29 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • PM must implement an immediate national circuit breaker
  • Liberal Democrats: Government must fix failing test and trace system

PM must implement an immediate national circuit breaker

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has today called for an immediate national circuit breaker to “correct the failing test, trace and isolate system” and keep people safe.

The call follows annoucements in both France and Germany of new nationwide lockdowns. The Liberal Democrats have also called for a united approach to keeping family gatherings safe during the festive season, now backed by Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The Government has been badly prepared and slow to act at every stage throughout this health and jobs crisis. That can’t happen again, especially in the run up to Christmas.

That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to start an immediate national circuit breaker across the UK. This is the only chance we now have to get the virus under control and save Christmas for millions of families across the UK.

The Government must use this national circuit breaker as a time to correct the failing test, trace and isolate system which is crucial to keeping people safe, minimising hospital admissions and restarting the UK economy.

Liberal Democrats are also calling on all the governments of the four nations to work together to create common guidelines across the UK so families can get as much clarity as possible as we head into the festive period.

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Review: ‘I never promised you a rose garden’ by Jonny Oates

Last week Jonny Oates published his memoir “I never promised you a rose garden” (BiteBack). Jonny is best known to most Lib Dems as Nick Clegg’s Chief of Staff during Coalition, and as our current spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change in the House of Lords.

Many years ago Jonny was the twenty-something political assistant to the Council group in Kingston, and I first met him then, so I skimmed through the book to find the chapter where he talks about people I know. It is, amazingly, halfway through, so there was obviously a lot I didn’t know about him.

I started the book again, and read it properly, and it is certainly worth doing so. By the time you get to the account of Ed Davey’s first, and astonishing, election as MP for Kingston & Surbiton in 1997, you can understand how Jonny, as agent, alongside the legendary Belinda Eyre-Brook, achieved the impossible, in overturning a 15,000 Tory majority.  This is a man of deep integrity who is quietly determined, possessing the qualities of a team leader (but never a bully) and a sharp political mind, honed in the extraordinary politics of post-apartheid South Africa.

But as a teenager he was conflicted. He writes candidly about his own mental health and his struggles to come to terms with who he was, to the extent that he ran away to Ethiopia at the age of 15 and contemplated suicide. He tells us about the good people who came into his life and guided him with compassion, and the recognition that his parents’ love was unconditional after all.

Of course, Lib Dem Voice readers will be particularly interested in what he has to say about his time as Director of General Election Communications for the 2010 Election, and subsequently as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister. Jonny gives us a slightly different, but not contradictory, perspective on the Coalition negotiations from those of David Laws and others.

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Jim Wallace to be Moderator of the Church of Scotland

This week it was announced that Jim Wallace is to be the next Moderator of the Church of Scotland for 2021-2022. Jim is currently a member of the House of Lords, having previously been MP for Orkney and Shetland (from 1983 to 2001). He was our party Leader in Scotland for 13 years.

In 1999 Jim was elected as MSP for Orkney and became Deputy First Minister of Scotland.

The Moderator chairs the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which meets in May, and then acts as an ambassador for the Kirk at civic and public events throughout the year of office.  He or she is a sort of cross between a President and an Archbishop, although the Kirk does not, of course, have Bishops. It is unusual for a layman to be appointed Moderator, but Jim had been an Elder for many years.

The current Moderator was installed in an online ceremony in May this year. Let’s hope that next year’s event will be back to normal.

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Mixed race Irish families in Britain, 1700- 2000

Although the portraits are captioned ‘Brighton’, Jane and Sake Deen Mahomed lived in Cork in the late eighteenth century.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the virtual launch of a new exhibition entitled ‘Mixed Race Irish Families in Britain, 1700 – 2000’ by the Mixed Museum and The Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI). Researched by my Irish Lib Dem colleague, Conrad Bryan, the exhibition explores the social reactions to mixed-race Irish families in Britain over the course of three centuries.

The Irish Community in Britain has traditionally been looked upon through the prism of negative stereotypes. There is also an assumption that we all are white with freckles and red hair. A truth that even Irish society has struggled to get a grip on is that Irish people come in different skin colours and this exhibition highlights how far back in history mixed race relations in Ireland have existed: It is not something that has just appeared with Phil Lynott or the 1990s Irish soccer team.

At the launch, Conrad explained that the challenge would be finding records and information going back further into the 18th century. The period 1700 to 2000 is a long period, but if we are to fully understand the social history of the mixed race Irish people in Britain, we need to go back to the colonial and slave trade periods to examine the migration of African and Irish and other people into Britain who formed these mixed race relationships.

He also hadn’t expected to discover that mixed race families formed in Ireland, then moved to Britain. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 Africans lived in Ireland in the 18th century. This aspect of Irish history is very under-researched. Were they British soldiers, servants in Anglo-Irish “big houses”, traders who came off the boat in Cork, enslaved Africans who escaped from ships?

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A critique on the events of today

British politics will hit several crunch points in the next two weeks. If Trump loses the US presidential election, the hopes of the hard-line Brexiters of a fast US-UK trade agreement will be shattered. Moreover, we must reach a minimal trade agreement with the EU, which the government will have to defend against hostile attacks from the right, or we will be faced with a No-Deal departure, with the prospect of chaos and confusion at Channel Ports in the New Year.

It’s taken me a long time to appreciate how deeply the hard-line Brexiters believe in the reality of ‘the Anglosphere’. Liberal Democrats don’t read the Telegraph or the Spectator or attend European Research Group (ERG) meetings, where enthusiasts speak and write about the EU as an ‘Empire’ which has reduced Britain to a ‘colony’ from which we are escaping – to the warm embrace of our cousins in the United States. Australia and New Zealand are also seen as key partners for future Global Britain – with Australians already deeply embedded in Whitehall. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants were still a leading force in Washington politics 50 years ago, but not now. UK ministers and right-wing MPs cling to the image of America they had gained through meetings with white Republicans, and seem not to have noticed that Joe Biden is an Irish Catholic, with a mixed-race vice-presidential candidate, neither of whom have an emotional attachment to Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism.

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We need to campaign against poverty

The preamble to our constitution, to quote Adrian Sanders in Liberator 400 (April 2020), “starts with the eradication of poverty as the first action point”. Though both leadership candidates stated they wanted to achieve this, our party is not campaigning on it.

It’s not just that children from families receiving benefits need free school meals in the holidays. It is that 100,000 more children were living in poverty in this country in 2018-19 than in the previous year (DWP figures) and that an estimated 4.3 million children are living in poverty today (Social Metrics Commission).

Former homelessness adviser to the government, Dame Louise Casey, in a BBC interview (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54545158) warned that the UK faces ‘a period of destitution’ in which families ‘can’t put shoes on’ their children. That’s happening now. A single-parent family living on Universal Credit will find it difficult to find the money to cover the cost of new trainers for two children who have grown out of their old ones, as children do.

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28 October 2020 – the overnight press release

Four nations summit needed to keep families safe at Christmas, liberals warn

Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Wales and England have joined with the Alliance Party in calling for a “four nations summit” to consider a united approach to keeping family gatherings safe during the festive season.

In a joint letter to the four governments of the UK, the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, Scottish Leader Willie Rennie, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP warned the “interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise guidance for the festive season in isolation.”

The letter follows uncertainty about students returning for Christmas and conflicting comments about family gatherings, with Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch branding multi-household gatherings “fiction” while the Prime Minister indicated rules could be relaxed.

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Praise for Kirsty Williams from across the board

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A constellation of non-Lib Dems have praising Kirsty Williams, who today announced her intention to stand down at the next Senedd election. Here’s a selection of their praise, including from non-politicians:

Tina Donnelly CBE, former Director the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales and Richard Jones MBE, former Deputy Director RCN Wales:

Kirsty has been a phenomenally committed politician – extremely approachable and a politician who acted on her promises. Kirsty worked tirelessly to progress her private members’ Safe Nurse Staffing Legislation which went on to become the first act of its kind in Europe. During this process, we were always confident that with her passion, style and engagement she would succeed.
“We are both extremely sad that she will not be standing again as a member of the Senedd. We as nurses in Wales have gained so much for the safety of our patients in gaining this Act of Compassion and this was due to Kirsty’s leadership. We will miss her very much as will politics in Wales.

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Full text of Kirsty Williams’ letter announcing her decision to stand down at the next election

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Here is the full text of Kirsty William’s letter to Jackie Chalton, her local party chair, announcing her decision to stand down at the next Senedd election:

Dear Jackie

Next May it will have been 22 years since I was first elected to represent the people of Brecon and Radnorshire.

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Welsh Lib Dem Kirsty Williams to stand down at next year’s Senedd election

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Welsh Liberal Democrat MS Kirsty Williams has announced after careful consideration that she will stand down at next year’s Senedd election.

Kirsty has served as the member for Brecon and Radnorshire since 1999, served as Chair of the Health Committee in the first Assembly from 1999-2003, as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats from 2008 until 2016 and has been the Welsh Government’s Education Minister since her appointment in 2016.

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LibLink – Vince Cable: Is Rishi Sunak about to go from hero to zero?

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Writing in the Independent, Vince Cable says that ‘the chancellor’s rapid transition from spendthrift to Scrooge has not yet been noticed by the admiring public but a change has undoubtedly occurred’:

One of the hot stocks of 2020, British chancellor Rishi Sunak, is starting to look seriously overvalued. His political allies, having talked up Sunak earlier in the year, tipping him for the top job, are now hedging their bets. The hero of the spring offensive may be on the brink of becoming the zero of the autumn retreat.

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26 October 2020 – today’s press release

PM’s claim “does not ring true” given Government stance on free school meals

Responding to the Prime Minister’s claim that the Conservative Government will “do everything in our power to make sure no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays”, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

Boris Johnson’s claim does not ring true given his hard-hearted refusal to u-turn on free school meals.

The idea that other measures will make up for the lack of provision just won’t wash – people know the real struggles that families are enduring. That is why so many communities and businesses have

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A federal solution that works for all

The debate on federalism at the LD autumn conference last month was dominated by one question: can a policy that works for the devolved nations work for England? Can this week’s debate at the Scottish party’s conference provide a convincing answer to this question?

The difficulties become clear if we ask what sort of “federalism” would suit the various components of the UK. Law (2013) sets out a clear spectrum of the options for sharing power at two levels:

  • Devolution – where the powers of a state are shared, but at the discretion of the state
  • Federal state – where sovereignty is at state level, but the sharing of powers is entrenched, through a constitution or treaty
  • (Con)federal union of states – where sovereignty resides with the individual states, but the sharing of powers is entrenched, through a constitution or treaty
  • Confederation – ditto, but where the sharing of powers is at the discretion of the individual states

As examples, Law suggests the UK, US, EU and UN respectively. For the present discussion we can amalgamate the last two categories as “confederal”.

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Getting the reshaping of the state centre-stage

John Harris of the Guardian began the week with a piece on the reshaping of the state which is packed with observations that many Liberal Democrats have taken as read for decades. Harris’s view on the set-piece stand-off between Andy Burnham and central Government was of “things that had long been kept on the political margins suddenly bursting into the foreground.” Those of us who have long histories of inhabiting political margins will recognise “things” as constitutional reform and a need for a massive shift of power within a dysfunctional hopelessly over-centralised British state. And power shifting is at the heart of what we are about. As I have said before on this site, Labour tend to prioritise moving money and Liberals tend to give priority to shifting power. Yes, they are related and partially overlapping, but basic instincts are important!

In his plea for alternative ways of running the state Harris notes that the Tories want to shake up the British state “but in a way that will leave its chronic power imbalances unchanged.” In a crucial sentence he also claims “Labour also has longstanding centralising instincts that always make conversation about redistributing power far too difficult, when the outlines of a different system actually seem pretty straightforward.”

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23-25 October 2020 – the long weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer
  • PM’s failure to listen to scientists has made family Christmas less likely
  • Tories must “wake up to reality” and do the right thing on Free School Meals

Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer

A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today.

The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account.

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Burmese Days

The election is more important than COVID-19.

Not the words of Donald Trump but the words of the State Counsellor of Burma, Aung San Su Kyi. Yes, I know the name of the country was changed by the State Law and Order Restoration Council-SLORC but Burma is still Burma in the eyes of many.

The election will be held on November 8th with various challenges. There are of course security challenges. Conflict zones in the border areas where voting is suspended and COVID-19. This election will have suspensions in Rakhine state with no vote taking place in a number of townships due to the fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military. Of course, very few of the Rohinyas that remain in that area will be eligible to vote as they are without national identity cards. Many of the displaced people in other parts of Burma face a similar problem as they lack documentation.

COVID-19 is another major problem. Burma has seen increasing number of infections and fully implementing prevention measures at the polling stations is going to be difficult. The question of postponing the election was raised but the Union Election Commission (UEC) is proceeding as scheduled, a decision supported by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Wera Hobhouse, Wendy Chamberlain and Christine Jardine on Black History Month

This week, Wera Hobhouse, as Lib Dem Equalities spokesperson, too part in the Black History Month debate in the House of Commons. Watch her speech here:

Christine Jardine also made an intervention, talking about the history of the streets in Glasgow.

On that very point, we have talked before about how in so many communities in this country there are statues, streets and so on that are named after slave owners and colonialists. People like me who come from Glasgow are immensely proud that Nelson Mandela Place is named after Nelson Mandela, but we are completely unaware of the history of the names of the other streets around it. That is the sort of thing we need to attack when we look at education and black history.

Wendy Chamberlain also highlighted the unpleasant history of the streets where she grew up.

The full text of Wera’s and Wendy’s speeches is below.

The debate had one particularly remarkable part where Conservative MP Bim Afolami was basically saying that he had not experienced any problems. Labour MP Tulip Siddiq pointed out that he’d gone to Eton, before acknowledging and recognising her own privileged middle class background. She highlighted the importance of taking an intersectional approach.

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Let’s raise a glass this Christmas

It looks like Christmas is not going to be the same at all, and pretty miserable for many who are usually with family and friends but this year cannot be.  There are many in that position that often get invited to someone else’s house for the day, go along to a community meal, as well of course, those that are just on their own.

So I thought of how we could encourage some cheer into an otherwise lonely day.

Why not “raise a glass”, at say midday on Christmas Day.

My ideas is that people go outside, just like they did when it was “clap for the NHS” and raise a glass of whatever to each other.  It can be non-alcoholic, of course, to ensure that all are included, and I am not sure what term to use, but “all who look after us”.  This is more than NHS workers at every level, but carers, emergency services, police, delivery drivers, shop workers, public transport, food bank workers, postal services, etc.

For those who are not able to go outside, even for the minute, maybe the braver souls could walk along and go outside their window and raise a glass to them.  If it was going to be at a fixed time, then the person inside would know to be there ready.

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Tony Greaves writes: A week to remember in the Lords

Oh what a week that was!

Liberal Democrat peers can hold up their heads in some pride after a remarkable week in the Lords in which the Government suffered a massive defeat on the Internal Market Bill, three issues were ping-ponged back to the Commons, and Liberal Democrats fought the battles while the Labour Party disgraced themselves by abstaining on several vital motions.

There’s a pattern. Since the August recess the government have been defeated in the Lords no fewer than 17 times. But they’ve won eleven votes and on all but one of those the Labour Party sat on their hands. Of course they have a right to whip their members as they decide – or as instructed by their party bosses in the House of Commons. But when, as this week, they have already gone through the lobby at an earlier stage of a Bill, questions must asked about their courage and determination to oppose the Government on matters of principle.

In these strange times, we don’t queue through the division lobbies – a foolish practice we leave to the Commons. The Lords is meeting as a Hybrid House, centred on the Chamber where up to 30 peers can sit at any time, suitably distanced from each other. Other members ask questions and speak, visible on the monitors strung around the balconies. But everyone votes via their computers and devices on a natty little app called PeerHub. 

The first vote of the week on Monday was on the Second Reading of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, the measure that the Government itself admits could mean breaking international law. The Lords customarily do not vote on the Second Reading of Bills, holding that the government of the day has the right to have its legislation scrutinised by the Upper House. 

But Lord Judge moved an amendment to add at the end of the motion to give the Bill a Second Reading “but that this House regrets that Part 5 of the bill contains provisions which, if enacted, would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom.” Lord Judge is Convenor of the Crossbenches – 181 peers who sit as Independents – and a former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. (And yes his family name really is Judge).His amendment was passed by 395 votes to 169, a massive 226 vote majority. As often happens the Liberal Democrat group had the highest percentage turnout (91%). And 39 Conservatives voted against the Government. On its own this vote has no legal effect but it threatens the government with a very difficult time as the Bill starts its detailed scrutiny in the coming week.

On Tuesday we played Ping-Pong with the Agriculture Bill. Ping-Pong is the technical term for the final stages of a Government Bill when it is sent back and forth between the Lords and the Commons until both Houses agree the exact wording. In this case the Lords had passed a series of amendments before sending the Bill back to the Commons, which promptly reversed them.

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Why I didn’t announce that I was pregnant before the end of the regional selection process

In August, my husband James, and I had the wonderful surprise of discovering that we were expecting a baby. We were over the moon as we were waiting for this little bundle of joy for a certain time.

After the emotion and the joy came quickly in my mind the question of “When should I announce it to everybody?” Obviously, the close family will know soon enough but a bigger shadow came to hover over my head.

At that time, I was in the middle of my regional selection process for next year’s Scottish election. It took me a lot of confidence and preparation to get where I was and I was scared that the announcement of my pregnancy would deter some of our own members to vote for me.

Being a “young” woman in politics (I would thank some members of the Scottish Young Liberals to have labelled me as such – they will recognise themselves) is not an easy task and full of hurdles even within your own party. When you get passed the idea of being young equals not having enough experience (which qualifies as “ageism” – yes, it goes two ways). When you overcome stereotypes such as “being a woman doesn’t give you enough gravitas/charisma” (I am not going into what I heard the last couple of leadership elections) or “you are over ambitious” (yes, for real). And let’s not talk of the casual sexism of “you should smile more”, “dress less/more lurid” (do you remember the press scandal over the talk between Theresa May and Nicola Surgeon more about their dress code than the content?) you can hear in the media but even by some members of your own party.

With all those comments, my thoughts were how a certain part of our membership is going to react when I announce that I am pregnant?  How will it influence their votes? Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is still rooted in our society and in politics. I remember one of our candidates being told by a member of the public in October last year that she was a bad mother to go campaigning with a baby. That remark shocked me and made me wonder how society is still judgemental and discriminatory towards women and mothers. The worst feeling was: it was a woman who made this comment!

One thing is certain in my mind is: YES, I am going to run to be a constituency MSP in Dunfermline and as a regional MSP (if the votes are on my favour) in Mid Scotland and Fife. And, NO, it won’t hinder my passion and my motivation to be the voice for my future constituents and one of the torchbearers of our Liberal Democrat values in the Scottish Parliament.

After all, I have good role models to look to.

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Daisy Cooper’s first PMQ – standing up for hungry children

This week, Daisy Cooper had her first chance to question the Prime Minister at PMQs and the issue she chose was one close to Liberal Democrat values – helping children in poverty by providing them with free meals during holidays until next Easter.  This can only be sensible when many of their parents will be struggling to make ends meet because of the current situation.

Here she is, highlighting how Welsh Lib Dem Education Secretary Kirsty Williams was the first to do this:

And here’s the exchange in full:

Daisy Cooper

On 16 June, the Prime Minister agreed to provide free school meal vouchers to hungry children over the summer holidays after claiming just 24 hours beforehand that he was completely unaware of the campaign that was calling for it. Last week, the Liberal Democrat Education Minister for Wales, Kirsty Williams, guaranteed that free school meal provision during school holidays would continue until at least Easter 2021, and yesterday the Scottish Government committed to do the same. Can the Prime Minister confirm that he is indeed aware of these announcements, and, if so, when does he plan to do the right thing?

The Prime Minister

Governments of all stripes have supplied free school meals since 1906, and I am proud that it was this Conservative Government who extended universal free school meals to five, six and seven-year-olds. The Labour party was in power for 30 of the past 100 years and never did anything like that. We support kids of low incomes in school, and we will continue to do so, but the most important thing is to keep them in school and not to tear off into another national lockdown, taking them out of school. We will continue to use the benefits system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well.

Boris Johnson was very keen to take credit for the policy of free school meals which the Liberal Democrats pushed through in coalition to the consternation of the right wing press.

Last week, Daisy and other Lib Dem MPs wrote to English Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to  guarantee meal provision during holidays:

When this was debated later on Wednesday, Daisy made a very powerful speech saying she felt ashamed to be an MP when the government drew the red line at hungry children:

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Observations of an expat: Taiwan

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Hong Kong has taught the Chinese leadership that they can’t win the hearts and minds debate. One country, two systems, has not worked.  Neither will Beijing be able to buy support with their economic performance.

All of this raises questions about the future of Taiwan, and recent moves by Beijing are causing an increasing number of misgivings about the possibility of a peaceful solution to a problem as old as the People’s Republic.

Fears that the Chinese Communist Party is moving ever closer to a military solution have been fuelled by recent events. Last month 40 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a series of sorties over the sacrosanct median line that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Straits.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen responded with a call for tension-reduction talks with Beijing. China’s President Xi Jinping wasted no time in replying. The following day he rejected negotiations, issued a threat to invade Taiwan and released a video of training exercises simulating an invasion of the island.

So what would such an invasion look like and what are its chances of success? Well for a start, the Chinese forces are about five times the size of the Taiwanese military, and they are backed up with nuclear weapons.

But that is not the complete story. Two-thirds of Taiwan is mountains which are much easier to defend than open plains. On top of that, there are only a handful of beaches suitable for Chinese landing craft. If the PLA does successfully land it will face a determined military of 174,000 professional soldiers and a million reservists.  They—and the political hierarchy—will be ensconced in a bewildering labyrinth of mountain tunnels.

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Ed Davey on the Acting Prime Minister podcast

Ed Davey has been interviewed for ITV News on the Acting Prime Minister podcast. If you haven’t seen it before, the interviewee is virtually installed in No 10 for the day and asked what she/he would do.

What personal item would he take into No 10? – the trike belonging to his son, John.

Who would be the first person he would call? – Joe Biden.

What would his first policy change be? – increased support for carers, financially, in their own careers and through respite care.

Where would he go on holiday as Prime Minister? – East Anglia

Downing Street pet? – a cat

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No child should go hungry

Last week I reported that Kirsty Williams had committed to extend free school meals through the holidays and right up to next Easter. Of course, that only applies in Wales where she is the Education Minister.

But this week MPs shamefully voted against a similar programme in England, in spite of the widespread support for Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

Lib Dems, headed by Daisy Cooper, have been calling for action:

There is a petition to sign, in which we call for:

  • Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
  • Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
  • Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers

I’ve signed it. Will you?

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22 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Economic support plans made “on the hoof” are failing millions
  • Tracing failures shows Hancock needs to overhaul test and trace

Economic support plans made “on the hoof” are failing millions

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Chancellor of “making up plans on the hoof” when it comes to financial support for businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19. Responding to the Chancellor’s statement in the House of Commons today, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Yet again the Chancellor is taken by surprise by events unfolding exactly as predicted months ago. He has utterly failed to address the gravity of the economic crisis, with people and businesses facing devastating pressure across the country.

Beyond tinkering around the edges of the Job Support Scheme and correcting some of its blatant errors, he has offered nothing for those slipping into poverty. 67% of salary is just not enough for people to get by on. The Chancellor is making up plans on the hoof and is failing millions of people.

We need real leadership from Government, not a patchwork of ever-changing measures. It’s clearer than ever that the Government should have kept the furlough scheme in place as the Liberal Democrats called for, yet they are too proud to do the right thing and U-turn.

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Why hygiene, testing and shielding are better than lockdown and furlough

We need the current argument between Westminster and Manchester on the best strategy to tackle coronavirus. The issues involved need wider informed debate than has so far been allowed. Both government and science should accept challenge, and refine policy accordingly.

We are told that policy is science-led and evidence-based. But extensive use continues to be made of blunt lockdown and furlough measures, without scientific evidence of their efficacy. These are both clearly extremely harmful in themselves. Here is an evidence-based case for the superiority of infection control, testing, and shielding.

1. Infection control works

After extensive mortality in March-May, UK care homes have reduced both infection and excess mortality rates to zero.

Source

This has been achieved through rigorous infection control procedures. Note that the initial increased mortality affected all elderly people, not just those in care homes.

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Why registering to vote is good for your wealth and health

You will almost certainly be registered to vote if you are reading Liberal Democrat Voice, as you are a politically engaged individual. But are all your neighbours, friends and family also on the electoral roll?
Feel free to share this article with them, as adapted for your local Council.
If you are not registered to vote, you could be harming your chances of getting credit when you need it, and even your access to a home-delivered COVID-19 test.
You are not automatically registered to vote, (included on the electoral roll), even if you have lived here for many years. You should register to

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20 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police
  • Government face first defeat in the Lords over Internal Market Bill

Liberal Democrats secure Government commitment to publish test and trace agreement with police

Today, Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data.

This follows the Health Secretary’s refusal to make the Memorandum of Understanding public when Liberal Democrat Health and Care Spokesperson Munira Wilson asked him to just yesterday.

Following the exchange, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said:

An effective test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe will only work if the public have faith in it and this means the Government must be open and honest about how it uses people’s data.

It is absolutely crucial that the Government publishes its Memorandum of Understanding with police chiefs on sharing of Test and Trace data in full, otherwise they risk further undermining public trust in the system and discouraging people from getting tested.

I’m glad to have secured this commitment from the Minister, but he must now make sure the document is published for public scrutiny as soon as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that transparency over the use of personal data is essential to build public confidence in Test and Trace.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , , and | 2 Comments

A view from a member of the Vice President’s advisory team

The Vice President, Isabelle Parasram, and her advisory team meet on Zoom recently

We all know that there is no better Party in this country than the Liberal Democrats. That is the reason that we all have joined this Party and why we are still here.
And believe me, even the people of this country are aware of this fact.

But the problem is that we are almost too good. We don’t lie. Our leaders don’t believe in false promises. We strongly believe in human rights. We believe that each and every citizen of this country, no matter what colour or background they are from, deserves the best life possible. And that is the problem. We think that, because we are good and our policies and manifesto are outstanding, people will vote for us.

But it does not matter how much you like someone, or care about them – you must approach them and express your feelings if you want them to know that. And that is what we Lib Dems need to do.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Reaching zero carbon with an ambitious approach to housebuilding in York

Plans have been submitted by City of York Council for the first stage of what the Guardian recently has called “arguably the UK’s most ambitious council-led housing programme in a generation”.

As a Liberal Democrat led council we are embarking on our biggest housebuilding programme since the 1970s. Work is already under way to deliver more than 600 new homes across the city, including at least 250 affordable homes, each designed to have a net carbon emissions figure of zero.

This plan is just one element of our work to deliver more housing and tackle the climate emergency. Our target of reaching zero carbon by 2030 requires a bold and holistic approach to tackling the climate crisis.

Currently, we are leading the way nationally by introducing ambitious plans across the city to improve York’s air quality – from the largest zero emission Park&Ride fleet in the country and the first voluntary Clean Air Zone in the UK, with ambitions to become the first all-electric bus city.

This is on top of major investment in refurbishing and improving council housing, using the very latest low carbon technologies in construction, maximising the generation and storage of renewable electricity on council land and buildings, and planting 50,000 trees in 3 years as part of the Northern Forest initiative.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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