ICYMI: Jo tears into Theresa May for claiming credit for shared parental leave

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave.

As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s claim.

And afterwards, with the help of some excellent gifs, she took to Twitter to rip the Tories to shreds on workers’ rights. She highlighted the times in the coalition when we fought against them. And there was a touch of humility as she said that we might not always have got it right, but we sure as hell battled every day. Here’s are the highlights:

This is my favourite:

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Changes to electoral law passed this week will help disabled candidates

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses.

The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords:

Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the transcription of campaign material into braille for visually impaired candidates and specialist equipment. This order will also exclude expenses funded from grants provided through the Government’s interim EnAble Fund for Elected Office from electoral spending limits. This £250,000 interim fund will support disabled candidates and help cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office, such as those I have listed

Our John Shipley welcomed the proposal:

I thank the Minister for explaining this order and I want to record that I agree with it. It is entirely appropriate that any disability-related expenses in elections should be exempt from spending limits, on principle. That is because it helps disabled candidates to stand for election on equal terms with others. I noted the Minister’s comments about some objections that may have been raised on some of the details—but none is more important than the overall principle of equality of opportunity.

This order is in force now for the May elections.

But it isn’t any use to disabled candidates unless we actually help them with the costs of getting elected. 

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15 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Lib Dems: Tories failing on air pollution

New figures released today by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority.

Responding to the figures, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said:

These figures show that this Tory Government is failing to tackle air pollution, which they described themselves as ‘the biggest environmental threat to public health.’

Long-term exposure to these emissions can cause heart and lung problems as well as potentially contribute to cancers, with the young and the

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Tony Greaves writes…”There really is no Planet B” Scenes from the Schools 4 Climate action demo

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed.

There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No stewards and precious few police, who were clearly taken unawares by the scale of the protest and were standing around looking a rather lost at how to cope with quite a big disruption with no organisers to talk to! People just turned up, often in school groups, and did their own thing as they felt fit.

Some just stood about with their placards. Some sat in a circle, chanted or sang or made impromptu speeches – at first on the grass, later on in the road. Some stood in the streets or marched off down Whitehall or towards Westminster Bridge. Parliament Square was completely blocked, partly by the young demonstrators but also – by a curious bit of serendipity – by the black cabs whose drivers were staging another protest against being kicked out of London bus lanes.

For once, the young people were being allowed to stand on the plinths of statues and hang placards on Mr Churchill and his friends. One glorious incident happened when a big red open-top tourist sightseeing bus, blocked on the corner of Bridge Street and the Square, was commandeered by a group of young people waving their placards and leading the chants. What any tourists thought about it, I know not!

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John Leech: Lib Dems will oppose Labour’s fines for homeless people till the end of time

Rough sleepers in Manchester are to be hit with fines of up to £1,000 as part of Labour’s latest social cleansing plans.

Former Lib Dem MP  John Leech who is now one of Manchester’s two Lib Dem councillors and the only opposition to Labour in City Hall, vowed that the party would ‘oppose it until the end of time’.

He said:

Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester Council, described Christmas as “peak begging season”, the council claimed soup kitchens organised by communities and outreach teams are a “bad idea” whilst fining and trying to sue the homeless, spending £10,000 on one-way tickets to get rid of rough sleepers, refusing to build affordable and social housing and claiming the only way to tackle “offenders” is to fine them.

Whilst this city experiences the worst homeless crisis in decades, rather than tackling the causes, Labour in Manchester is investing in fines, court orders and inane policies that are so broad and lacking in detail that it can only be seen as an attempt to clean up the streets.

If this isn’t social cleansing then I’ve got no idea what is and I want to make it absolutely crystal clear; Liberal Democrat councillors will oppose this until the end of time.

Manchester council has already taken out a number of injunctions against homeless people living in tents across the city. 

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Layla: I’m thinking of standing for leader..

We know that there is going to be a leadership election at some point in the not too distant future. Vince said as much last year when he launched his plans for a supporters scheme.

He said:

Once Brexit is resolved or stopped, that will be the time to conduct a leadership election under the new rules.

Those new rules will be voted upon by the York Conference next month.

We’re not going to get a leadership election imminently and of course nobody has yet announced their candidacy. But we can make an educated guess about likely front-runners.

In 2017, both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson decided against standing.  It’s interesting that they have joint billing with Vince at the Conference rally in York. Or maybe that’s down to Federal Conference Committee’s diplomatic skills.

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“Playing chicken with the country” – and the possibility of revoking Article 50

Lib Dem MPs have been out and about in the media this week.

Christine Jardine took Labour to task for their abject failure to oppose the Government properly.

Layla took to Twitter to give a Valentine’s Day message – and she mentioned the possibility of revoking article 50 if we get to March 29th and there is still no deal. Like Christine before her she talked about May’s game of chicken with the country. Definitely a theme here. .

On Bloomberg, Jo Swinson took a coach and horses through Theresa May’s Brexit policy from the beginning, saying that public opinion had changed and the best way forward was a People’s Vote.

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14 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • No deal Brexit causing panic for people with diabetes (see here)
  • Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say
  • Cable: Govt defeat shows rejection of May’s time wasting

Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say

The Liberal Democrats have today tabled an amendment calling for a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have ensured that there is a People’s Vote amendment for MPs to get behind on every single Brexit vote in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

In an attempt to force through this unpopular deal,

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Shamima Begum: The approval of the right wing press should not be part of what happens next

I read the interview with Shamima Begum in today’s Times (£) with mixed emotions. I have There is no doubt that she has made some utterly horrendous decisions in her young life which will take a lot to unravel. My instinctive reaction, though, is that rehabilitation must be at the heart of what happens next.

She is a British citizen. So is her soon-to-be-born baby. She cannot be denied access to this country. If she does make it back here, there will have to specialist intervention and risk assessment but the overarching aim should be to get her to a place where she can be re-integrated into society. That is not going to be easy for her, but nor should it be excessively punitive either.

She says some things in her interview that are undeniably hard to read. And even worse to listen to. But I guess you have to remember that in the last 3 months, she has lost two young children for want of decent health care. It’s early stages in the grieving process. You can maybe see where the denial and defiance comes from. We can only imagine the pain that lies beneath it.

As I write, her family’s lawyer is making the point on Channel 4 News that she is in a camp with 36000 others, some of whom remain ISIS supporters. If she were to speak out against ISIS to the press, she could find herself in even more danger.

We also have to remember that her own mother died a year before she left this country. How might that loss have rendered her more susceptible to targeted radicalisation? A huge amount of work needs to be done by her and others to combat the effects of that, but we should give her access to the programs can achieve that.

One thing that we shouldn’t do, though, is allow the approval of the right wing press to have any part in this. We should do what is right in terms of the law, human rights and due process. We have to take into account her age and vulnerability and circumstances at the time she made the extremely poor decision to travel to Syria.

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Check out the York Spring Conference agenda – and two important deadlines

My Conference agenda arrived this morning. I know I can see it all online, but I like that I can write all over the paper copy and highlight things. It’s old-fashioned but it’s kind of like sitting down with a cup of tea and the Radio Times at Christmas and ticking off what you want to watch.

The agenda has details of all the debates, speeches and almost all the fringe events and exhibitors so you can at least try and plan out your weekend.

You might also want to know that Alistair Carmichael is having a whisky tasting on the Saturday night from 9:30-11:00 pm which is not advertised in the Directory. These are amazing events. Not only do you get seriously good and tastefully chosen whisky, but you get Alistair’s inimitable and very funny commentary on each whisky’s origins and manufacture. If you fancy it, email me on [email protected] and I’ll tell you how to try to get a place – but you will have to be quick. Tickets are like gold dust.

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Being a PPC – managing demands

One common interview question, which we used when hiring our Organiser and is used in many jobs, is that of prioritisation: you have lots of demands on your time and are faced with a long list of tasks, which do you do first?

Prioritisation seems to be an ever-present task as PPC. There is only one of you but 1001 things that need doing. Help?!

Yesterday I went through three sets of my list – the first version which I had written the night before on how I would get things done the next day as the asks seemed insurmountable; the second version made at coffee time before rushing out the door to a meeting, of the things that still needed doing and ranking which was most important; and then a third version, a yet-again-revised list of things that had to be absolutely done that day, with a new list of what could be left for the next day.

There is never enough time. Prioritisation is key, with an emphasis on delegating what others can do. I am more and more saying to those around me,  “I am going to concentrate on what I am meant to be doing as PPC.” But in the real world, it never works out that way.

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No deal Brexit causing panic for people with diabetes

Our Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine, wrote passionately in August about the worry facing many about provision of life-saving medicines in the case of a hard Brexit.

Today she has backed charities’ calls for the Government to provide urgent information on how supplies of life saving drugs, like insulin, will be safeguarded if the UK crashes out of the EU.

Christine says:

This goes far beyond politics. This is about people’s lives.

It is unimaginable that this Tory Government is prepared to let people suffer the anxiety of not knowing how or even whether they will be able to get the medicines they need.

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13 February 2019 – (the rest of) today’s press releases

Welsh Lib Dems welcome enhancement of MyTravelPass young persons’ discount scheme

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed the announcement from the Welsh Government that the MyTravelPass young persons’ bus discount scheme is to be enhanced.

The initial pilot scheme was secured by Welsh Liberal Democrats in opposition during the last Assembly.

The scheme, which has evolved and improved since its pilot in 2015, now offers a third off the fares for all journeys taken by young people aged between 16 and 21 – right up until their 22nd birthday.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:

It’s encouraging to see the MyTravelPass scheme continue to

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(Lucky) 13th February 2019 – Press Releases

Cuts that expose police officers to risk should shame Home Sec

A report published today by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has warned Conservative Government cuts are exposing police officers to public risk.

Police officers may be trained to put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, but Ministers must ensure they have the essential protection of a police colleague working alongside them.

This report should shame the Home Secretary for his failure to give our police any real increase in their budgets. The Liberal Democrats demand far better for our police. The Government must give local forces the funding …

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Just About Managing (JAM)

Nick Clegg referred to such a group as “alarm clock Britain – the bleary-eyed grafters struggling to raise families, while getting out to work, with little money left over to pay for luxuries.”

Resolution Foundation thinks tank suggest there are six million working-age households on low to middle incomes spread across the country. Such households will have at least one person in work, but they are not always low-income families. They may, for example, have an annual income of £50,000 but have a large family to support with high housing cost and very little disposable income at the end of the month.

Although most of the income for JAM families comes from work, it is, in many cases, topped up by welfare support. Two-thirds of all families receiving children tax credit are JAM families. Home ownership for people in this group fell from 59 per cent to 26 per cent last year pushing many of them into long term rental tenancy. The reason for this fall was that they were using 25 per cent of their income for housing over a decade where we had little or no income growth. The cap on benefits has also adversely affected housing benefits up to £100 a week. Since 2010 housing benefits have not risen in line with private rents and current benefits will remain frozen at 2016 levels until 2020. On top of all this is the increases in living costs and the very low if any pay rises – to stay as they are JAM families have to find hundreds of pounds extra for rents.

Many families like these fall back on payday loans and credit card and end up trapping themselves in loans they effectively can’t pay off.

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Kirsty Williams – the only Liberal Democrat delivering in government

In Wales we have the only Liberal Democrat Minister in the United Kingdom, delivering Welsh Liberal Democrat policies on education for our children and young people. Kirsty is now in her third year as the Education Minister. Since May 2016, she has forged ahead with innovative programmes to enhance education and learning for children and young people in Wales, embedded in the Liberal value of opportunity for all. As Kirsty says, it is no coincidence that the Welsh word for a ladder is the same as it is for school – “Ysgol”.

  • So a quick gallop of just some of the things the Party has done over the last two and a half years:
    Expanded and enhanced the Welsh Pupil Premium, or Pupil Development Grant. This policy has been supporting pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds for most of this decade and has been taken further in government;
  • Delivered the most progressive student finance policy in the UK, that is unique in Europe. Students are supported with living costs and receive the equivalent of the national living wage. Support for part-time and postgraduate learners has been increased and figures released last month showed these applications have increased;
  • Made progress on reducing infant class sizes through a £36million fund. Schools are benefitting from more classrooms, teachers and teaching assistants. This was a key campaign priority at the last election, and now it is being implemented in government;
  • Published Wales’ first-ever plan to support rural schools. This includes a presumption against the closure of schools, and £2.5million per year grant scheme, and steps to make better use of technology;
  • Announced record investment in Wales’ teaching workforce, and developed financial incentives to attract graduates into teaching;
  • Taken steps to increase the focus on the mental health of children and young people. A pilot project is linking schools with specialist mental health support, and work is ongoing to develop a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health. As Kirsty has said, this is the foundation of successful education experience.
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The clock is ticking down to March 29th and Parliament is far from a resolution

Remain-inclined MPs refuse to contemplate May’s hard Brexit. The hard-line Tory Right are fearful of a backstop, keeping trading links and protecting pesky inconveniences like workers’ rights and basic health and safety standards.

Nobody is willing to compromise. Including us. This is no bad thing. We are passionately and proudly open, internationalist and outward-looking. We cherish long-held cooperation with the rest of the world on trade, innovation, fighting climate change and much more. Many of us celebrate free movement. Above all, we value our place as leaders on the global stage.

We should continue to fight for a People’s Vote on this nebulous and measly-mouthed withdrawal deal.

However, with less than fifty days to go, a referendum on the deal is far from guaranteed. Only a maximum of 150 MPs currently backs a public vote. Moreover, even if the Labour leadership grew a backbone and supported our option, there’s a problem. The notorious lack of party discipline in Labour could still endanger the cause. It will be an uphill struggle.

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12 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Digital exclusion shows Universal Credit not fit for purpose

Responding to reports that almost half a million people needed help to apply for the government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit online, DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

The Liberal Democrats raised the issue of digital exclusion with Conservative ministers months ago, but these concerns clearly haven’t been taken on board. This underlines the need to look again at Universal Credit, which is clearly not creating the simpler and more accessible benefits system that was intended.

It is failing the very people it was supposed to be designed to help. Now the Government has acknowledged

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For richer, for poorer

For Valentine’s day, Lib Dem Immigrants is showcasing some canine (and feline) couples, with a serious message. Many people who’ve not had cause to find out the hard way don’t realise that mixed-nationality couples can be forbidden from living together in the UK if they don’t earn enough. We want to raise awareness of this, and we’re proud that Lib Dem policy is to oppose it. If you’re married to a British person, you should be allowed to live with them. No means-testing. For richer, for poorer. 🐾

Lina is a Dachshund from Munich, Germany; Jamie is an English Bulldog from Croydon. Jamie worries about whether Brexit will mean Lina can’t come and live with him.

Kuniko is a Shiba Inu from Kyoto, Japan. Gary is a Jack Russell Terrier from Bolton. Gary’s income is just enough for Kuniko to be allowed here — but not enough for their puppies too. They don’t know what they should do.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Ministers must properly address the Special Educational Needs and Disability funding crisis

Vince Cable is holding a Westminster Hall debate on funding for special educational needs and disability this afternoon.

In an article for Politics Home, he outlines the impact on families when they don’t have the support that they need…

A single mum in a small flat with a child who needs constant attention while she tries to look after other children, and hold down a job to make ends meet; a couple who have sacrificed careers, holidays and a social life to care for a child with severe, complex needs, seeing the child growing up to an adulthood of continued dependence while they themselves are ageing and their own relationship is falling apart. There are numerous variations of these.

Of course, there are also happier stories.  Stories where support provided in school or via the local authority or health service makes all the difference.  But for every family who does not get the support they need, there is an unacceptable impact for parents and children alike.

Local authorities are under huge financial stress, however:

At a human level a painful conflict results between parents who want the best for their children (and have the law on their side) and local authorities who want to do their best but are under financial stress after years of painful cuts. More and more requests for EHCPs are being declined or delayed, and funding cuts have led to reductions in the specialist teachers and educational psychologists who provided expert advice to schools teaching SEND pupils. Rationing has taken the form of foot-dragging over ‘statements’, now ‘care plans’.  And attempts to mandate adequate local schooling rather than what parents consider to be superior specialist schools, often leading to tribunals, with additional cost, emotional stress and anger.

So is it just a question of more money?

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Welsh Lib Dems select Lead Candidate for South Wales West

The Welsh Liberal Democrats launched their campaign to retake the Assembly seat they lost in 2016 to UKIP, with the selection of Sheila Kingston-Jones as the party’s lead candidate for the South Wales West region for the next National Assembly for Wales elections.

Sheila was selected by Welsh Liberal Democrats living in Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Maesteg and Bridgend and will be carrying the hopes of the party locally in the Assembly elections in 2021.

Swansea University Student Education Officer, Chloe Hutchinson was chosen as the second-placed candidate on the list, whilst Porthcawl-based businessman, …

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Federal Policy Committee report – 6 February 2019

FPC met on Wednesday 6 February. We started with a good discussion with Ed Davey, home affairs spokesperson, and Vicki Cardwell, chair of the working group developing new policy on crime and policing. Ed talked through the issues he is focussing on, including responses to the increase in violent crime and the Immigration Bill. It is clear that crime is an important and increasingly important issue to voters. We then discussed in more detail the consultation paper written by the crime and policing group (which will be available shortly here). This included a review of the current picture of …

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One lesson worth learning from the Greens…

Anyone who knows me will know that I am no great fan of the Green Party, indeed, I have written for these pages before about why the Liberal Democrats have been right to continue to reject the idea of a ‘progressive alliance’ between the two parties. However, pluralist that I am, I admit that it would be naive to refuse to ever accept lessons from our political rivals. As Spring Conference in York approaches, there is one particular lesson from the Greens that Liberal Democrats should bear in mind.

Buried within the amendment to the party constitution set to …

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11 February 2019 – today’s press releases (part 2)

And here’s the rest…

  • Lib Dems: Defence Secretary showboating with ‘hard power’ rhetoric
  • Lib Dems: Tory Govt prepared to sacrifice people to the electric chair
  • Govt Universal Credit admission is too late for tens of thousands
  • Lib Dems: Govt must ensure dinosaur MPs can’t obstruct legislation

Lib Dems: Defence Secretary showboating with ‘hard power’ rhetoric

In his speech “Transforming UK Defence to Meet the Global Threats of Tomorrow”, Gavin Williamson today confirmed that aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is to be deployed to the Pacific region.

Commenting on this move Liberal Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone said:

Gavin Williamson is heating up UK defence rhetoric, something which may well

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11 February 2019 – today’s press releases (part 1)

A veritable floodtide of press releases today, so we’ll take them in two parts for ease of access…

  • Govt immigration white paper – an enormous red tape threat to UK businesses
  • Property guardians caught in poverty trap
  • Cable: GDP figures reveal the country is now fairly close to recession
  • PM and Corbyn plot to deliver disastrous Brexit together

Govt immigration white paper – an enormous red tape threat to UK businesses

Responding to a report by Global Future which shows the deep costs to our economy of the Government’s immigration white paper, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

Conservative immigration plans represent

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US District of Columbia – taxation without representation


I’m just back from a nerd’s tour of Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland. I was fortunate to fit in about 20 visits to notable locations, mainly political. The highlight was numerous visits to the US Capitol, so much so that the police started saying “Welcome back” to me at the security check-in! In particular, I witnessed a vote in the House of Representatives, complete with a sighting of Nancy Pelosi. By the way, there is something quite spooky, but also quite thrilling, about being the only member of the public left in the huge, cavernous, marble-clad US Capitol late at night.

During my visit, one thing which became strikingly apparent to me is the outrageous democratic deficit of the people of the District of Columbia (DC).

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So, you want to be Party President?

It is easy to forget that, for many of our Party members, Sal Brinton is the only Party President they have ever known. In that sense, they’ve been pretty fortunate, because (at least in my view) she’s been a good one. But all good things come to an end eventually, and Sal is now in her last year before term limits kick in.

Now I’ve heard rumours of possible candidates for the succession, and whilst I wouldn’t want to name names just yet, perhaps it is time to start thinking about what members …

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“To govern is to choose”

One of the first aphorisms I learned when studying history and politics was: ‘To govern is to choose’. It was Pierre Mendes-France’s maxim when Premier of France in 1954-5, cutting through the morass of postponed decisions left by weak coalition governments and negotiating the withdrawal of French troops form Indo-China. Good government means taking decisions, even when they are hard decisions.

Which underlines how appallingly incompetent Britain’s current government is. It has raised the art of postponing decisions to an art form. If it could postpone presenting Parliament with a clear choice on Brexit until the afternoon of March 29th, it …

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An Open Letter to Luciana Berger

Dear Luciana,

As someone who spent many years as an activist in the Labour and trade union movement I follow developments in your current party closely. From what I can see you are being constantly hounded by people who currently have control of the Labour machine.

You are being attacked both for your policy positions and your Jewish heritage. The recent attempt to put a motion of no confidence in you is as I am sure you realise is a vehicle to ensure that you cannot stand as the partys’ candidate at the next General Election.

I am afraid to say this kind

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A liberal approach to corporation tax reform

As the values of liberalism direct us towards what David Laws highlighted as the four pillars of liberalism – social, political, economic and individual, we must identify a fine balance between all four. The application of tax reform, of all kinds, must be utilised as a means to desirable ends. Here, we must also look to the reasoning of taxation, of which there are two prominent reasons; to collect money to fund social programmes and to discourage certain behaviours. The discouragement of actions by taxes is, of course, an uncomfortable idea, for why is the government so moral as to …

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Recent Comments

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    Well they won't be flying in drugs on flybmi will they Peter.Tick, tock the consequences of the Brexit vote keep piling up.
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    @theakes "It could also be very challenging to Labour and enhance the chance of the breakaway" My gut-feeling is that a breakaway is unlikely while...
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    Peter Martin, unemployment trebled in the 1970's to 1.5 million under Callaghan, reaching 3m under Thacher until coming back down to around 5% on average...
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    She was part of a regime that threw innocent gay people from high buildings to their deaths. Where is their future?
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