets to chairing the Women Liberal Democrats and serving on the Federal Policy Committee, the Federal Executive, the International Relations Committee and the ALDE Council delegation. I’ve been a Borough Councillor and stood in General and European elections. I am currently Chair of the East of England Region. I think you could say I’m a Liberal Democrat to my bones.

I am also a barrister, practising from the same chambers I shared with the late Lord Willie Goodhart, one of the main draftsmen of our Party constitution. I have spent my career and Lib Dem life fighting for people’s constitutional rights. I am a fighter who uses the law and rules the way they are designed to work, for the people. I used equality laws to force Tony Blair’s Attorney-General to abandon the system of patronage used to appoint barristers for government work, and adopt a fairer, more transparent system.

Some of you may know me for my Remainer’s Diary blog. If so, you’ll know of my tenacity and dedication to the Remain cause. I want to see our party in government and then help Jo Swinson rebuild our nation, both democratically and socially. That is why I’m throwing my hat into the Presidential ring now.

A President’s role is not, primarily, a campaigning one, but a strong President provides the governance that makes our campaigning more effective, governance that guides and protects the party from top to bottom. It is our proud boast that the Liberal Democrats Party belongs to its members, all of them. As President, I will work to ensure everyone in party feels they have a stake in our movement, that they are heard and that their talents are embraced.

As President, I want to safeguard our values in practice, seeking to make our Party organisation a happier place. For example, I want to:

  • Devolve decision-making to as near the grassroots level as practicable.
  • Ensure transparency over appointments, complaints, outcomes and Appeals Panel rulings.
  • Ensure each component body in the party carries out its responsibilities without interference.
  • Bring in the advice and expertise when we need it, to avoid mistakes.
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20 September 2019 – yesterday’s press release

Umunna: Thornberry must withdraw Taliban remarks

Responding to the comments made by Emily Thornberry comparing the Liberal Democrats to the Taliban, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Chuka Umunna said:

Emily Thornberry should withdraw her inappropriate remarks. Language counts – comparing the Liberal Democrats to a murderous organisation is no laughing matter.

It is also grossly insulting to the 6 million people who signed the revoke Article 50 petition launched earlier this year, including many of the Shadow Cabinet’s constituents.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that every vote for us is a vote to stop Brexit.

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WATCH: Jo Swinson’s interview with Alastair Campbell

Jo Swinson has talked to Alastair Campbell for GQ magazine. They met twice. Once on 27th August and then after the Parliamentary drama on 3-4 September.

You can watch the whole thing on You Tube:

The written transcript is here. but you need to watch the video to get the whole thing.

It’s well worth 47 minutes of your time to see a thoughtful conversation which ranges from Brexit to Scottish independence and why people are turning to the Liberal Democrats:

Tens of thousands joined the Lib Dems since the start of May because people want someone that speaks to those small “l” liberal values for opportunity, internationalism, equality, fairness, treating people as individuals.

The biggest reason she can’t deal with Boris:

I don’t think he cares! I think he really doesn’t care. What he did in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe just makes me furious. He doesn’t seem to show any kind of remorse or feel bad about it – he says he feels anguish, but he shows no evidence of it whatsoever. All he cares about is Boris Johnson and becoming prime minister and he was prepared to say whatever it took to get him into Number Ten. One of the reasons I have stood for leadership of my party is that I think the public needs a better choice. At the next election, the offer of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is not good enough. That’s why I’ve set out ambitious plans for the Liberal Democrats, that we are aiming for government and I am a candidate for prime minister, because I think the country needs us to be doing that.

And why she thinks she is the best candidate for PM:

When I joined the Liberal Democrats I didn’t think that I would be sitting here today and talking about potentially becoming prime minister and running for that, but when I look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, hand on heart, I am very confident I could do a better job than either of them. We have got a no-deal Brexit around the corner; we have a climate emergency that we have less than 12 years to tackle; we have got poverty in our communities; we have real problems with our politics more generally. I genuinely feel we need to make sure that the Liberal Democrats can be that home for people with liberal values who want and demand and deserve something better than either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn.

Alastair then makes the mistake of mentioning how difficult it must be for her because she has young kids:

AC: That feels very hard to me. Two young children, including your baby, taking on the leadership of a party.

JS: Hang on, did Tony Blair not have a baby when he was prime minister, I seem to recall?

AC: He did.

JS: Yeah. I mean, men do do this. It has been known.

When they met on 6th September, Alastair asked Jo if she thought Boris Johnson had fascist tendencies:

I am not going to put that label on him. You have to be careful with language. But I found the imagery of that speech in front of police officers, where he was effectively saying he might not obey the rule of law, very worrying. The juxtaposition was quite sinister. It felt rather authoritarian.

There was an interesting discussion about the risks of splitting the opposition vote:

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Opportunity for young people to visit the European Parliament

This is not one for members of our youth organisation, because you can’ t take part if you are politically active, but it might be one to flag up with any young people who are interested in how the EU works.

Renew Europe has the pleasure to announce that the tenth edition of the Young Volunteers Programme will take place from Monday 11 November to Friday 15 November.

The aim of the programme is to offer an opportunity to those youngsters who do not have the connections or the means to be acquainted with the EU institutions and who have never followed a similar programme. The Young Visitors will be invited to spend five days in the Parliament during the mini-Plenary and they will get to know the EP from the inside. All costs, including transport to/from Brussels, are paid for by the Renew Europe Group.

The YVP is specifically targeted at young people, who fulfil all of the following requirements:
· Aged between 16 and 18
· Not politically active (for example, not a member of a political youth organisation)
· Has not visited the European Parliament before
· At the level of intermediate or lower grade vocational training, or secondary school
· Basic level of English is necessary to follow the programme

The theme of this edition of the YVP will be Climate Change.

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“Taliban” is a racist epithet: Thornberry’s words were potentially harmful not just hyperbolic

On September 19th, the Shadow Foreign Secretary claimed, “The Lib Dems have gotten kind of like the Taliban, haven’t they?”. She was referring to a motion Autumn conference passed – and which Jo Swinson emphasised in her speech – stating that the Liberal Democrats would revoke article 50 if they won a majority at the next general election.

As I tweeted at the time, the only people to refer to me (a person of colour) as “Taliban” are racists and now, Emily Thornberry. It is likely that Thornberry’s comments will get lost in the everyday to-ing and fro-ing of political discourse such as it is in the UK.

However, what it normalises is that it is OK to shout “Taliban” at a Liberal Democrat. Indeed, it will probably normalise it being shouted at any and all Remainers because if you are the sort of person to shout a racist epithet in the street, that justification will more than suffice. And I would be interested to know how she intends that I differentiate between racist hate crime and people simply shouting at me for my political beliefs if I do suffer that sort of abuse.

It is also why I am concerned by the #DangerousExtremist Lib Dem activists are currently using, satirising the BBC Question Time audience question on whether we were a “dangerous and extreme party”. I am unsure how comfortable people of colour in the Lib Dems will feel about jokingly calling themselves extremists when it is a stereotype many genuinely have to live with. 

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Spreadsheets and vicious beasts – the not very secret lives of Lib Dem #dangerousextremists

So, Emily Thornberry said the Liberal Democrats had “gotten kind of Taliban” in an interview with The House magazine.

Now, hang on a wee minute here. There might be another Taliban, who have a woman leader who talks about creating a more loving country, who state clearly what they are going to do if they win a majority in an election because, you know, democracy. But Google hasn’t heard of THAT Taliban. It only knows about the murderous, misogynistic  brutes who terrorised Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Thornberry’s comments show how Labour have really lost the plot. Maybe she is jealous that her party can’t have as clear a policy to stop Brexit because Brexiteer Jeremy Corbyn wants it to happen.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this was an actual question on Question Time last night:

So, a party that is threatening to crash us out of the EU on 31 October, “do or die” risking food and medicine shortages is not as extreme as us who have said we’ll put a stop to this nonsense by democratic means.

Sarah Olney started something this afternoon when she took the BBC to task:

Others piled in to say talk about their dangerously extreme habits:

There was definitely a few common themes around animals and cheese

 

I did wonder about the tanks thing. That could be a bit dodgy. And I got a bit more than I bargained for.

That cat is the height of a the story building!

Do feel free to add to the #dangerousextremists meme with what makes you these things.

You can always count on Cole-Hamilton to show off:

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Revoking Article 50 alone isn’t enough

With the prospect of a general election on the horizon, we have just finished another successful Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Jo Swinson delivered a stirring first leader’s speech and Conference backed several new policy motions, most notably the party’s new policy on Brexit. A future Liberal Democrat Majority Government would revoke Article 50 and instantly stop Brexit.

British politics now has a party that is prepared to do its utmost to put an end to Brexit, either by getting a democratic mandate to revoke Article 50 or failing that, by securing a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU. Brexit has developed into the biggest peacetime political and constitutional crisis arguably since the 17th century. It is shaking British politics to its very foundations with our constitutional settlement being tested like never before.

It is not just enough to stop Brexit by revoking Article 50, we also need to heal our broken democracy. At the time of writing this, the case against the prorogation of Parliament is playing out at the Supreme Court. The Executive branch has been made to answer a case presented to the Judiciary in regard to its actions towards the Legislature. There is conflict between the three branches of government.

Britain unlike many countries does not have a single written (or codified) constitution with clearly defined checks and balances. In the absence of this, Boris Johnson’s government is able to railroad Parliament by utilising the ancient powers of the royal prerogative to enact a five-week long prorogation. The potential for an extremely authoritarian government being able to take power is very real under the current British constitutional settlement; a fact which is underlined by the majoritarian nature of the first past the post voting system.

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The Luciana Phenomenon

I attended the fringe meeting to meet Luciana Berger MP in a small room fit for perhaps 30-40 people. Whoever thought that would be enough at a Lib Dem Conference for a meeting with the dynamic, young Jewish MP who had just joined the Lib Dems after 10 years as a Labour MP?

The room was rammed to the doors with another huge group outside the open doors. It was clear that Luciana hadn’t expected such a welcome. The room was so crowded that the person due to chair the meeting couldn’t get in!

A chair, who happened to be from Luciana’s constituency in Liverpool took over and we had an hour of intense questioning from the audience. Luciana answered all the questions with no evasion or missing the point. She told us what her skills were and about her journey to join the Lib Dems. Those of us who were there were left in no doubt as to her commitment to our party.

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Liberal Irish – the new Liberal Democrat Irish Society

Party President Sal Brinton with (L to R) Richard Logue, Audrey Eager and Conrad Bryan

We weren’t sure what to expect on Monday morning when we picked up 500 flyers for our launch event. We weren’t inside the conference building, we weren’t on the conference timetable and we certainly weren’t on the conference app. What we did have was enthusiasm and determination to get the message out to conference that we were there and would welcome anyone who wanted to know what we are about and what we intend to do.

We were delighted to secure the Irish Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill as our guest speaker. The Irish Ambassador and his team make the point of attending all the major party conferences so we took the opportunity to book him.

We booked space in Bar So at the Royal Exeter Hotel, a regular haunt for Conference attendees and shamelessly door-stepped everyone going in and out of conference inviting everyone from MPs, Peers, MEPs and members.

Baroness Dee Doocey has very kindly agreed to be our Honorary President hailing from Dublin herself originally. We were delighted to meet with Party President, Sal Brinton who encouraged us and was very supportive of our aims. We also spoke with Baroness Sarah Ludford who was in attendance at the reception along with Nick Harvey, Chief Executive of the Lib Dems.

And what a turnout at the reception it was!

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A Lib Dem GAIN and three huge surges forward in last night’s by-elections

There were some great local election results last night:

First of all, Derek Parry won in Vivary in Somerset.

He won with 648 votes to 307 for the Conservatives.

And we had some super surges forward too:

 

And a respectable result from a standing start:

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19 September 2019 – today’s press releases

Further education funding squeeze set to continue

Responding to today’s report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, revealing that further education spending per student remains 7% lower than in 2010 in real terms, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran MP said:

Further education and sixth-form colleges have been left underfunded and unloved. Today’s report shows that the Conservatives’ one-off handout is far short of what is need to reverse historic cuts. Colleges teach more specialist subjects in smaller classes, so why do we pay them less per pupil than secondary schools?

Liberal Democrats demand better for our young people. That’s why,

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Ed Davey on Question Time tonight

The universe might be about to implode or something because the Liberal Democrats have been really relevant this week AND one of our number is featured on Question Time.

Deputy Leader Ed Davey is on tonight with Labour’s Charlie Falconer, Tory crime minister Victoria Atkins and journalists Camilla Tominey and Ash Sarkar.

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Want to get involved in running the Federal and State Parties? The clock’s ticking…

There are just eleven days left to get your nominations in for the candidates you’d like to see elected to Party committees.

If you need a reminder of which roles are up for election, here it is:

Top of the bill is Federal President, to take over from Sal Brinton on 1 January and serve for 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is a major role chairing the party’s Federal Board, protecting and representing members, and acting as guardian of the party’s interests. Hustings will be held throughout the country during the two-month campaign, and candidates may raise and spend £20,000 campaigning …

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Lib Dems overtake Labour in poll

Yes it is just one poll, but a good sign after people have seen our very clear intention to stop Brexit.

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Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett writes…Why do I want to be President of the Liberal Democrats?

Many of you may be asking the same question and I’m going to be honest. When I came to conference last weekend we only had two candidates Mark Pack and Richard Kemp – two very able, respectable and hardworking members  to which I’m not going to criticise in any way shape or form. 

However, the optics from a diversity and media perspective were awful – no diversity, no women, no ethnic minorities, no visible disability or invisible disability known and with the current furore over our LGBT+ group no candidate standing up for our party as the leading LGBT+ campaigning  in the race – so sometimes you have to stick your head above the parapet and say it’s time someone does …. 

So that’s what I decided to do on Sunday afternoon and thankfully we now have both Prue Bray and Jo Hayes In the race too.. 

So what is my platform going to concentrate on –  I’m going to be decidedly frank.

Our outgoing President Sal Brinton has done her best and I thank her for all she’d done but there are elements where I believe the internal machinations of our party have overwhelmed the role – and I believe the role should be split in two. There is a  fundamental role for dealing with the difficult internal party dynamics alongside chairing the internal Federal Board – as well as the external representation to the media and membership around the country. These two are profoundly different roles and I will thank Gordon Lishman for his insightful Liberator article which really got me thinking. 

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The Lib Dems now have the most comprehensive plan to tackle climate change of any party in Europe.

For me, Monday was one of the most uplifting days in politics for years. Conference overwhelmingly passed the motion connected to Policy Paper 139, “Tackling the Climate Emergency”. This commits the party to a policy of eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy by 2045 (or compensating for any residual emissions with additional carbon removal – what is known at “Net-Zero emissions”). It was great to see Jo Swinson then put our environmental policies at the heart of her leader’s speech the following day. Duncan Brack’s summation of Monday’s debate is also well worth a watch. He deserves huge credit for chairing our working group on climate change. 

Committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045 would bring the UK into line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement and the international aim to hold average global temperature rises to under 1.5 degrees. Both the British government and the European Commission are currently looking at a net zero target by 2050, which is unlikely to be enough. An amendment tabled by the Green Liberal Democrats to shift the target to 2040 attracted support but didn’t carry. Opinions vary on this point, but the paper and motion are clear: ‘the precise target date for achieving net zero is less important than urgent action to set the economy on the path’. Tough interim targets did pass (to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2040). 

But what is also hugely important is that our pathways – radical though they are – are science-based and backed-up with practical policies to make them a reality. We have worked out the nuts and bolts as well as the big vision. I highly recommend a glance at Policy Paper 139 for those interested in seeing what we are proposing in detail and who didn’t get a chance to read the full motion on Monday (or attend the debate). Its recommendations are connected to figures presented in an independent report (which I co-authored) and which was published at conference in 2017. That report contains the sector-by-sector emissions reductions pathways. It goes into detail on the technology, infrastructure and policy support required. The Guardian has hailed it as a ‘radical agenda for tackling climate emergency’. 

Liberals are interested in the “little stories” as much as the “grand narratives”. And these reports provide both. As people all over the world join their children on climate strike this Friday, we should be proud that our party has just signed up to the most ambitious and credible programme of decarbonisation of any party in Europe. It is fine for Labour to consider a net-zero emissions target by 2030 – but you can bet your socks that they won’t dare publish how they plan to meet that target in practical terms. They can’t. 

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So that is why the fringe meetings were so jam packed

Every fringe meeting I went to or participated in at Conference was absolutely packed.

On Monday, I chaired a fringe for Shelter on the need for a massive investment in social housing.

The room was packed ten minutes before it was due to start to the extent that Shelter’s own Policy Director Chris Wood couldn’t get in.

Later that day, at another meeting, for the Smith Institute and the Affordable Housing Commission, there was, again, standing room only.

I had been a bit worried, to be honest, when we booked a huge room for our fringe meeting “What would you sacrifice to save the planet?” Paul Walter and I spent that one standing at the back because there were no seats left.

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Rentier Capitalism

The Financial Times  (on Wednesday, 18th September) carried an article by Martin Wolf “ Why rigged capitalism is damaging Liberal Democracy “ .He writes “Economies are not delivering for most citizens because of weak competition, feeble productivity growth and tax loopholes”

Guy Standing in his 2016 book “The corruption of capitalism” explained how capitalism has been corrupted as the security of the many has been weakened to strengthen the position of those who hold the bulk of society’s wealth. He wrote, “we have a rigged system that leaves those without much property with few rights”. He borrows from John Maynard Keynes’ critique of the rentier class — broadly, those who live on income from property, including patents and copyright, and investments. And like Keynes, he wants to see the end of the rentier on the grounds that the system they have created is both inefficient and grossly unfair. Those at the bottom Standing calls the precariat — the workers most exposed to the insecurity typical of this era of rentier capitalism driven by globalisation.

The unfairness of housing policy in the UK, one of the more egregious examples of the power of the rentier, is highlighted as are labour conditions in the era of apps, where data are used to monitor and control a workforce with little by way of employment rights. Standing writes that “the precariat’s vulnerability today is everyone’s tomorrow.”

Wolf asks the question “Why is the economy not delivering?” The answer lies, he says, with the rise of rentier capitalism. In this case “rent” means rewards over and above those required to induce the desired supply of goods, services, land or labour. “Rentier capitalism” means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

What Boris Johnson should have said to Omar Salem

I have nothing but sympathy for Omar Salem, the dad who confronted Boris Johnson today. Watch the video on the Guardian, here. Omar’s wee one is only a week old, but was admitted as an emergency. When she got to the ward, she wasn’t seen by a doctor for hours. I can’t imagine Omar would have got much in the way of sleep.

It is absolutely terrifying when someone you love is seriously ill. You need to have confidence in the care that they are getting.

I know.

Three years ago, my husband was very seriously ill and spent 51 nights in hospital. He had some superb care from  truly exceptional people. But occasionally things went wrong. This was invariably because of under-resourcing.

I’ll never forget the day that I was on the ward at just before 5pm and I saw one of the health care assistants getting ready to serve dinner. She had been on night shift the day before until 8am that morning. Because the ward was so short staffed, she’d gone home for a couple of hours’ sleep and gone back in to do the lunches because there was nobody else to do it.

That is simply not safe – for her, mostly.

Other stuff went wrong as well. I won’t give you the gory details, but if you only have one person of a particular grade on duty overnight in an entire hospital, they can’t be everywhere they are needed and vital stuff just doesn’t get done.

If Nicola Sturgeon, or then Health Secretary Shona Robison, had turned up on the ward on one of these days, I might well have given them a piece of my mind. As a worried wife, and a human being, not as a Liberal Democrat.

And if I had done that, I reckon Shona and Nicola would have shown me some kindness. They’d have asked questions and listened. Because they are actually kind and empathetic human beings, and because they know that it is important to handle these things well.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

PODCAST: Climate change conference fringe event

Lib Dem Voice hosted a fringe in Bournemouth at the party’s annual conference to discuss the impact of climate change (see photo above).

Our speakers were Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Luke Murphy, Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission; Lib Dem Deputy Leader Ed Davey MP; Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker Initiative; and Paul Sheeky from Extinction Rebellion; The panel was chaired by LDV’s own Dr Kirsten Johnson.

Use this link to download podcasts automatically in your podcast app and see our previous podcasts and media content here.

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Posted in Podcasts | Tagged , , , , , , , , and | 1 Comment
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