Swedish-style fixed term Parliaments

The 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) established fixed quinquennial parliamentary terms, transforming the means of dissolving Parliament from a prerogative power exercised by the Prime Minister to a parliamentary process requiring two-thirds support in the Commons.

The major criticisms of the FTPA are chiefly about its shortcomings and the politics surrounding the act, namely for supporting the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, propping up the lame duck Second May Ministry, and its argued status as a dead letter due to the 2017 and 2019 elections with the latter being held by circumventing the FTPA via a simple-majority one-line bill. Such criticisms are bad faith arguments against the FTPA, merely stated ulteriorly in favour of the restoration of the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament.

One of the reasons that our party supports proportional representation for Westminster elections is that it would prevent early elections from being called for the governing party to benefit from an incumbency advantage and strong poll numbers as under First-Past-The-Post. However, this does not mean that PR should replace the FTPA entirely, an act that is not flawed in of itself but because its measures do not go far enough. If anything, complimenting PR, additional measures should be taken to strengthen the FTPA.

There may be an approach to fixed terms that has not before been considered for this country. In Sweden, quadrennial fixed term elections using part list proportional are held for the Riksdag. Sweden’s Prime Minister has the power to call an election part-way through a parliamentary term, but it would be an extra election, not an early election. Hypothetically, with the last Riksdag election being held in 2018, if an extra election were to be held now in 2021 due to the collapse of the current government, an election would still have to be held in 2022 instead of the election cycle being reset, the next election due for 2025.

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Mark Pack’s September update

Setting out our vision for the country

Our September Federal Conference has a key trio of debates on our vision for a Liberal Democratic society, our overall policy platform and the strategy to give us the political power to achieve those aims.

Having spent the first part of this Parliament fixing many of the practical organisational issues that caused so many problems in the 2019 general election, we now need to shift up a gear to get the external aspects right too. Sarah Green’s victory in Chesham and Amersham is a wonderfully inspiring example of what we can achieve when we get this right. The challenge is now to do that across the country.

It’s promising that we’ve seen a sustained boost in our opinion poll ratings since Sarah’s victory (up from 7% on average this year before her victory to 9% since). There’s also been a noticeable increase in our local council by-election performances since Sarah’s victory and the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions on local campaigning. Local factors mean it’s rarely wise to read too much into any one result, but the volume of by-elections – and their spread around the country – now means we look at that improvement with confidence that it’s real.

So we can also approach these conference debates with confidence about our potential – as long as we continue to up our game.

Improving people’s experience of being a member

Our party is our membership. Giving people a good experience is crucial for growing, retaining and encouraging people to be active in our party. And enabling individuals to create the change they want to see in the world is at the heart of our liberal philosophy.

To help get our plans right for this, the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) is doing telephone research calls to understand the perspectives of ordinary members on what works and what doesn’t. If the random selector picks you out for a call, please do take part – and if you have time to volunteer to help make the calls, let me know and I can put you in touch.

Alongside this, a variety of ideas are starting to be piloted, such as new ways of recruiting canvassed Lib Dems as members, a new quarterly cycle of briefing and feedback video calls for all local party officers, and the special £1 registration fee for first-timers at Federal Conference. I’m also very happy to hear any suggestions from you.

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Power to the people

A book about hydropower in Zambia might not make your list of “must read” titles, but if you care about the climate emergency, then there are two reasons to take note. First, we need practical and sustainable global solutions to power generation in the developing world. Second, “The Political Economy of Hydropower Dependent Nations: a case study of Zambia” is written by Liberal Democrat Dr. Imaduddin Ahmed and therefore worthy of your attention.

This book makes grim reading for hydropower enthusiasts: climate change is causing drought and emptying reservoirs. Drought is therefore causing power supply disruption, making it hard for nations wishing to diversify into manufacturing and away from relying on mining or subsistence agriculture. When there are frequent outages, manufacturers and others use highly polluting diesel generators. (Anyone spending time in Africa will be familiar to the rattling drone and greasy smell of generators that supply as much as a fifth of the continent’s energy).

Hydro plants can also have a devastating effect on biodiversity and communities living in the way of projects. Anyone following the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam saga will know that trying to monopolise the Nile (or Turkey’s plans for the Tigris and Euphrates) has brought several countries downstream to the brink of violence.

For decades the World Bank applied a template for development based on the Tennessee Valley Authority, an FDR-era project that revolutionized the lives of millions of poor Americans. Put simply, the TVA stimulated a consumer boom for US-made products and created employment. The World Bank then imposed the TVA model on countries with no domestic manufacturing base, meaning that America had new export markets for its goods.

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Rationing carbon

Conference Motion F12, Tackling the Climate Emergency

Our remaining carbon budget will probably be used up in less than 10 years at the current rate of consumption. If that carbon budget is squandered, our children will face a double problem. They will need to fight rising sea levels, desertification, violent storms, and unprecedented heat waves without the use of convenient and powerful fossil fuels.

Yet we continue to squander fossil fuel. The most important decision ever taken by humanity is how to control fossil fuel use.  Our precious carbon budget may need to last for hundreds of years until the CO2 levels in the atmosphere decline again.

Given the gravity of the situation, I can see no alternative now but to ration carbon. Each person’s total carbon emission must be added up using a smartphone app whenever they make a purchase, and further purchases should not be possible if their ration is exceeded.

Rationing is a simple tried and tested way of distributing scarce resources. In World War 2 this country had limited supplies of food, so food was rationed – rich or poor – the ration was the same. The result was that the poor stayed healthy and were motivated to win the war.

Rationing is painful, but this is an emergency, and whatever is needed must be done. The response to Covid was a ‘Stay Home’ order. The pain was incredible, but it was done.

If a few countries could make rationing work, others should follow, because there is concern about climate change in all countries.

The consequences of this approach will be a complete shift in global priorities: Fossil carbon consumption will be seriously considered in every aspect of life.

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The Independent View: A letter to the Liberal Democrats

Dear Liberal Democrats,

As you anticipate your digital conference gathering at the weekend, I thought I would send some heartfelt reflections on the party’s progress and prospects.

As the Director of Compass my main concern is with effective cross party working in pursuit of what we call a good society – one that is much more equal, democratic and sustainable. But the issue of a so-called progressive alliance gets us to the dilemmas and challenges facing the party.

To have a change of government, and the only feasible/desirable alternative is a Labour led administration, requires extensive cross-party cooperation given the injustice of the current voting system.  Indeed, given the electoral mountain is higher than 1997 then it requires more cross-party work than 1997.  Back then Blair and Ashdown got on famously and squeezed the Tories morally, politically, and electorally.

Nothing like that is happening today. Of course, it takes two to tango and Labour as the biggest party should and must play its part.  Its vote on proportional representation at its conference will be key – and not just to be passed but written into the manifesto and acted on. But as a party more committed to democracy and pluralism than Labour – if you don’t show leadership on this what hope is there?

So why isn’t the party doing more?   Of course, it’s tough working across parties in a system designed to be adversarial. But if it was achieved in 1997 it can be again.  There is rumour of a non-aggression pact between the Starmer and Davey offices but there needs to be much more public policy alignment – not least because there was so much overlap in the 2019 manifesto as Compass set out here, and there could be much more next time. We pretty much want the same things.

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Did Boris Johnson just suggest that our Jamie Stone should be fired into space?

Maturity has never really been Boris Johnson’s strong point.

And so it was today when Jamie Stone used a question to the Prime Minister to highlight the positive development  this week which brings space port in North West Scotland a step closer:

As the BBC reports, a major obstacle was cleared:

A Scottish Land Court judge has approved a change of use of an area of croft land near Tongue in Sutherland for the building of the facility.

The land around the rockets hangar and launch pad must remain available to crofters for agricultural use.

The ruling means the first rockets carrying small satellites could launch from Space Hub Sutherland from next year.

So Jamie was joyful about this when he asked the PM if he’d come to the first launch. Boris then replied that Jamie would make a suitable payload :

But did he really mean Jamie?

Hansard, which is usually pretty accurate, says at the time of writing that Boris Johnson replied to Jamie thus:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind invitation. I look forward to taking it up. What we need is a suitable payload to send into space, and I think the hon. Gentleman would do very well.

But if you watch the video, what he actually said was “the Gentleman Opposite” which could refer to Keir Starmer.

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Christine Jardine: Government breaking promises and backbone of our economy

Christine Jardine slammed the Government’s proposed increase in National Insurance constributions in the debate yesterday.

The full text of her speech is below:

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What is Kirsty Williams up to these days?

We miss Kirsty Williams and the fantastic contribution she made as Wales’ Education Minister.

So what is she up to these days?

She gave a couple of pointers as to how she is living her best life on Twitter yesterday:

And then, later, she was sitting in front of CNN to find out the outcome of the Republican attempt to get rid of Democrat Governor of California Gavin Newsom on dubious grounds. Thankfully if tailed, by a lot.

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Conference amendments now out

In the olden days, all the amendments to Conference motions and questions to party committees would be published in a separate booklet and you would have to juggle between the two of them and, quite often, the Conference Daily sheet as well.

We’ve now adapted for the online age and the Conference Extra stuff has now been incorporated into the agenda document itself which will make things much easier to navigate. You can see at first glance on pages 11-14 which motions have amendments and you can just click through to them.

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20 years on: Menzies Campbell’s speech in 9/11 recall

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the recall of Parliament in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the USA.

We posted Charles Kennedy’s speech earlier. In a subsequent debate on international terrorism, Menzies Campbell, then our foreign affairs spokesperson, spoke. He made some unfailingly liberal points, about how important it was to focus on justice rather than retaliation, to make sure any response is based on decent intelligence and international co-operation and, importantly, that we should note that the perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda and the Srebrenica massacre were not met hunted down with international military action. We mustn’t, he said, give the impression that the lives of those in the richest countries are worth more than those in the poorest.

Here is his speech in full, taken from Commons Hansard.

Back then, he and Paddy Ashdown were go-to people for the media on foreign affairs. They had huge credibility and were well known.

Not for the first time this week, I reflect on the fact that no matter how rich or diverse the English language it is inadequate to convey the sense of horror and frustration that so many of us feel about the events that have taken place across the Atlantic. Expressions such as “defining moment” have been thrown about—there are many of my generation for whom the defining moment appeared to be the assassination of John F. Kennedy—but I suspect that the life of the most powerful city in the most powerful country in the world will never be the same. I refer not just to the irritation of increased airline security, but to the realisation that no country, however powerful, can guarantee absolute safety for its citizens.

After the emotions of shock, sorrow and anger has come, as the Prime Minister rightly expressed, our admiration for the people of the United States. The United States is a great country with enormous economic resources, but this week we have seen that it has great resources of character as well. How else can one explain the extraordinary unified response to these events: immediate bipartisanship in the Congress, the quite extraordinary valour of the emergency services and, in towns and villages throughout the United States, public protests of determination that the people will not be intimidated?

In our occasionally patronising way, we on this side of the Atlantic sometimes raise our eyebrows at the United States’ style of public affirmation of nationhood—the pledge of allegiance and the public support for the flag. The truth is that this week has demonstrated that, in time of crisis, that public expression of unity is priceless in promoting a common purpose and a determination to triumph over adversity. The collective response of the people of the United States has rightly earned the admiration of us all.

When the roll call of nations that have lost citizens is set down, it will tell us that the nations of the whole world were the indiscriminate targets of the zealots whose barbarity has brought sadness and grief to so many families. For me, and perhaps for others, the close proximity of the headquarters of the United Nations has more than symbolic significance. We know that the heaviest burden will be borne by the people of the United States. Out of the collective sorrow that they suffer, and that we share, there must surely come a resolve that through collective action the perpetrators will be brought to justice and terrorism will be met in all circumstances by a robust defence of democratic values.

Let me try to put to rest the canard that somehow United States’ policy in the middle east was the cause of these events. I have not always agreed with United States’ policy in the middle east, and indeed I have said so in the House on many occasions, but the cause of these events was a deliberate and calculated decision to take the lives of as many as possible, allied to the willingness of desperate men to implement that decision at the cost of their own lives. The Prime Minister was correct to tell us that we must not suffer any ambiguity in our analysis of terrorism, but we should also remind ourselves that terrorism often flourishes where real or perceived injustice prevails. Communities which have an unresolved or unrecognised sense of grievance are driven sometimes to assume that terrorism is the only way of seeking resolution or recognition.

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20 years on: Charles Kennedy’s speech at the 9/11 recall of Parliament

Twenty years ago today, Parliament was recalled to debate the 9/11 terror attacks. Charles Kennedy, our then leader, spoke with customary good sense. He spoke of the need for international organisations to rise to the occasion. He spoke of his concern at the way asylum seekers and immigrants were already starting to be demonised. Here is his speech in full:

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I wholly associate the Liberal Democrats with the proper sentiments that have been expressed so well by the Prime Minister and by the new leader of the Conservative party—whom I congratulate despite the sad circumstances that coincide with his election—about the breathtaking nature of the savagery that we have witnessed in the United States. Many of our constituents and communities throughout our land, never mind the United States and the wider international community, will have been affected.

We all have a heavy heart today. As I listened to the Prime Minister, I thought back into history. Speaking in the House of Commons in very different circumstances, John Bright spoke of the sense that the angel of death was floating above the Chamber. There is no doubt that the angel of death is very much with us today.

I spent one of the happiest years of my life as a student in the mid-west of the United States, in Indiana, and I have been a fairly regular visitor back and forth to New York in the 20 years since then. Until I became a student in the United States, I did not understand how mid-west America feels divorced from east coast and west coast America. Speaking to friends—including one who once worked in one of the buildings that were attacked but who, just before the summer, was transferred further down Wall street and was therefore not afflicted by this terrible tragedy—I was struck by the remarkable extent to which middle America, east coast America and west coast America have become united as never before. We, a country on the other side of the Atlantic, must not underestimate that. We have to understand the scale of the shock and the unity that it has brought about in that great country and on that great continent.

Yesterday afternoon, in common with the Conservative party leader, the Prime Minister, the former Conservative party leader and other Members of Parliament, I went to sign the condolence book in Grosvenor square. It was remarkable to read the sentiments expressed there. There was a bouquet of flowers from a Polish ex-service man in the second world war, now domiciled in London. A family from Dagenham who had no connections with the United States wanted to say how sorry they were. American tourists here in London are bereft because they do not know what has happened to people they know, family or loved ones: they are without information.

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Therese Coffey should listen to those who really do understand how Universal Credit works

It is pretty staggering when a Government Minister goes on national television and exposes their own ignorance of something they are in charge of. But when that ignorance leads to them doing things that make it more difficult for the poorest people in our country to put food on the table and heat their homes, it is particularly reprehensible.

MPs’ inboxes are full of really heartbreaking stories from people who are already struggling to survive on Universal Credit and are dreading the £20 cut which comes in at the end of this month.

And then you have Therese Coffey, Work and Pensions Secretary, blithely say that all people will have to do is work an extra couple of hours. Well, er, no. It’s more like nine hours. She firstly assumes that people are getting £10 per hour when the minimum wage is £8.91. Then she forgets that for every £1 people earn over £293 per week, they lose 63p of their Universal Credit. The Lib Dems could have embraced the power of and in this tweet:

Therese Coffey fails to understand that it’s low paid working people with children who are struggling the most. Work really doesn’t always pay. And that is if you can get it. We haven’t started to really feel the long term economic impact of both Brexit and the pandemic yet. And with furlough ending at the end of this month, we may well see significant job losses.

Back in July, the Child Poverty Action Group set out why those families need the £20 uplift to stay:

Seventy-five per cent of children growing up in poverty in the UK live in households where at least one adult works. Low-income working families are struggling to pay for essentials like utility bills, new school uniforms and the food shop. In a couple household, having both members of a couple in work is increasingly important in preventing child poverty but in reality, universal credit does little to support parents trying to increase their income through work.

Firstly, as soon as a family with children earns more than £293 a month (their ‘work allowance’), for every pound they earn through work their universal credit is reduced by 63p. The very limited single work allowance, combined with the high reduction rate, makes it very difficult for families to increase their income through work.

And that is before you get to the practicalities of paying for childcare:

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ALTER Fringe – Simulating a LVT funded Universal Basic Income.

Action for Land Taxation & Economic Reform (ALTER) will hold its conference fringe on Sunday, 19th September 2021 13:05 to 14:15. The theme of the fringe is simulating a land value tax funded Universal Basic Income.

A presentation followed by Q&A’s will be made by Nikhil Woodruff, technical lead at the UBI Center, a think tank researching universal basic income policies. He is also the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at PolicyEngine. Other contributors to the research include Max Ghenis president of the UBI Center, and co-founder and CEO of PolicyEngine and Charles Bauman, research assistant at

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Democracy and Public Debate

Fake news and hate speech online – much of it spread via the giant tech platforms. Government ministers brazenly lying. Threats to the integrity of our elections through the dissemination of misinformation on social media. National newspapers that are increasingly partisan, and a local press too financially enfeebled to hold politicians to account.

In recent years, the quality of public debate in Britain has deteriorated sharply, thanks to all these factors and the increasing rejection of traditionally accepted norms of behaviour. And this threatens the very fabric of our democracy. We have lost a set of shared truths and facts around which we can base political debate. What can be done to reverse the decline?

A policy paper prepared by an FPC working group, to be debated at Autumn Conference, proposes a bold and distinctly liberal set of initiatives that carefully balance our rights and freedoms, especially the right to free speech, with the need to combat online harms and allow misinformation to be challenged.

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Some thoughts on Motion F12: Tackling the Climate Emergency: Proposals for Carbon Pricing

Motion F12 states that Lib Dem carbon pricing policy should be to reform the UK Emissions Trading System (ETS), and seek to return to the EU ETS. Carbon pricing was last debated by the party in 2005 and a simple carbon tax applied upstream to ‘primary fuels’ was supported then. Since then there have been several successful real world applications of the revenue neutral carbon pricing policy known as Carbon Fee and Dividend or Climate Income. In this system a steadily and predictably escalating carbon fee is placed on fossil fuels ‘upstream’, (i.e. at the point of extraction or production rather than consumption). This sends a clear message to producers and consumers, enabling them to plan ahead with the certainty that decarbonisation will be worthwhile.

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Social Care: It’s Not All About the Money

Social care has reared it’s head again on the national stage and some money has been proposed starting in 2023 with the new Health and Care Bill which just had its first reading.

Firstly, what IS social care? Well, it can be anything. Some people call it tasks of daily living and, while somewhat banal, it is also extremely important. Let’s face it, the engineers and retailers have made life easy for us. We now have prepared meals to go into the oven, washing machines, dishwashers, and some of us even have robotic vacuum cleaners.

Who is eligible? Anybody who has a disability which prevents them from getting washed and dressed, shopping, putting a meal in and out of the oven, washing their clothes, linens and towels, managing their money or socializing. This could be a long-term condition, such as MS or dementia, or a short-term condition, such as a broken arm.

The Money Currently, people with savings of under £23,500 are eligible for support from the local authority. They may either take this in the form of a direct payment or the council can organise social care on their behalf.

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China: What should be our long-term response?

This year’s autumn conference will see the launch of the party’s Federal International Relations Subcommittee on China to help the party and its members understand and deal with the multifaceted challenges of a rising authoritarian China.

In March 2019, when the UK was part of the EU, the Joint Communication EU-China: A Strategic Outlook came out. It defined the EU’s approach to China in the following way:

China is, simultaneously, in different policy areas, a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.

The broad-based nature of the relationship allows us to take such a differentiated approach, although it must be said that the possibilities of cooperation are continually narrowing as China takes more strident positions in the world, backed by its Wolf Warrior diplomacy.

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ICYMI: Sarah Green’s maiden speech

Here, in case you missed it, is our newest MP, Sarah Green’s maiden speech from Tuesday of this week.

A wonderful sight for those of us who helped get Sarah Green elected as MP for Chesham and Amersham. A short while ago, she made her maiden speech. It was warm, generous, gracious and funny. She paid a lovely tribute to her predecessor Dame Cheryl Gillan, talked about her beautiful constituency with huge affection and got in a criticism of HS2, a description of the roads as an assault course for drivers and a takedown of the Government for its absurd plans for voter ID.

And here it is in full, thanks to the magic of me asking her office for a copy:

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I regret my involvement in the Salmond Enquiry says Alex Cole-Hamilton

Alex Cole-Hamilton is conducting his early interviews as leader with considerable skill.

There’s a lot of core messaging around the Lib Dems being the alternative to the clash of nationalisms, to the SNP ruining public services and how we offer new hope. We Lib Dems will get utterly sick of these things at some point but we aren’t the target audience. The rest of the public doesn’t hang off every word our leader utters like we do. Well, we don’t really but we pay more attention than most people.  By the time we have heard what he wants to say eleventy million times, it will just be starting to resonate with the voters.

So, he has got the knack of throwing in something new in every interview. It keeps us interested and gets noticed by the wider public.

In today’s interview, with Scotland on Sunday, he reflects on the Salmond Enquiry, on which he was the Lib Dem representative. This was the cross party committee set up to investigate the issues around the complaints process in the Scottish Government used when women complained about Alex Salmond’s behaviour towards them when he was First Minister. Our Alex says that he now regrets his participation.

It was high pressure. I mean, it took up so much oxygen, so much time. But also, I’d been supporting a complainer privately who approached me, and I could see what every twist and turn of it was doing to her.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton presses Scottish Government on measures to tackle violence against women and girls

After Sarah Everard’s murder in March, women across the country were in shock and expressed their anger. So many took to social media to talk about how they had felt frightened when they were out and about.

I recorded a video at the time recounting my experience of being threatened by a man, which is pretty minor in the scheme of things, but it’s typical of the sort of thing women have to put up with:

We had a discussion amongst Scottish Lib Dem Women about what we could do to turn our anger into positive change that would make women safer outside, at home, at school and work. Because this is so wide-ranging, we came up with the idea of a Commission to look at ways of preventing violence against women and girls in all its forms which would report in the first year of the new Scottish Parliament.

These issues cut across the whole of Government, from education (over 90% of girls experience sexism and being sent unwanted explicit images), to housing (helping those in the sector identify and support victims of domestic abuse and help them stay in their own homes if it is safe for them to do so, from justice given the pitiful number of successful rape prosecutions to social security to tackle poverty (they could start by retaining the extra £20 per week for Universal Credit and getting rid of the wicked two child limit and rape clause) and employment to tackle sexual harassment at work. And you can add in planning to think about how you create safer communities. You need joined up thinking to bring all those strands together into a proper strategy.

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Dates for your diary: The rise of China and 40 years on from the Limehouse declaration

I thought it might be worth sharing a couple of things I’ve registered for this morning.

On Thursday 30th September at 11 am,  the Paddy Ashdown Forum will be hosting a debate on China. The motion is “This House believes that China is interested in coexistence rather than domination.”

This will be a hybrid event, both in person at the National Liberal Club and online. It’s the sort of thing you can listen in to if you are still working from home.

You can get more details and register here. 

The second is a virtual  event being hosted by Queen Mary University and the Mile End Institute on 22nd September at 6:30 pm on the Limehouse Declaration 40 years on. Can the SDP teach us anything today? A panel including Vince Cable, Lib Dem peer Julie Smith, Polly Toynbee who was one of the founder members of the SDP and senior lecturer Peter Sloman. You can register for that one here.

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UPDATED: Boris leaves Nicola isolated on vaccine passports

According to the Sunday Times (£), Boris Johnson may be about to ditch his controversial plans for vaccine passports in England to access nightclubs and other large indoor venues.

On Tuesday, the prime minister will announce plans to try to keep Covid under control over the winter. He will say that he has abandoned the proposed compulsory certification scheme, which would have forced venues to check people’s vaccine status.

Johnson tore up the proposals after scientists said vaccinations would be an effective first line of defence against a winter wave of the pandemic. But the move also represents a significant concession to Tory backbench rebels who had complained that enforcing vaccine passports would create a group of second-class citizens.

Liberal Democrats opposed the idea on principle on civil liberties grounds and also on practical grounds. The hospitality industry was raging about having to enforce them, it was going to be nigh on impossible to get one if you had had one vaccination in England and another in Scotland and it wouldn’t have been effective anyway given the spread of the Delta variant amongst double vaccinated people.

Alistair Carmichael described them as a “counterproductive illiberal gimmick” in an article for Politics Home to tie in with his urgent question on the issue:

Would you trust this government – this Prime Minister – with personal data of this sort?

We have never been a “papers please society” and if that is to change then at the very least we must be allowed to debate that change.

Once we cede the principle that it is acceptable for the government to regulate in this way not just where we can go and those with whom we can go then we will be at the top of a steep and slippery slope.

As history repeatedly shows us, when people give more powers to government to regulate their lives, governments are never swift to hand them back.

As an aside, when he asked his Urgent Question in Parliament, he had one of the lines of the year:

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Observations of an Expat: Bataclan

The Bataclan Trial which opened this week in Paris has huge domestic and international significance.

Domestically, it will be an act of national catharsis. 1,500 “civilian plaintiffs”—surviving victims and family members of the dead—are scheduled to give five weeks of testimony about the horror of the attack on Friday the 13th 2015 and its life-changing consequences.

The bulk of the nine-month trial, however, will focus on the details of the attack on the Bataclan Theatre, the Stade de France and the street cafes of the 10th and 11th arondissements, and the origins and planning of the operation. The latter will be closely followed by intelligence agencies around the world for information to help identify and defeat future attacks.

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Senior Lib Dems mark 9/11 anniversary

Senior Lib Dems have been reflecting on 9/11 and its aftermath:

 

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LibLink: Rabina Khan: Life as a British Muslim changed forever on 9/11

Writing in the Independent, Lib Dem Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan reflects on how 9/11 changed things for British Muslims.

She described her reaction on the day. Like our editor Caron Lindsay, she was cradling her baby as she watched events unfold on the television:

She described her sadness, and anger at that the perpetrators had done but also fear about what was coming for Muslims as a result of the actions of a few extremists who would be held to represent an entire religion:

At the same time, I felt anxious, knowing that some people would assume that all Muslims harboured the same views as the terrorists. Extremists are not Muslims and have deliberately skewed the texts to fit their homicidal agenda. They are murderers.

America’s response to that fateful day rewrote not just its own democracy but reshaped our world and the way we live. Our world witnessed the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, secret surveillance, increased dawn raids on Muslim homes, the way our children and young people were monitored at school. It became an era of fear and mistrust.

And it was that fear which had a profound effect on her daily life:

How can I forget the countless times I saw the look of dread and panic on people’s faces when I reached for my phone from my bag on the tube or the time when my rosary fell out of my bag during Ramadan? I remember a little after the terror attack my elderly gran’s beloved Adhan clock (the call to prayer) went off in her bag and people in the queue in a shop ran for the door.

Oblivious to the lingering, uncomfortable and judgmental stares in the shop from staff, my gran dressed in her crisp cotton white sari and head covered with a shawl, turned off the alarm, picked up the toy a parent had dropped and handed it back to the cashier. Recently, I was travelling on the tube in London when I was called a “f****** Muslim whore” by another passenger, but there were people who stood up for me.

Things have got worse in the meantime and she’s not optimistic for the future:

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9/11 remembered

Twenty years ago, about this time, I arrived home. It was a particularly uneventful Tuesday. My then toddler and I had been to parent and toddler group and had walked home and were about to have a wee snuggle on the sofa watching the Tweenies. Later that evening, my friend Anne and I were going to head off for a power walk to kickstart our Autumn fitness project.

And then I turned on the telly. Instead of watching Milo, Fizz, Bella and Jake do their thing, I sat, transfixed, by the events unfolding in front of me. The toddler was more about the snuggles than the actual content on the tv so was soon asleep. I was free to take in the horror of the third plane hitting the Pentagon.

I remember being jolted by the contrast of the horror in New York and President George W Bush reading to a class of 7 year olds.

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World Review: 9/11, Trudeau, Putin and Patel

It is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Two decades since 2,996 lives were lost in suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In New York the occasion will be marked by families of the dead reading statements about their loved ones. The event will be closed to the public. Elsewhere in the world, the anniversary will be marked with foreboding. The attack was carried out by Al Qaeeda and was planned and coordinated from its base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Within weeks a US-led NATO force toppled the Taliban government. There has not been a Jihadist attack on US soil since. President Biden has now withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban is back in power.

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ALDC by-election report: Great Newcastle win

The undoubted highlight of this week’s by-elections was a magnificent victory for ALDC’s very own Thom Campion (now Cllr Thom Campion!) who held Castle ward on Newcastle Council after a hard fought campaign with an impressive majority of over 500 and 42% of the vote. Congratulations Thom!

Elsewhere Lib Dem candidate Nick Brailsford finished a good second place in a by-election to Wingerworth Parish Council, while Marc Hadley came a very close third in a three-way contest in Penzance Promenade ward on Penzance PC.

Elsewhere there were a number of district and parish by-elections in North East Derbyshire that went to Labour

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World Suicide Prevention Day: A councillor view from the hill farm

It is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Tracey and Richard Huffer farm high on a hill in south west Shropshire. Tracey is also a health professional. Along with myself and four others, we are Lib Dem councillors in a very rural area. Sometimes it feels we can’t sit down for a chat without mentioning the “s” word. Someone else has taken their life. And it is mostly younger people, mostly men. This article reflects how on the growing problem of suicide in rural areas and the struggles councillors have to get help in tackling the problem.

Richard was at the livestock market selling sheep recently.

I was leaning against the railings at the sheep pens. An elderly farmer, a stranger, joined me and started pouring out about his son who had shot himself at the age of 30. I was probably one of the few people he had seen for a while, perhaps the only one for days.

I wish I could say this was a one off. Sadly not.

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Shaffaq Mohammed’s splendid defence of freedom

Shaffaq Mohammed, the Lib Dem leader of our group on Sheffield Council has criticised the a ban on the comedian Ray “Chubby Brown” performing at Sheffield City Hall.

Shaffaq says:

We live in a liberal society and people have individual freedom to choose to live the life they want and as part of that, they can choose to go watch a comedy show behind closed doors where no children are allowed.

He added:

It’s the start of a very slippery slope. Which comedian will be deemed not to be appropriate to come to Sheffield?

Would they move on to banning books and DVD’s in libraries next? Would people be banned from watching Roy Chubby Brown on Youtube next? Would they stop people from listening to rap music because clearly some of the lyrics can and are offensive?

In an interview on GB News Shaffaq says: “as a Liberal I defend people’s individual rights and individual freedom “

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments
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