26 February 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lee Anderson: Sunak needs to condemn his comments for what they are
  • Bathing Water announcement: Half-baked which does not ban sewage in swimming spots
  • Wales’ Biggest Scarf? Showing Some Love to Our Care Experienced Community.

Lee Anderson: Sunak needs to condemn his comments for what they are

Responding to Rishi Sunak and Mark Harper’s latest comments on Lee Anderson this morning, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

The refusal of Rishi Sunak and his ministers to properly call out Lee Anderson’s extreme comments shows just how low the Conservative Party has fallen.

Rishi Sunak needs to condemn Anderson’s comments for what they

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26 February – 1 March 2024 – this week in the Lords

Welcome to another preview of the week’s events in the Upper House, one in which a space will become apparent following the loss of Conservative Peer, Patrick Cormack, who passed away over the weekend.

But on to business in what is another long week for the denizens of the red benches. Monday starts with a Liberal Democrat Oral Question – Lorely Burt will be asking the Government what is being done to encourage businesses to employ people with criminal convictions.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill reaches Day 6 of its Committee Stage but the …

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We should allow Ukrainian refugees to stay

It has now sadly been over two years since the latest phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

I was living in Kyiv back in early 2014 when the conflict began after Russia invaded Crimea and East Ukraine. Since then, the UK has rightly been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, providing economic, military, political and diplomatic support. This has also very much been a cross-party endeavour, which I strongly welcome.

There is though more that the UK and our allies – particularly the USA – need to do to now ensure that Kyiv has the military means to defeat Moscow.

Refugees

Likewise, there is more …

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PSA: Reddit AMA with Mark Pack on 3rd March!

Following the success of r/UKPolitics, a subreddit dedicated to discussion of current affairs in the UK, and their regular “Ask Me Anything”, or AMAs for short, the r/LibDem subreddit mod team, of which I’m a new member of, have reached out to Mark Pack, our Party President, to trial an AMA of our own on Sunday 3rd March at 6PM.

The thread to ask questions went up on Sunday Afternoon, and anyone, member, supporter or a curious individual, will have the chance to submit questions to Mark to answer on the Sunday. You’ll have the opportunity to ask …

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Welcome to my day: 26 February 2024 – the Nasty Party, blue in tooth and claw?…

I was a little tardy last week, which I blame on the beach I was sitting on in Bali. But, still slightly jet-lagged, I return for another Monday here at LDV Towers.

And it seems that, whilst I was away, all sense of Conservative discipline has gone, blown to the four winds. The idea that senior figures in the Party, Members of Parliament, Cabinet members, former Prime Ministers, could suggest that the country is under the control of “Islamists”, or is run by the “Deep State” should horrify any sane member of their Party. But no, the line is to suggest that they don’t really mean it, or that we’re all being too sensitive. And, with a Leader too frit to take serious action – and in the case of Lee Anderson, would an apology really have sufficed? – we can expect to see many more provocations as Conservatives attempt to shore up support amongst racists and bigots.

But, as a Civil Service trans activist (or am I an environmental extremist?), I would be concerned by Liz Truss, wouldn’t I? For the record, I’ve not encountered either in the workplace during my many years of public service.

There is an issue though which might concern a Conservative thinker, which is this. If your party has spent decades denigrating the public sector, and lauding the private sector, should you be surprised when your supporters opt to take the money? And, if you depress public sector salaries over the fourteen years that you’ve been in office, should you be terribly surprised when only the more altruistic opt to work in government, central or local? After all, altruism doesn’t appear to be high on the list of Conservative principles these days.

And the apparent glee with which James Cleverly announced last week that he will be banning overseas care workers from bringing dependents with them is merely another mark of how low they will stoop to secure what they see as a core voting group. What such people will think if it becomes apparent that there isn’t anyone willing to look after Granny is, obviously, a problem for another day.

I’m not convinced that moving ever further towards the nationalist right offers much hope for the Conservatives though, given that Reform UK offer greater clarity for the sort of voters for which such a programme appeals, but there is a risk that they lose those who might consider themselves One Nation Conservatives in the process, leaving them worse off overall. But such a thought process would require some rational thinking, and I’m not convinced that the Government are at home to the concept just now.

But enough depression about our politics. Here’s Chopin’s Nocturne in A Flat major, played by Grigory Sokolov, to soothe the savage breast…

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Ed on Kuenssberg: Lib Dems are excited and confident about election

Ed Davey did his first interveiw of the year on Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday this morning. The first question, was, of course, on the Post Office scandal and Ed’s role as Minister.

Her first question : Why did it take you so long to say sorry?

I probably should have said sooner early on.

It’s a huge scandal and our hearts go out to postmasters. They need to get exonerations and compensation quickly and we need to get the truth from the enquiry.

He talked about two sub postmasters in his constituency, one of whom spent 16 months in prison.

I’m going to fight for those and join others in making sure that the Government gives the sub postmasters the fair deal they deserve.

He actually has been fighting for them since there was evidence that there were flaws with Horizon and called for the enquiry back in 2015.

Kuenssberg showed him the letter he wrote to Alan Bates in 2010 saying that there would be no point to a meeting.  Ed replied that he had only been in office for 11 days and  was advised by his officials not to. When Bates wrote to him again, though, he wanted to know more about his concerns and was the first post office minister on record to meet him.

When that meeting took place in late 2010, he said he was concerned about the issues Alan Bates raised about Horizon. He took the concerns to his officials and the Post Office and was given categorical assurances that there was no remote access.

He said that it turns out that the Post Office were lying to him and that conspiracy of lies means that we need systemic change in how we deal with things like this.

Kuenssberg asked him if he’d never stopped to think that there must be something going on here.

He said that he wasn’t asked about it in Parliament. He said that things didn’t really change until the BBC’s Panorama programme found hard evidence in the form of a whistleblower from Fujitsu in August 2015.

Kuenssberg then moved on to the General Election, asking  if we weren’t embarrassed by the results in the by-elections last week.

Ed responded:

What we are seeing in this Parliament is huge success for Liberal Democrats. In those 4 by-elections we had staggering success in true blue areas.

We’ve had some of our best local elections ever and we have had by far the best success in local government by-elections.

We go into the next election with a real sense of excitement. There’s loads of areas where if you want to get rid of your Conservative MP, you’ve got to vote for the Liberal Democrats. I’ve talked about the “Blue Wall” where we are having massive success against the Conservatives and the south west as well, we are coming back there. So we go into this election year more confident than for many a year.

Kuenssberg asked if he was confident that we can be the third party again. His answer was simple. “Yes.”

Earlier she  brought up the Guardian letter signed by 30 prominent party members back in November as we reported here.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Alexei Navalny is dead.

His body lies in a prison morgue inside the Arctic Circle. It is generally accepted that he was murdered, or at the very least Vladimir Putin is responsible for his death by sentencing him to a frozen penal colony.

After days of standing at the prison gates, Navalny’s mother was finally allowed to see his body. But she has been denied permission to take it away for burial.

Instead she was told that she had to agree to agree to a secret burial at a hush-hush site. Otherwise, Lydmilia Navalny reported, “the authorities said they would do things to Alexei’s body.”

Putin is clearly afraid of Navalny the martyr. He is afraid that a public burial at an accessible site will become a focal point for those opposed to his corrupt oligarchical rule.

Navalny was not even cold on his morgue slab before the Russian media machine was trying to spin him out of the Russian story. The state-controlled news machine was late in reporting his death and its accounts were, at best perfunctory. There was no contextual information to explain why he was in prison and one commentator refused to use his first name.

From Putin himself there has been a deafening silence. This is unsurprising. In the past, the Russian president has refused to use the opposition leader’s name when directly asked about him at press conferences. He clearly hopes that the dearth of reports by the media will result in Navalny becoming a non-person as well as dead.

This maybe the case in Russia, but it isn’t working in the West. Navalny’s wife Yulia and their 23-year-old daughter Dasha have already been quick to pick up the baton. Navalny’s 15-year-old son Zahar is probably not far behind.

But will the West listen? Yulia made a major impact when she spoke at the recent Munich Security Conference and Dasha joined her mother in an emotional White House meeting with President Joe Biden.

But Biden and the Europeans were a receptive audience before Alexei’s death. The nut that needs to be cracked is the MAGA Republicans. When Trump was asked by Fox News to comment on Navalny’s death he refused to blame Putin and focused on linking Alexei’s death to his own legal problems. We are both persecuted victims of the state, he claimed. Trump added that Navalny should never have returned to Russia after being treated in a German hospital for novichok poisoning.

Navalny knew he would be sent to prison as soon as he returned. He explained the move by saying that he could not expect his followers to overcome fear of Putin’s rule if he did not himself demonstrate bravery by returning to certain imprisonment.

 

The world is divided on a ceasefire in Gaza. Political leaders in Europe, America, Japan and Australia are generally behind the proposal for a “temporary ceasefire,” the return of the hostages and a massive increase of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

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LIb Dems demand that Sunak removes the Whip from Lee Anderson

Lee Anderson has spent most of the past 2 years saying horrible things to excite the Tory right. From telling anyone unhappy with how the UK treats migrants could “f**k off back to France” to saying that people should be able to feed themselves for 30p per day, giving him his “30p Lee” nickname, to horribly transphobic comments about Eddie Izzard, he has been one of the commanders of the Tory culture wars.

Last night, talking to GB News, he took it all a step further by being unambiguously racist and islamophobic about London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

From the BBC:

He told GB News Islamists had “got control” of Mr Khan and he had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

His words, which follow pro-Palestinian protests outside Parliament, have also been condemned by Tories.

Not condemned enough by Tories as the same article reports a Conservative source trying to play down what he had said. The fact that he still had the Tory whip 5 minutes after making these comments is an absolute disgrace. As the hours drag on, this looks increasingly like Rishi Sunak is either too weak to discipline Anderson or he agrees with him.

Anyone with an ounce of decency has called on Rishi Sunak to remove the Conservative whip from Anderson for these comments, including Labour’s Annaliese Dodds and Theresa May’s former Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell. Here’s what Lib Dem MPs have been saying.

Daisy Cooper said:

These comments from a Conservative MP are despicable. Rishi Sunak should remove the Conservative whip. There should be no space for this in our country, let alone in our Parliament.

Tim Farron:

This isn’t dog whistle, it’s fog horn. Sunak will remove the whip for this if he has an ounce of either decency or strength.

Munira Wilson:

Utterly disgusted by Lee Anderson’s racist comments. Stirring up hatred and tension in our great capital city in this way is downright dangerous. If Sunak has an ounce of decency and courage, he will kick Anderson out of the Tory party.

Alistair Carmichael:

This is entirely wrong and harmful from Lee Anderson, and comes after a similarly malign attack by the Conservatives in recent weeks. Criticise Sadiq Khan all you like on policy but these dog whistle arguments about his character have no basis and no justification.

Beyond Westminster, Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon:

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Observations of an ex pat: Space Wars

In the distant past, 1967 to be precise, world leaders hammered out something called “The Outer Space Treaty.”

It remains in effect, but for how long? And what would be the result of its disappearance from the international statute books?

The reason it may be overwhelmed by circumstances is that thousands of satellites have been launched into space since 1967. They have become an essential part of modern life.

They are vital weather satellites; GPS systems that direct are travels; link our mobile phones and banking business and they are the space-based links for the all-powerful worldwide web.

The satellites are also a formidable military tool, providing vital intelligence about troop dispositions which can be immediately transmitted to ground forces. American satellite intelligence is a vital part of Ukraine’s war effort.

All of this, means that the orbiting satellites are an important target in case of war. And at the moment, they are completely unprotected. If they can be quickly knocked out then your enemy’s economy would be instantly destroyed and its satellite eyes pulled from their space sockets.

But for such an instant attack to be effective it has to be big and instant. That probably means a nuclear bomb, or series of nuclear bombs or some other as yet unknown weapon of mass destruction.

The Outer Space Treaty forbids this. The prescient clause reads: “States shall not place nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other way.”

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Lib Dems mark 2 years since invasion of Ukraine

Two years ago we all woke up to the awful news that Russia, after lots of menacing, had finally invaded Ukraine. Honestly, not many of us gave the Ukrainians much chance in fending them off. That they are still standing is down to their charismatic leader and a huge international effort.

Ed Davey said:

We stand with all Ukrainians as they bravely and brilliantly resist the Russian war machine.

The UK will continue to aid their fight for their country, for their democracy and for their freedom.

Sarah Green said:

Today we mark the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine (not forgetting the invasion of Crimea in 2014). We must continue to stand with the Ukrainian people – Putin’s aggression cannot be allowed to prevail.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is marking the anniversary by urging the UK and Scottish governments to expand their support for the country.

Mr Cole-Hamilton is calling on the UK government to widen sanctions against those on the “Navalny list” and for the Scottish Government to deliver transparency over who owns land in Scotland as well as to support the 1 in 10 Ukrainians in Scotland who remain in temporary accommodation.

At 11am this morning he will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle to commemorate the Ukrainians who have died in the fighting.

Alex said:

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ALDC’s by-election report – 22 February 2024

It’s been the busiest week so far this year for local council by-elections – with 8 principal council elections taking places. The first bit of great news is there was a Liberal Democrat candidate in every single contest and thanks to our excellent candidates and local teams on the ground we can celebrate some excellent results. 

There was one Lib Dem gain on Thursday which came on Wiltshire Council in Calne, Chilvester and Abberd ward. Congratulations to Councillor Rob MacNaughton and the local Lib Dem for increasing the Lib Dem vote share by 18% and gaining the ward from the Conservatives. An amazing result and already our fourth by-election gain this year.  

Wiltshire UA, Calne, Chilvester and Abberd
Liberal Democrats (Robert Macnaughton): 424 (45.3%, +18.1)
Conservative: 283 (30.2%, -16.8%)
Labour: 172 (18.4%, +3.7%)
Green Party: 58 (6.2%, -5%)

There were two by elections on Buckinghamshire Council this week – and both saw the Lib Dems secure very positive results with significantly improvements in our share of the vote. 

A huge well done to Carol Linton who finished a close second to the Conservatives in Common and Burnham Beeches ward. Carol increased the Lib Dem vote share by over 11% and picked 41.5% of the total vote. A brilliant base to being upon. 

Similarly Mark Titterington increased the Lib Dem vote by over 13% in Hazelmere ward to finish in a very strong 3rd place – and cutting the gap to the winning Conservative candidate from 1000 at the last election to just over 200 this time!

Well done to both candidates and the local team in Buckinghamshire. 

Buckinghamshire UA, Common and Burnham Beeches
Conservative: 860 (51.8%, -4.2%)
Liberal Democrats (Carol Linton): 689 (41.5%, +11.2%)
Labour: 111 (6.7%, -7%)

Buckinghamshire UA, Hazelmere
Conservative: 687 (36.5%, -4.2%)
Independent: 654 (34.8%, -5.8%)
Liberal Democrats (Mark Titterington): 426 (22.7%, +13.4%)
Labour: 113 (6%, -3.5%)

There were also 2 by-elections on Derbyshire Dales DC

First of all in Bakewell ward, Claire Cadogan increased the Lib Dem vote share by 5% and jumped ahead of the Green Party to claim 3rd place. A great step forwards so well done and thank you to Claire. Labour gained the ward from the Conservatives overall squeezing in by 15 votes. 

Robin Shirtcliffe flew the flag for the Lib Dems in Norbury ward. The Lib Dems did not contest the ward at the previous election. So a huge thank you to Rob for making sure voters had a Lib Dem choice this time. The Conservatives held the ward overall. 

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Braverman’s article: a catalyst for Islamaphobia

In my previous blog post, I delved into the concerning issue of escalating Islamophobia, a problem that appears to persist despite efforts for progress

The Telegraph, a prominent newspaper, boldly declares on its front page (£), “Islamists are now in control, says Braverman amid speakers row.

This headline raises a critical question: What defines an Islamist, and how does one distinguish them from an average Muslim? Many Muslims grapple with this challenge daily as they seek to integrate into modern Britain, only to face fear weaponisation by politicians like Suella Braverman.

Reflecting on Sir Lindsay Hoyle, I perceive him as a good man who perhaps erred in the SNP’s opposition day. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the constant threats faced by MPs, exemplified by the tragic murders of Sir David Amess and Jo Cox, both victims of extremism regardless of their ideological alignment. The Conservative Party seems to be on shaky ground, with Rishi Sunak’s declining popularity and the realisation that a return to power may take a generation. Suella Braverman’s potential leadership bid hints at a shift towards the right, a move that, as a Muslim, fills me with apprehension.

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LibLink: Victor Chamberlain: Local authorities still hold the key to accessible housing

Southwark Lib Dem Councillor Victor Chamberlain has written for Inside Housing about providing suitable housing for disabled people.

He sets out the problem:

It’s over a century since the ground breaking Addison Act of 1919, passed under Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, laid the foundation for social housing in the UK. Despite significant progress since then, it’s disheartening that we still grapple with fundamental challenges of providing quality and suitable housing for everyone. This is particularly true for disabled people who lack a range of suitable housing options, especially adequate numbers of accessible and adaptable homes. 

Accessible housing is not just a matter of convenience; it is a fundamental human right that directly impacts individuals’ safety, independence, and quality of life. Accessibility features and home adaptions also prevent avoidable hospital admissions and care home placements. Every £1 invested in housing adaptations is worth in more than £2 in care savings and quality of life gains. It’s a win-win scenario that cannot be ignored, particularly at a time when social care budgets face unprecedented strain.

The Disabled Facilities Grant, intended to fund housing adaptations, is woefully insufficient to meet demand. The £30,000 cap on expenditure per home is outdated and inadequate, leaving many unable to afford the necessary modifications. Consequently, local councils are forced to cover the shortfall from overstretched social care budgets, exacerbating financial strain and limiting resources for other essential services.

He cites the example of a disabled resident who has waited 22 years for a home that meets her needs.

The solution, he argues, lies in social housing as the private rented sector cannot meet people’s needs.

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I’ve been elected to Federal Board – what do you want championed?

In 2022, the Liberal Democrats passed a number of reforms championed by party president, Mark Pack, which included, but were not limited to, the reforming and slimming down of the Liberal Democrat Federal Board (similar to the board of directors for a company).

The reforms, which I supported at the time, have led to genuine change in how we function as a party, and I remain of the view that we made the right decision.

However, the slight pitfall in the reforms from a personal perspective was that in the subsequent board elections, I finished fifth, missing out on a place on the board. Such is life.

I was therefore surprised when David Crowther emailed me to let me know that I had been elected following a vacancy arising on the board.

Of course, I am delighted to have a seat on the Federal Board of the party. It would however, be remiss of me not to note the circumstances that led to the vacancy on the board. A member of the governing body of our party was suspended following grossly offensive posts about Jewish people and Ukrainians.

As a result, it is important that we fight to ensure that our party is a safe environment for Jewish people and anything below that bar is not good enough.

What next?

Leaving aside the fact that the circumstances have arisen. We must look to how we can move forward. To my mind, that involves listening to members.

I am also aware that some members may be interested in what I was originally planning were I to have been successful, this mainly focused around making us government ready.

How can you get in touch?

If you have any questions, please do drop me an email on [email protected], I am keen to hear and represent members.

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Layla Moran’s speech in tonight’s debate: We need to stop this now

I thought about putting Layla’s speech in the last post, but I didn’t want it getting lost. Her clarity and wisdom and persuasiveness, and her liberal desire to bring people together have been a huge credit to her and to this party in recent months. We can all be incredibly proud of her, especially when this has been so personally painful for her.

She spoke in the debate and her words in full are below:

I am speechless at the way this debate began. As the House knows, there has been scant opportunity for me to tell the story not just of my family or the hundreds in the church where they are in northern Gaza, but of Palestinians on the ground and, indeed, those who lost people in the horrendous attacks on 7 October, whether through murder or abduction. I am grateful that we have this opportunity. In the hours of debate in front of us, my first ask of anyone who speaks after me is, please, to hold all those people in their hearts as they say what they say. I believe sincerely that this House is moving towards a right position, and I will explain what I think that is in a moment. On the suggestion that this House is in some way against a ceasefire—I would hope an immediate one, however the semantics play out in the votes later—can we please try to send a message in particular to the Palestinian people perishing in their tens of thousands on the ground, and to those hostage families that, fundamentally, we need this to stop now? I do not care what we call it.

I should have started by drawing the House’s attention to my entry in the register of interests. I sit as an unpaid adviser on the board of the International Centre for Justice for Palestinians.

Last week I went to Israel and Palestine with Yachad, and I will start with a story. On the first day, we went down to the southern border with Gaza, to a place called Nativ Ha’asara, a place I have visited before. We met an incredible woman called Roni, who had lost family members—16 from that kibbutzim had perished. As I went there, I looked across at northern Gaza. I saw the plumes of smoke. I heard the drones and the “pop pop pop” of the gunfire, and I broke down. As I walked back through the village, Roni, an Israeli peace activist, took me to one side, gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry”, which I said back. We both cried and held each other.

It is important to remember that although those voices of peace in Israel have been silent for some time, many of the people killed on that day were allies of the Palestinian people who had been calling for decades against the occupation, calling out Netanyahu’s Government, and condemning Ben-Gvir and Smotrich. It is for that reason that I welcome the sanctions on those extremist settlers, because there is a direct link between the right wing elements of Netanyahu’s Government and those extremist settlers. The amendment that the Lib Dems tabled to the motion stated that we should not finish there. We need to continue those sanctions on those people and their connected entities.

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Ed on tonight’s drama in Parliament: We need an urgent end to the humanitarian catastrophe

So I managed to sleep thoughout tonight’s drama.

Waking up to a phone glowing with WhatsApp messages, I realised there had been a bit of a rammy in the Commons. I checked out the BBC summary and my immediate and instinctive reaction is that the Speaker had been right to allow votes on three distinctive positions on such a huge issue. The SNP’s motion called for an immediate ceasefire, the Government’s called for a humanitarian pause and Labour’s had a bit more meat on its bones about how you actually get to a lasting peace. Normally on an opposition day, you’d get the motion and a Government amendment. It is unusual to have a third option, but in this instance, it made sense to reflect as broad a consensus as possible. He could have done better by including a fourth option, ours.

Ours said:

Expresses its devastation at the mounting humanitarian disaster in Gaza with tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians killed, millions displaced and thousands of homes destroyed; calls on the Prime Minister to oppose publicly and at the UN Security Council the proposed IDF offensive in Rafah; further urges Hamas to unconditionally and immediately release the over 100 hostages taken following the deplorable attacks on 7 October 2023; notes the unprecedented levels of illegal settler violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories left unchecked by the Israeli Government; welcomes the recent sanctions by the UK Government against four extremist Israeli settlers who have committed human rights abuses against Palestinian communities in the West Bank; urges the UK Government to sanction all violent settlers and their connected entities; calls on the UK Government to uphold international law and the judgments of international courts under all circumstances; further notes that the only path to regional security is a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with Hamas not in power; condemns Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assertions that there is no future for a Palestinian state; and further urges the UK Government to call for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Gaza, which will allow an end to the humanitarian devastation, get the hostages out and provide an opportunity for a political process leading to a two-state solution, providing security and dignity for all peoples in Palestine and Israel.”

You would hope that when discussing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters and most dangerous conflicts we have seen in a long time, the Mother of Parliaments would model generous, collaborative behaviour. It was not beyond the wit of the SNP to work with the other opposition parties to bring together something that truly reflected the will of the House.

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Breathtaking – a personal perspective

Yesterday morning, Dr Rachel Clarke and healthcare professionals were disgustingly abused on social media for telling how it was as the Coronavirus Pandemic unfolded. The ITV drama Breathtaking, shown this week,  is an adaptation of Clarke’s novel about the impact of the pandemic on hospital staff. 

Healthcare staff making TikTok videos weren’t sacrificing patient care – it was on breaks and days off. With what we were dealing with, why do many begrudge us trying to raise our own morale then? When nurses couldn’t buy groceries because supermarkets were stripped by the time they got off shift? Hospital staff being assaulted in car parks because they were allegedly a) spreading Covid or b) refusing to permit people to see family members? 

Many insist we have vaccine injuries  – the vaccines that weren’t rolled out until late 2020. That Covid is just a cold and Long Covid don’t exist? 

Science is overwhelming in terms of the latter and a timeline proves the former. YouTube and social media are not peer-reviewed sources of scientific research. 

I see new people coming into Long Covid peer support groups. There is still no healthcare, no move from governments to properly tackle this economy-harming issue, no improvements to ensure our future – the kids now getting repeated infections from a relatively novel virus without any idea of what it might do to them in the long term.

Millions of us are still sick. In the U.K., we don’t have financial support. The data doesn’t exist. The situation is underreported and appalling. Governments refuse to acknowledge any culpability or responsibility for us. They won’t change ventilation or air purification standards and so on. 

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Lib Dems launch rescue plan for farmers

Tim Farron is going to be speaking to the National Farmers’ Union today and he’ll set out a rescue package for Britain’s farmers who have essentially been done over by the Government in so many ways. Whether it’s post-Brexit payments, unworkable rules on workers visas or trade deals that put our own farmers at a disadvantage, the party is announcing its solution, which includes an extra £1 billion for farmers.

Tim said:

British farmers need to be rescued from years of Conservative neglect and failed rural policies, which have left our countryside in dire need of help. For too long Conservative MPs have taken farmers for granted. Conservative Ministers are shamelessly attempting to rewrite history ahead of the General Election.

Farmers are increasingly turning to the Liberal Democrats to send this Conservative government a message.

Farmers do not only put food on our tables, but crucially, act as the custodians of our environment. Yet Ministers have failed spectacularly to roll out new payment programmes, and signed botched overseas trade deals which have undercut environmental standards.

Enough is enough. It is time for change and the British countryside won’t be ignored any longer by this out of touch Conservative government.

Lib Dems would:

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Is self-build an answer to the housing crisis?

Embed from Getty Images

For some time, the government has often fallen short of its target of 300,000 new homes per year and we are now in a housing crisis where there are not enough homes to go around, thus driving prices up. So what can be done differently?

One of the advantages of being a university student is that I get to hear about some of the latest innovations being tossed around in different sectors. One such sector is architecture and some are asking what the future of housing may, or perhaps should, look like. An example of an innovation is the idea of self-building. This is where the person, family or community take control of the design, materials and labour of the houses they want and this can come in a variety of different ways. For instance, someone could order prefabricated panels or even rooms and have them transported to their site whilst someone else could follow the ‘Segal Method’ and build their home using panels of plywood you would buy from B&Q. But how does this different approach help in the current crisis?

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The Miners’ Strike forty years on

Embed from Getty Images

The fortieth anniversary of the start of the Miners’ Strike that began on 5th March 1984 is almost upon us but Channel 4 and BBC2 have already offered their acts of remembrance. I remember the start and had the television permanently on during the Battle of Orgreave, but some of my sharpest personal memories are about the ending and the aftermath.

Throughout the strike I was living and working opposite the Yorkshire National Union of Mineworkers(NUM) Headquarters in Barnsley. Arthur Scargill and his colleagues regularly appeared on the other side of Victoria Road. Our Communist next door neighbour was high up in the Engineering union. Roy Mason, the right wing Labour MP and former member of a Labour cabinet, lived round the corner. I had been the Liberal Alliance candidate for Barnsley Central in the 1983 General Election (where alas my 19.2% still holds the record vote share). So it could be seen as a highly politicised corner of the town centre!

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Christine Jardine introduces Bill to give British citizens right to Consular assistance

Back in November, there was not a dry eye in the house when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard Ratcliffe spoke to Scottish Lib Dem Conference.

From our piece at the time:

One of the most moving sessions was an interview, hosted by Christine Jardine, with Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe. Christine said she still has the blue flower Richard gave her when she went to visit him outside the Iranian Embassy when he was on hunger strike during Nazanin’s six year imprisonment in Iran.

Nazanin and Richard want British citizens to have a right to consular protection after the Foreign Office was so slow to help her. At the moment, the commitment is dependent on ministerial whim, and, if ministers are reshuffled, you have to build the relationship up all over again.

Next week, Parliament will debate a Bill tabled by Lib Dem MP Christine designed to give British citizens abroad a right to consular assistance when their human rights are under threat.

Yesterday’s Sunday Post had a feature on the Bill. Christine told the paper:

We assume that if something happens, someone will speak to the Foreign Office and you’re guaranteed assistance – but you’re not.

I think it’s something most of us would take for granted that we already have.

After Richard and I spoke about it, I thought about the number of cases where people have found themselves in that situation over the years.

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Welcome to my day: 19 February 2024

It’s been a slightly depressing week in some ways, and promising in others.

Two by-elections saw crushing defeats for the Conservatives, which I think would generally be seen as a “good thing”, even if we weren’t the winners. In truth, it was hard to see a scenario where we would be – in both Kingswood and Wellingborough we’ve been a long way adrift even in relatively good years – and 2024 isn’t that good. There’s an increasing clear sense that voters just want to see the Conservatives gone, and will vote for whoever is seen as most likely to achieve that.

And now the Conservatives can give us all a preview of what will happen after a crushing General Election defeat (if that comes to pass), as they fight like rats in a sack for whatever cause floats their boat this week. Should they respond to Reform’s vote by moving even further to the right, or can relatively centre-right MPs move the Party back towards the centre? We kind of know who’ll win that argument, given that supposed One Nation Tories have folded at every key moment, and can only hope that, if they do veer rightwards, their demonstrable incompetence will prevent too much damage to our society.

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A great gain and 2 strong holds in this week’s by-elections

There were a couple of great results in this week’s local government by-elections.

In the Four Marks and Medstead ward of East Hampshire District Council, Roland Richardson held on to the seat with 62.2% of the vote! Thanks to ALDC for compiling the results.

Also in Hertfordshire, Caroline Smith-Wright held the Tring West and Rural ward on Dacorum District Council with an even greater vote share.

DACORUM DC; Tring West & Rural Ward

🔵 Con, , 21.1%, -3.0%
🔴 Lab, , 7.6%, -0.3%
🔶SMITH-WRIGHT, Caroline, LibDem, , 62.7%, +12.8%
🟢 Green, , 8.6%, -9.6%

EAST HAMPSHIRE DC; Four Marks & Medstead

🔶 RICHARDSON, Roland, LibDem, 1212, 62.2%, +11.7%
🔵 Con, 736, 37.8%, -11.7%

Avenue ward in Hull has been the site of many a good scrap between us and Labour over the years. The ward was represented by ALDC’s Abi Bell until she stood down a couple of years ago and in this year’s local elections returned 2 Labour and 1 Lib Dem Councillor.

That changed on Thursday when Rhiannon Beeson took a seat from Labour:

KINGSTON-UPON-HULL UA; Avenue

🔶 BEESON, Rhiannon, LibDem, 45.7%, +4,3%
🔵 Con, 1.7, -1.3%
🟢 Green, 7.6%, +7.6%
🔘 Ind, 5.3%, +5.3%
🔴 Lab, 39.7%,-8.7%

And thanks to Susan Jay for standing for us and making sure people had the chance to vote Lib Dem in the Rhos ward of Neath Port Talbot

Lab, 137, 14.5%, -30.9%
🔶 JAY, Susan Helen, LibDem, 60, +6.3%, +6.3%
🟢 Green, 15, 1.6%, +1.6%
🟩 Plaid, 242, 25.5%, -29.1%
🔘 Ind, 494, 52.1%, +52.1%

Elsewhere, the two parliamentary by-elections have taken up most of the headlines. The Wellingborough and Kingswood seats were not great prospects for us, but we did have excellent candidates in Andrew Brown and Ana Savage Gunn. We lost our deposits, but that happens in seats where we are not in competition. These were not the same kind of places as the four by-election seats we have gained in this Parliament.

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Observations of an Expat: What does America get out of NATO?

Donald Trump is a transactional kinda guy. He is a businessman who measures success and failure in dollars and cents.

He works on the basis of if we do something for you then we expect tangible, easily measurable, rewards in return.

America does a lot for its European NATO allies. It protects it with 100,000-plus troops on 85 European bases. Its 5,000 nuclear warheads are an essential deterrent against the 6,000 Russian nuclear warheads.

In return, successive American administrations – not just Trump – have asked their European allies to spend two percent of their GDP on defence. Only a third do. America spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on its worldwide military establishment.

Trump – and a growing number of Republicans – think that NATO is a rotten deal for America. That the Europeans are financing their social welfare programmes off the back of the American defensive umbrella.

So what does America get out of NATO? Quite a lot actually.

Let’s start by looking at what upsets the MAGA crowd the most – the balance sheet. Roughly half of all Europe’s military equipment is American-made. That is worth $400 billion a year to US weapons manufacturers. Those manufacturers employ an estimated two million people.

The Biden Administration is pushing the Europeans to buy more American military hardware. The Europeans – led by the French – see the need to build up their own defense industries, spurred on by Trump’s anti-NATO rhetoric and the Republican congressmen’s blocking of military aid for Ukraine.

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Lib Dems react to Alexei Navalny’s death

Lib Dems have been reacting to the shocking news of Alexei Navalny’s death.

Ed Davey said:

Horrified by reports of the death of Alexei Navalny – at the hands of Putin, no doubt.

Putin’s despicable methods might be to kill his enemies, but he will never kill the light of freedom and democracy which Navalny has stood for so courageously.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton attended a vigil last night at the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh:

It was a privilege to join Russian citizens outside the Consulate this evening in a vigil for the life of Alexei #Navalny, murdered by the Putin kleptocracy today. Their defiance and their desire to follow Navalny’s dream of a free and democratic Russia was inspiring.

This is nothing short of state sanctioned murder. Putin will never brook any form of opposition and Navalny presented so many young Russians with the hope of a future free from corruption and Tsarist fascism.

Putin is a despot and a war criminal.

Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said:

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Through my lens: navigating Islamophobia

In the aftermath of 9/11, the global surge in Islamophobia has cast a pervasive shadow over my experiences as a Muslim navigating through these mysterious and confusing times.

Growing up during the war on terror years meant that my childhood was far from ordinary. The constant fear, fueled by negative perceptions of my chosen faith, transformed seemingly simple tasks like walking home alone at night into daunting challenges. No child should bear the weight of such fear merely due to their religious beliefs.

Witnessing far-right politicians exploit Islamophobia for their gains adds another layer to this complex journey. A striking example is Marine Le Pen in France, who instrumentalised Muslims as a political punching bag. Comparing those praying in the streets of Paris to Nazis, she employed inflammatory rhetoric that not only deepens societal divides but also fosters an environment where Muslims feel increasingly marginalized and vulnerable to attacks.

In the United Kingdom, the aftermath of the Hamas attack saw a staggering 600% rise in Islamophobic events. The former home secretary’s actions further exacerbated the situation, fanning the flames of hatred towards the Muslim community.

Muslims collectively find themselves caught in the crossfire of divisive political narratives, contributing to an atmosphere of increasing hostility.

The media’s role in shaping public opinion cannot be overlooked in this narrative. A major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain highlighted a disturbing trend of negative portrayals of Muslims in mainstream British news outlets. The Mail on Sunday, for instance, showcased a disconcerting 78% negative coverage, well above the industry average of 59%. It’s troubling to see how media outlets, consciously or not, perpetuate harmful stereotypes that contribute to the broader issue of Islamophobia.

One striking example is the comment made by Trevor Kavanagh on Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV, insinuating that Muslims are born to be anti-Jewish. This type of rhetoric perpetuates dangerous stereotypes, contributing to the negative narrative surrounding Muslims. As a Muslim, it’s disheartening to see such comments, especially when they lack any basis in reality. It’s crucial for media figures to be held accountable for their words, as they have a profound impact on public perceptions.

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Council Budgets allow us to put Liberal Values into practice

Lib Dems are addressing the Cost of Living, providing community level services and decision making and Greener boroughs.

Next Wednesday, the Southwark Liberal Democrat group will be presenting our Alternative Budget at full council. Being a Labour-facing Liberal Democrat opposition in Inner London comes with certain challenges, but I’m proud we are demonstrating that it is possible to put forward a credible, Liberal alternative.

After a decade of Tory cuts and underfunding of Local Government, all councils are under immense strain. We’re no different, but Southwark Labour’s proposals make cuts in all the wrong places. They’re cutting social care, library services, and a host of other ill-thought through areas. Southwark’s own independent Equalities Panel has called out the Labour council for the negative impact their budget will have on the most vulnerable.

At the same time Town Hall waste runs rampant. We have sky-high bills on catering and stationary, perks for Labour bosses and bizarre amounts of money earmarked for vanity projects. This is whilst squirrelling away millions in pointless reserves and not leveraging income from Southwark’s world-class status.

Southwark Liberal Democrats are putting money where it matters. We are not just freezing council tax for those most in need, but going further to provide vital financial support for those currently in receipt of council tax reduction. We’re also reversing all of Labour’s callous cuts to social care.

By cutting waste and sweating our assets, we can put money back into people’s pockets and vital services.

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Who was King Athelstan? And why does Ed Davey admire him?

Have you even heard of him?

Ask any child in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (there is a clue in the name) and they will tell you that he was the first of the seven Saxon kings who were crowned in Kingston. In fact, one of the primary schools is named after him.

We even have a Coronation stone where he is thought to have been ceremonially placed, although it has now been moved to a spot outside the Guildhall.

In a recent edition of the BBC History Magazine Ed Davey picked King Athelstan as his historical hero. Unfortunately the article is behind a paywall, but you can read the first half here. So why did he choose him?

Athelstan’s coronation took place in 925 and was highly significant because for the first time he united the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. He was the first to be known as the King of the English. He later added northern Britain to his kingdom.

Kingston upon Thames was already a significant market town. It stood at the boundary of the two kingdoms with a very important river bridge between them – the first bridge upstream from London Bridge.

The Coronation is thought to have taken place in a church which was later replaced by the large Norman church of All Saints. Athelstan could be said to have invented the Coronation ceremony itself, using a ceremonial crown for the first time, a sarsen stone as his throne, and including text that still forms the basis of modern Coronation services.

All Saints Kingston has its own fascinating history, but it proudly proclaims itself as “Where England Began“.

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Rob Blackie: Met Police funding “too little, too late”

Today, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced more funding for the Metropolitan Police.

Sadiq Khan on Wednesday announced almost £50m of additional funding for the Met police as he set out final details of his annual City Hall budget.

The mayor said the financial support given by the Greater London Authority to the Met from April – much of it already announced last month – would be £151m higher than for the current year.

However the amount is not enough to provide all of the £76m sought by Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to fund his “New Met for London” plan to boost community policing and tackle racism and misogyny in light of the damning Baroness Casey report.

Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie was unimpressed:

This is too little, too late. The Met Police has got into a complete mess under eight years of this Mayor and Londoners won’t be fooled by his latest pre-election giveaway.

The amount the Mayor has pledged still falls short of what’s needed and he should back the Lib Dem plan to divert further headroom in the budget to the Police.

Interviewed on LBC this morning Rob confirmed his top priority as mayor would be to fix the Met Police. He said:

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LIb Dem Lords speak out on conversion therapy

Last week, Lorely Burt’s private members bill aimed at outlawing conversion therapy practices passed its first stage in the House of Lords.

This post highlights the speeches in support of the Bill made by Lib Dem peers, but there were many others made by people like Ruth Hunt, Michael Cashman and Helena Kennedy which are worth reading.

This post is a long one, but it is worth reading to understand why this measure is necessary.

Lorely explained in her opening remarks that conversion therapy s:

any practice with the predetermined purpose of changing or suppressing a person’s expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion therapy is barbaric, cruel and harmful.

Listening to the debate, I felt I was back in the 80s and 90s. I remember then being chilled to the bone when I heard prejudice against gay people. That still exists, but the real venom these days is directed at trans people. And it’s quite interesting that some of the opposition now comes from the same people who opposed any liberalisation for gay people then. Our job as liberals is to protect these vulnerable groups from that prejudice, discrimination and from the cruelty of those who try to convince them that it is wrong or them to be who they are.

Here are some of the highlights of Lib Dem members’ contributions. You can read the whole debate here.

“My Bill will not tell people what to think or what to say” – Lorely Burt

There are many people—particularly young people—who may be wondering about themselves. It is not always straightforward to understand your sexuality or gender identity, and grappling with these topics can be confusing and even distressing. What these people need is not a cure, but space—and support—to work things out. This may take the form of speaking with a trusted adult, like a mentor or counsellor, to explore their own feelings in a non-judgmental way.

However, the difference between that and conversion therapy is that the latter has a predetermined goal to change that person. I want to make it clear: my Bill will not criminalise these sorts of open conversations in any way, nor will it tell people what to think or what to say. Freedom of speech and religious freedom are important cornerstones of any liberal society. As a Liberal Democrat, I have always championed these values, and the last thing I would want to do is to unduly curb anybody else’s rights. Noble Lords are free to say what they believe: the rules on free speech are the same here as anywhere else in British law. Noble Lords are entitled to express an opinion, just not to coerce somebody else into agreeing with them and changing their behaviour as a result.

“Hold that child safe until they find their own way forward without bias, prejudice and pre conceived rights and wrongs” – Lynne Featherstone

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