24 June 2019 – today’s press release

Liberal Democrats score victory for access to justice

The House of Lords has today passed a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill that will protect access to justice for people at risk of being digitally excluded.

The Government Bill brings a number of court procedures online. Liberal Democrat peers, led by Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks, have raised concerns that moving certain proceedings online may put those who struggle to easily access digital systems at risk of being excluded from access to justice.

Lord Marks therefore tabled an amendment to the Bill to put a statutory duty on …

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: As I grieved my husband, internet trolls attacked

In her Scotsman column, Christine Jardine describes the pain of losing her husband during the election campaign in 2017 – which was then added to by attacks from internet trolls:

Two years ago, at the most difficult time in my personal life, a political activist who thought they were clever decided it was OK to launch a nasty, and untrue attack.

During the 2017 general election campaign, my husband had died from a sudden and unpredicted heart attack.

The circumstances were particularly difficult. We were separated, he was living on his own and, because my name on his list of next of kin was different from his, the police opted for the other person whose name was the same.

It was my daughter who took the call.

The next few days were a blizzard of emotional conversations until we received the results of a post-mortem which detailed how sudden and irretrievable his attack had been.

There were newspaper stories and obituaries to read from journalists and a media he had worked in for 30 years and who were keen to show their respect.

I struggled with the inevitable questions that come from a loved one’s death, exacerbated in this case by the guilt that came from decisions that had set us on different paths after 30 years together.

On the evening of the funeral, the attacks started:

I discovered I was accused on Twitter of breaking the cross-party agreement not to campaign as a mark of respect to the Manchester bombing.

At first I thought it was a mistake, and explained I had been at what I described as “a family funeral”.

Internet trolls started vying to see who could be nastiest about me, while others piled in to try and defend and one or two did send me an apology.

Next day it was all over the papers. There were demands for an apology aimed at the political party whose activist had started it all.

And at the centre of it all my daughter, who was trying to deal with the death of the father she adored, was now dealing with a vicious attack on her mother.

So what’s the way out of all of this?

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Ed’s Day – 24 June 2019

Ed started the week by having a good go at Boris on Politics LIve

And then on to the New Statesman hustings tonight.

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Jo’s Day – 24 June 2019

Monday started with Bollocks to Boris as well as Brexit- an article in The Times (£)

How much hardship will now be endured to satisfy Boris Johnson’s ego? How many families will find life harder for the sake of his ambition? How many patients will wait, propped up on plastic chairs in hospital corridors, for that £350 million a week he promised on the side of a bus?

One thing is for certain, Boris doesn’t care. Consequences are for other people. Just ask Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

And what do the Lib Dems offer?

Britain needs leaders who are up front and honest about the choices facing our country. I make no apology for wanting to stop Brexit — whatever version we end up getting will be a national disaster. And I’m not afraid to make that case to the British people.

The Liberal Democrats were the first to call for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal and I am proud to have been the party’s lead in that campaign, working alongside people of all parties and none in pursuit of a common goal. The European elections have now proved that we are UK’s biggest and strongest party of Remain.

And tonight, she and Ed took part in the New Statesman hustings.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine’s office flooding….

Flash floods hit Edinburgh this afternoon, and Christine Jardine paid the price of having a constituency office at the bottom of a hill on one of the busiest roads in Scotland.

That video now seems to have ended up on most outlets in Scotland and, once the waters had receded, Christine talked to the BBC, Forth, The Evening News, Heart FM and The Sun among other media outlets.

Her main message was to encourage people to look out for elderly neighbours.

The office sofa bed was sacrificed to stem the tide.

Part of the problem was that every time someone drove past the office, it made things worse:

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Lord (Geoff) Tordoff (1928-2019)

Sad news has reached the Liberal Democrat Voice team that Geoff Tordoff, a former President of the Liberal Party, and a retired member of the House of Lords, passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning after a short illness.

Geoff was elevated to the Lords in 1981, having played a significant part in the rebuilding of the Liberal Party through the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in four years as Chairman of the Party, as well as a term as President during the Alliance years.

He was highly respected in the Lords, and rose to become Chairman of Committees for a time not long after the Millennium. A patient, kindly man, he tended to avoid hyperbole and could be relied upon to manage the business of the House with tact and courtesy.

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Why we should support the United Nations

Mass migration was a concern for many who voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. There are three reasons for mass migration: 1) poverty, 2) conflict, and 3) natural disasters. Each of these causes of mass migration is being tackled under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs aim to ‘prevent conflict and maintain peace and security by ending poverty and ensuring access for all to basic services and human rights’. They were agreed in 2015 under the 2030 Agenda to improve on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They take a more holistic …

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Protesting the Hong Kong Extradition Bill – the story so far…

A million Hong Kong citizens went on a peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong on 12th June 2019 protesting against the government’s proposed Extradition Bill. Not only did the government refuse the demands of the demonstrators to retract the Bill, but they also described the movement as a “riot”. The police used heavy handed tactics to disperse the crowds including deployment of tear gas and pepper water spray, cornering and beating up protesters with police clubs and the making of arrests.

The government’s tactics infuriated those citizens who had not joined the demonstration, including those residing in overseas. The death of a …

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Chris Davies reselected in Brecon and Radnorshire: Welsh Lib Dems respond

Responding to the the news that the Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative Association have reselected Chris Davies as their candidate, a Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

Over 10,000 people signed the recall petition and decisively rejected Chris Davies because they had enough of an MP putting Brecon and Radnorshire on the map for all the wrong reasons.

By adopting Chris Davies again the Conservatives have demonstrated they can offer nothing more than an MP embroiled in controversy. People deserve better.

This by-election is a clear choice between the same old broken politics from the Conservatives, or a chance to demand better for our communities

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So what happens next in Brecon and Radnorshire?

Now that Conservative MP Chris Davies has been recalled and there will be a by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire, you might be wondering what happens next. Well, this evening he has been selected by the local Conservatives to fight the seat in the by-election despite having been convicted of submitting a fraudulent invoice and almost one in five of his constituents signing a petition to get him sacked.

The message from the Welsh Liberal Democrats is clear – people in Brecon deserve better:

Over 10,000 people signed the recall petition and decisively rejected Chris Davies because they had enough of an MP putting Brecon and Radnorshire on the map for all the wrong reasons.

By adopting Chris Davies again the Conservatives have demonstrated they can offer nothing more than an MP embroiled in controversy. People deserve better.

This by-election is a clear choice between the same old broken politics from the Conservatives, or a chance to demand better for our communities with Jane Dodds and the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

I’ve seen various people saying that it its he Speaker that calls the election and it will definitely be on 25th July.

That is not the case.

This is like any other by-election. It is up to the party who won the seat at the last election to decide when it will take place by moving the writ in the Commons. From the House of Commons website:

If the 10% threshold is reached the petitions officer informs the Speaker of the House of Commons that the recall petition has been successful. On the giving of that notice the seat becomes vacant. A by-election is then required and the recalled may stand as a candidate. The timing of a UK Parliamentary by-election is determined by custom of the House of Commons: the party that previously held the seat will usually decide when to trigger the by-election.

And what is the timescale?

A new Writ is usually issued within three months of the vacancy. There have been a few times when seats remained vacant longer than six months. Seats will be left vacant towards the end of a Parliament. They are then filled at the general election.

If there are many vacant seats by-elections can take place on the same day.

The by-election timetable is between 21 and 27 working days from the issuing of the writ.

If they do that tomorrow, then the by-election will likely take place on 25th July  but they could leave it till after the Summer recess if they wanted.

We shall just have to wait and see.

But whenever it happens, you do need to go if you possibly can. A by-election campaign at full pelt is a sight to behold. You get to see the pinnacle of best practice in our campaigns, you get to enjoy the fantastically busy atmosphere and, in this case, there will be gorgeous scenery.

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Jo’s Weekend – 21-23 June 2019

Jo’s interview with the New European came out:

I ask Jo Swinson why she should lead the Liberal Democrats and she takes a deep breath and manages to get it out in all of three sentences. “I’m the best person to lead the movement because I can reach out to new voters, through traditional broadcast media, where I have a high profile, and through social media, where I have a high following.

I also think I can reach out across the generations and across the country. I have cross-party relationships and a non-tribal style, which I think is exactly what we need at the moment.”

And she talks about the need for a more diverse country:

I recognise that ours is still a racist country. We have not dealt with those issues as much as we would have liked to, even if there has been progress in some areas. I would hope that one day soon we could have a black leader of a political party.

Ours should be a country where every individual has an opportunity to thrive. That is not currently the case – partly on the basis of race, gender, disability, socio-economic background, sexual orientation or whatever – and, as it is, we are probably in line for another Etonian prime minister. Quite frankly, a large number of people are still not achieving their potential in our country, and, as a liberal, I am not happy with that and want to change it.

In Wales, she met Welsh Leader and Brecon and Radnorshire by-election candidate Jane Dodds.

 

And in Cornwall she was helping campaign for fairer NHS funding for the county:

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Ed’s weekend – 21-23 June 2019

We last left Ed about to go on Question Time on Thursday night.  You can, and should, watch the whole thing here. He answered very effectively questions about Boris (which sparked his lengthy and brilliant Twitter rant of many of the worst things Boris has done), Brexit and knife crime and the importance of winning the arguments on vaccinating children.

On Friday, it was time for his Politics Home interview:

He talked about his idea for a government of national unity:

Davey is clear he would like to be Prime Minister. However, in the current Brexit deadlock, he is also advocating a Government of National Unity.

“I think there are just about enough MPs from a plethora of parties who are so alarmed at a no deal prospect, who are so alarmed at the way our politics has been polluted by these hard-right Brexiteers, that they will come together. It will not be easy, but I could see a backbench Labour MP, I wouldn’t name them but you can guess who they might be, being given support from enough people from enough parties that we could send a message to the Palace that if they send for that member of Parliament they will be able to command a majority of the House of Commons.”

He says that this “Government of National Unity” would not be a coalition. “It would be a temporary phenomenon in order to stop no-deal. In order pass the paving legislation for a people’s vote and then be a caretaker government to oversee the process until that vote happened.”

He talks about the Lib Dems being the party of business:

“I’m pro-competition. I’m pro-entrepreneur. I’m pro-free trade. It is in our liberal economic agenda, but we do not think markets are there to tell us what to do, we’re there, through democratic means, to shape those markets.”

Davey says there are lots of examples of this in action, but “the one I’m focussing on is climate change”. “It is absolutely outrageous that people in our country are allowed to not take account of climate change risks in their decisions. We are facing a climate emergency.”

The former Environment Secretary wants to make sure “all these institutions and corporates have to disclose both their investments in fossil fuels”.

He wrote a blistering article in the Independent about how the Tories have learned nothing from their Windrush Scandal failure:
A year on from the first Windrush Day, the hostile environment is as hostile as ever.

These policies, which turn teachers, doctors, police officers and bank clerks into border guards, are exactly the policies that led members of the Windrush generation to be deprived their rights, detained and even deported. The Windrush scandal should have been the end of them. And yet, for all the Conservatives’ apologising and hand-wringing, they remain in force

Most outrageous is the Conservatives’ refusal to scrap their “right to rent” law. This requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants or prospective tenants, with the threat of a criminal conviction if they rent to someone they shouldn’t.

When the Conservatives first tried to introduce this law in 2014, the Liberal Democrats in government blocked it. We argued that making landlords criminally responsible for immigration enforcement would lead to racial discrimination.

He highlighted the story of the man who had to sleep in a shed because he had no way of proving he had the right to stay here.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has shown clearly, through a “mystery shopper” exercise, that the Liberal Democrats’ fears were well-founded. On the basis of that and other supporting evidence, the High Court ruled in March that the Conservatives’ “right to rent” policy breaches fundamental human rights because it essentially forces private landlords to discriminate against prospective tenants who are Bame or who don’t have a British passport.

What would we do about it?

That’s why the Liberal Democrats would take responsibility for immigration away from the Home Office altogether.

The Departments for Business, Education and International Development should make policy on work permits, student visas and asylum respectively. And we would set up a new, arms-length, non-political agency to take over the actual processing of visa and asylum applications, with the training and resources to process applications quickly, decide cases fairly, and get them right the first time.

He also wrote for the Huffington Post about why we need a Boris-busting Remain Alliance:

Anyone who hopes Johnson won’t commit a Brexit calamity is basing that on his dishonesty. And he is indeed capable of yanking up the handbrake on the Brexit bus and committing a massive, shameless u-turn. But we cannot rely on him for that or indeed anything else.

Which is why a Remain Alliance is needed in Parliament, anchored around the Liberal Democrats – the only major national party to call for a People’s Vote from the get go and now with the democratic legitimacy of having beaten every other party in Parliament in last month’s European elections.

This Remain Alliance must first stop a no-deal Brexit. From a Humble Address to Her Majesty to passing a new law requiring a vote of MPs before the UK could leave the EU, we must examine every option to stop Boris. And we must be ready to use Parliament’s ultimate weapon – a vote of no confidence in a Johnson government.

There were hustings this weekend in Wales – good coincidence on the day that we find out that there’s going to be a by-election in a seat that we used to hold following the recall of the MP who was convicted of submitting a fraudulent invoice.

 

And he cleaned the beach in Bude ahead of the Cornwall hustings:

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Lib Dem Councillor Julia Ogiehor speaks out after being racially abused on the Tube

Haringey Lib Dem Councillor Julia Ogiehor has described, in a very disturbing Twitter thread, how she suffered disgusting racial abuse on the tube earlier this week:

She also spoke to the Guardian about her ordeal:

According to Ogiehor, the two white men said they were from Liverpool after a fellow commuter intervened and sat next to her, before the men accused her of being “ashamed” of where she was from.

“One of them called me uneducated, and looked like I didn’t go to university,” Ogiehor said. “I had my hands up saying I do not want to speak to you any more, then one of the guys tried to pull my hands down and demanded I get out of his sight.

“I recoiled and said please do not touch me, as he kept saying I had no common sense and that I was uneducated at the top of his voice. I was the only black person in the carriage and he seemed to expect everyone would be on their side. They seemed to be a little taken aback when that was not the case.”

She added: “They had such a sense of entitlement and sounded offended that I refused to go into my heritage and did indeed come from London.”

And Julie talked about the importance of showing solidarity when you see others under attack:

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Bungling Boris and his baffling Brexit bravado

Likely next PM, Boris Johnson, now has the unenviable task of facing disgruntled Tory party members at hustings across the UK. Worse, he has to do this side-by-side with the bland Jeremy Hunt.

Boris is surely aware that these disgruntled souls feel that way because, after 40 years of anti-EU and anti-immigrant campaigning by the far-right UK press, they were then promised (and voted for) a painless easy Brexit, and a grovelling EU. Once Brexit is implemented, the UK can then go about kicking out various foreigners, as they have been led to believe. Britain as a Great Power, they believe, would be able to trade with the EU on the same easy terms as now, and on better terms with the rest of the world … whilst ending free movement in the EU and severing all links with the European Court of Justice and its supposed terrorist-loving human rights regime.

The last three years has inevitably dented such ‘true faith’ beliefs as reality has set in. However the Tory members being faced by Boris in the coming weeks have been desperate to find a saviour who can restore their faith, and preserve their whole weltanschauung. Boris has found a very willing audience indeed for the view that the stalemate of the last three years is not due to inflated expectations at all. No. They are merely due to Theresa May, Olly Robbins and Mark Sedwill being weak negotiators. These Tories desperately want to believe in Boris and believe that all the promises can be kept and their patriotic beliefs kept intact.

Thus Boris has to give them what they want, and he has made it his raison d’etre. His audience must have hope to cling on to. Boris, though vague so far, does have a discernible plan for them to lap up. It will probably be presented to Tories like this.

He will say that Article XXIV of the GATT and Article V of the GATS (WTO conditions of membership) allow the UK to declare that after Oct 31st  they are ‘in the process’ of negotiating a new trade agreement and thus the EU is allowed to give the UK special treatment and continue the current tariff & regulatory regime as an interim agreement, giving the UK 10 years to negotiate a permanent deal. He will say that the EU will be forced to agree to this interim agreement, and allow the UK to exclude free movement and ECJ jurisdiction from it, because if they don’t accept all this, the UK will refuse to pay the £39bn EU exit fee.

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Is two party politics dead?

We’ve now had four opinion polls in a row which have put the Lib Dems in second place behind Brexit and in front of both Tory and Labour parties. This is not a flash in the pan! Real votes have been cast in real elections. Of course, in the Euro-Elections we came second and gained 15 seats. In local elections yesterday we made major advances in 9 out of 10 wards contested and a gained a seat from Labour for a mediocre third place.

Does this mean a real change in the way that the UK does business? I suspect it does. With one exception – the election in 2017 there has been a move away from two-party politics. In the 50s 95%+ of the population voted Tory or Labour. The Liberals were a Celtic fringe Party and the Welsh Nats Scots Nats and the Green Party did not even exist.

Lord Wade who had been a Liberal MP in the 50s and 60s conjectured that there were basically three political spheres in all societies. A right-wing sphere; a left-wing sphere; and a centrist sphere. In the UK those spheres were most populated by the Tory, Labour and Lib (Dem) Parties. Even the nationalist parties can be located within these spheres as their Parties in or out of government make decisions which can be judged and verified.

 The big secret is that for much of that time there has been a huge overlapping of those spheres in this Country and to some extent that cohesion between the spheres still exists although it is weakening. All three big spheres overlapped for 60% of policy making but any of those spheres could in part, as per a Venn diagram, have two spheres overlapping instead of three. Thus, on some issues there would be agreement between Tory and Labour; others between Labour and the Lib Dems and others between the Lib Dems and Tories. The fact that this worked in a binary system of government is largely because of the overlap reduced tensions and differences.

The past three years have seen much change. The spheres have pulled apart as the Parties that were in two of them have pulled their spheres further away from the Centre. The impetus for both the Parties in them is Brexit. In the case of the Tories a new Party is pushing the Tories outwards. In the case of Labour, the Leader of the Party is pushing the Labour Party outward. Both Parties by moving outwards are leaving behind a proportion of people in who now feel more comfortable in the relationship with the centrist sphere or Lib Dems as we are now known!

I think that this has two possible outcomes because people in the UK are reasonably comfortable in the broad central area where the three spheres overlap. We are not, by nature an extremist country. For most people ‘muddling through’ and ‘getting on’ are the way that we have done things.

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Why everyone who wants to win elections should go to Brecon this Summer

I’ve had a pretty good couple of years as a Lib Dem – in 2018 I was part of the team that produced a “shock” victory in South Cambs, going from 14/57 to 30/45 councillors, and last month I helped organise our Chelmsford campaign, where we went from 5 to 31 seats, the highest gain in the country.  I know how to win elections.

But 3 years ago I didn’t.  Richmond Park by-election was great for our party and the remainer cause, but it was also great personally for me, because I got to learn from the best.

In December 2016 I had a free week so I offered to go and help out with the by-elections, and James Lillis said I could help with GOTV.  So on the Saturday before I turned up at HQ, and after a morning of delivery and canvassing reported for duty at the data bunker.

The next week was one of the most stressful, entertaining and fulfilling of my life.  It started with drawing out polling districts on a huge map on the floor whilst the rest of the team jumped over me (not deliberately, it was just a small space) and ended with me being responsible for the organisation of all the Polling Day materials that ensured our committee rooms could Get Out the Vote. But more importantly I was in a room with the best Lib Dem campaigners in the country – and I learned so much from just observing them.  I got to see the deliberations about what to say in literature, observe the candidate prep for hustings, watch data guru’s creating lists in connect, discuss whether we should include Bob Geldof saying “F*** Zac” in an online video and be part of the most finely tuned Get Out The Vote machine the party has ever organised.

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22 June 2019 – the overnight press release

Tory leadership contenders must reverse school cuts

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran will today use a speech at the ‘Together for Education Rally’ in Westminster to call on the Conservative Party leadership contenders to reverse cuts to schools.

According to the campaign, 91% of schools have suffered per-pupil funding cuts in real terms since 2015. It would cost £2.2 billion to bring funding back up to 2015 levels.

In a bid to reverse these cuts, parents, MPs, councillors and trade unionists will meet in London this Saturday for the Together for Education rally.

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran …

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Isabelle Parasram writes….Celebrating Windrush Day

As a child of the Windrush generation, Windrush Day is hugely important to me. I’m so glad that we, as a society, are marking it.

The term ‘the Windrush Generation’ stems from the arrival, on June 22, 1948, of the ship The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, just east of London, bringing with it the first immigrants from the Caribbean.

It denotes the large-scale influx of Caribbean immigrants during the years that followed.There’s been a lot of Press about the terrible treatment of people who came here from the Caribbean in the late 1940s and onwards, who now find that their very official existence has been denied.There’s also much discussion about the poor treatment of those Caribbean immigrants upon their arrival in the UK to date.

But there are also some positive stories and memories mixed in with those experiences.

I’ve recorded an 8-minute audio interview with someone who came to this country in 1962. She shared with me some of her memories and they were both good and bad. You can listen to the interview here via Soundcloud:

The memories shared in the interview are such as these:

I came to the UK after a one month journey from Trinidad by ship with my young stepson and my new baby boy. When we arrived it was the coldest winter they’d had in a long time and we only had summer clothes.

I remember having no furniture, no heating, no washing machine, no fridge, no winter clothes. We had to try to stay warm in one roomusing a paraffin burner. Then, on Christmas Day, someone gave us a bed for my stepson. I was so happy!

It was hard to find a job because no black people were allowed. The British people didn’t want immigrants –“…no black people”, they said.

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Jane Dodds: Choose a better future for Brecon and Radnorshire with the Lib Dems

Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds will be the candidate in a by-election in the seat of Brecon and Radnosrhire after the recall petition for former Conservative MP Chris Davies received almost double the required number of signatures. The by-election date has not yet been announced but it may well be before the end of July.

Thousands of residents across Brecon and Radnorshire have taken the chance to demand better than a Westminster politics that fails to take their concerns seriously.

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Free movement: UK arrivals and departures

In an increasingly interdependent world UK public policy should acknowledge international mobility and diversity as a permanent social trend

Many people who’ve lived in Britain all their lives dream of winning the National Lottery and being able to move away to some sun-kissed paradise overseas.  Brits routinely holiday abroad and migration, whether short-term or long-term, is common.  

Most of us, however, continue to live in a country where we can enjoy beautiful countryside and coastline, historic buildings, a varied arts and culture scene, and a tradition of volunteering and community support groups. The population of the UK is generally tolerant and easy-going, happy to share these good things with people from other countries. That said, the media keeps telling us that since Brexit there has been growing xenophobia and resentment towards foreign nationals in Britain.

Yet in spite of social and political reserve in some quarters towards foreigners, many people do want to come and live here.  The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (MSQR) of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) notes that in the year ending June 2017 immigration to the UK was 572,000 (down 80,000 since June 2016) and emigration was 342,000 (up 26,000). To quote the report: “overall, more people are still coming to live in the UK than are leaving and therefore net migration is adding to the UK population.”  

So, what really attracts them to the UK?

In their recent study, Buying into Myths: Free Movement of People and Immigration 2016, Eiko Thielemann and Daniel Schade have suggested that migration flows between EU countries including Britain have been largely the result of high levels of unemployment in southern Europe and poor labour market conditions in Eastern European countries. Unemployment rates in the UK have been low compared to such countries. And when you don’t have work, one obvious option is to move somewhere else to look for a job.

Vasileva first came to Britain from her native Bulgaria in June 2008 She’s now  forty-something-years-old, is raising a family, and has lived in York for almost ten years. She has a permanent job as an office manager with an international training company. Vasileva says she enjoys the cosmopolitan feel of this country, the chance to share meals and conversation with people from all over the world. She loves the sense of community and support, and “people realising the value of these things.”

Something that native monolingual Brits find incredibly hard to understand is that many people come to study, live and work here simply because they know that the best way to learn a language is to come to the country where it is spoken. There is a global hunger for learning English, and with this there is often a natural curiosity to learn about the culture that lies behind the language. Take Céline, for instance. She’s a 32-year-old French teacher who has also lived in the north of England for just under ten years. “I love speaking English every day, and sharing my passion for languages with my students and the children in school.” She loves the kindness she has experienced here as well as the British sense of humour. 

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Lib Dems oppose SNP plans to delay Gender Recognition Act Reform

The SNP Government announced yesterday that it was kicking the can down the road on gender recognition act reforms.

While acknowledging the need for reform, Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told the Scottish Parliament:

I am a feminist, and I am deeply—and rightly—proud that this Government has taken such clear and concerted action to protect women’s rights and to promote gender equality. I have stated before, as has the First Minister, that I do not feel a conflict between my support for women’s rights and my support for trans rights. However, I know and I understand that many people do. It is important that we listen to and address those concerns.

This is a very disappointing decision not least because the government is pandering to scaremongering and misinformation. Trans people are suffering every day from abuse and discrimination. Ministers should look at evidence not media hyperbole.

Every day in the media, we see yet another attack on trans people and the organisations that support them. And every time these have been scrutinised – such as when the charity Mermaids was subjected to a review for funding which they eventually got – they have been found to be completely without foundation.

All GRA Reform does is make it easier for trans people to change their birth certificate. Scotland’s feminist organisations are all in favour of reform. Last year at Conference, Lib Dem Voice hosted a meeting at which Emma Ritch from Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance explained how their organisations in Scotland had worked together for equal rights for all.

Christine Burns, who was at the forefront of campaigning for the law to be changed to protect transgender people from discrimination back in the 80s and 90s, highlighted the dangers of the Scottish Government’s approach:

Women are women. And trying to draw divisions between cis and trans over who gets women’s rights is exactly the divide and conquer tactics used by the people who want to diminish *all* women’s rights and all human rights.

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Remembering the liberty message among the Brexit madness

The Liberal Democrat result in the European Elections has shown that the #BollocksToBrexit message has finally got through.  But my twitter feed in the last couple of days makes me think that our position on civil liberties is also very relevant to the chaos around Brexit and all that this stirs up for people.

Recently there was an article in the Telegraph  about secret talks between some Tory donors and Nigel Farage with a view to a pact to avoid Tory Brexiteer and Brexit Party candidates standing against each other. 

My twitter feed had a string of comments from people alarmed at this. The sharpest I saw was from @bulshdetector  on 16 June: 

 

This is a different time and the parallels between now and then shouldn’t be drawn too closely, but the anxiety is real and should be engaged with.

Christina Wieland’s majesterial book The fascist state of mind and the manufacturing of masculinity gives a perceptive account of how people’s real anxieties left them prey to strong-sounding leaders in Germany and Italy in the 1930s. Earlier this year, the Hansard Society’s 2019 Audit of Political Engagement showed 54% of Britons in favour of a “strong leader who would break the rules”. It’s tempting to read the show of machismo in the Tory leadership contest as a competition to take up that role — in eliminating Rory Stewart they removed the voice calling this out.

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The Merton Machine smashes it – another Lib Dem GAIN

What a fantastic result to wake up to! Honestly, I tried to stay awake, but I just couldn’t.

We got 8% last time!

Let’s hear it for the amazing Merton Machine and Cllr Jennifer Gould. Super Six now becomes Magnificent Seven!

And we had another amazing step forward in Furzedown ward in Wandsworth – up 18% for goodness sake.

Nice work from Jon Irwin and his team.

And another super increase in vote share from Julie Burridge in the Isle of Wight.

Thanks to Frank Little in Wales for flying the Lib Dem flag and giving people the chance to vote for us.

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Tory leadership contest already degenerating into online abuse.

One of the reasons there is a lot of solidarity among women in politics is that we all have to put up with a lot of the same crap.

We have to deal with people thinking that they have the right to say things to us about our appearance, our behaviour and our beliefs than they would ever dare to say to another man.

So when I saw Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach tweet a horrible message (which she has since deleted) she’d had from a male Tory MP, my first thought was sympathy for her.

At the tail end of the coalition, I actually felt I was going to completely go under at one point with all the abuse I was getting. And the worst was from fellow Lib Dems telling me what a disgrace I was. The pro-coalition people didn’t think I was loyal enough to Nick Clegg. The anti-coalition people thought I was too slavishly loyal to Nick Clegg.  And I got it at full pelt from both sides.

A year or so later, I wrote about the experience, and this seems to be a good time to reprise that here:

The internet is a pretty torrid place at the best of times. Some users delight in throwing rage, bile and abuse around the place. If you are a woman the abuse can be particularly graphic, sexualised and incredibly unpleasant.

In a feature for Radio 5 live, 3 politicians, including our former minister Jo Swinson, talk about their experiences of online abuse and how it affected them. Also taking part are my SNP MP Hannah Bardell and Labour’s Diane Abbott, who gets a whole load of racist bile thrown in just for good measure.

This is fairly routine for any woman who commits the “offence” of going on the internet in possession of an opinion. I’ve come in for it myself and it does wear you down. There was a time a couple of years ago where it really started to affect me badly and reduced me to tears on several occasions. The European elections disaster and the independence referendum combined to create what seemed to be a never-ending spiral of abuse. The most hurtful came from commenters on this site, members of the party, some of whom I actually know in real life, who said some pretty unpleasant personal stuff, but they were just part of it. It felt that wherever I turned, there was nastiness.

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Ed’s Day – 20 June 2019

Ed is on Question Time tonight at 10:35 pm along with the ultra Brexity Weatherspoons owner Tim Martin.More on that tomorrow.

Earlier, he had a right go at the Home Office for tweeting about Pride when it treats LGBT+ people so disgracefully.

And a message for Clean Air Day..

And I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that he’s not a fan of Boris. This is a very long thread but you really should read the whole thing.

Both candidates had the chance to have an email sent out by Lib Dem HQ. Here’s Ed’s:

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Jo’s Day – 20 June 2019

We had gone to bed before Jo last night so we missed her interview on Peston:

And a few hours later she was on Sky:

Then a message for World Refugee Day

Both candidates have had their second emails sent out through the party. Jo’s comes from one of our new MEPs, Antony Hook:

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Jo Swinson: Arms sales to Saudi Arabia must be suspended immediately

Today the Campaign Against the Arms Trade won its legal challenge to the Conservative Government’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

Jo Swinson called on the Government to suspend arms sales immediately.

Saudi Arabia is an enemy of British values, including human rights and the rule of law. Their repeated violation and disregard for human rights should have ruled them out as an arms trading partner long ago.

Instead the Conservative government have continued to export arms and equipment to this brutal regime. The situation is inexcusable and cannot continue.

This court ruling is monumental.

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Ed Davey writes…World Refugee Day: Restoring compassion and dignity

Today is World Refugee Day – when we celebrate the amazing contributions that refugees make to the social, cultural and economic life of our country, and raise awareness of the 29 million refugees and asylum seekers around the world.

Every minute, 30 people are forced to flee their homes to escape the horrors of war, violence or persecution.

This is the biggest refugee crisis in history. The number of refugees has doubled in the last fifteen years. More than half of them are children. Over 6 million refugees are from Syria.

The UK has a long and proud record of providing asylum to seekers of sanctuary – from Jews escaping Nazi Germany to Sri Lankans, Somalians and Syrians fleeing civil war.

But now, the Conservatives seem determined to make our asylum system as cruel and unwelcoming as possible.

The clearest example is the inexplicable ban on asylum seekers working while their claims are processed. Thousands of people are left waiting for months for a decision, dependent on a government handout of £37.75 a week.

Allowing asylum seekers to work is a no-brainer. It’s good for them, good for businesses and good for taxpayers. That’s why the Liberal Democrats have tabled legislation to give asylum seekers the right to work if they’ve been waiting for more than three months.

The Government must also stop locking up asylum seekers – including victims of torture – in detention centres with no idea when they’ll be released. It’s inhumane, unnecessary and expensive.

The Liberal Democrats believe detention should be an absolute last resort, and we are supporting cross-party efforts to impose a 28-day time limit on detention.

Beyond these clear issues, though, is a pernicious culture at the Home Office that means asylum seekers are treated appallingly. It has a shockingly poor record on getting decisions right, with 44% of appeals upheld by a judge.

Officials treat even the most vulnerable people with callous suspicion. This is particularly bad for LGBT+ asylum seekers, who are often asked to prove their sexuality in humiliating ways. Some are asked explicit questions about sex lives, while others are forced to produce screenshots of their conversations on dating sites, or statements from former partners.

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With Tories deaf to Rory, and Corbyn rehashing Wilson, the Lib Dems should flourish even more

According to last night’s Newsnight, and Heather Stewart in the Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn told a very fractious shadow cabinet meeting that he was reading Harold Wilson’s memoirs as inspiration. Shadow ministers saw that as a signal that Corbyn, like Wilson, “is not ready to become a cheerleader” for EU membership. 

According to  those memoirs, published in  1986,  end in 1964, the year he became PM and  started grappling with the possibility of EEC accession which he asked for after vastly improving his government majority in 1966). 

In their book “Post-War Britain, 1945-1992” (Penguin Books, 1993), professors Sked & Cook tell us that Wilson as shadow Foreign Affairs spokesman  was “unenthusiastic” about the EEC and was “characteristically (..) content to follow rather than to lead”. Wilson wrote in 1962 that “a dying government doesn’t have the right (..) to take a divided nation into” the EEC.”

Andrew Marr (“A History of Modern Britain”; Pan/Macmillan, 2009, p. 295) writes about Wilsons opinion on the EEC in 1965: “the strongest view” he had about joining the EEC “was that he didn’t have a view”. And Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson ) and Marr say Wilson never had a holiday on the continent; whereas his Tory successor Ted Heath had oodles of continental travels and ditto political conversations from the 1930’s onward (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Heath ; and Marr, p. 295, 327). And Marr writes that Wilsons contribution to the 1975 EEC referendum was mumbling “vaguely in support, rather than actively making the European case” (p. 348).

You can see many similarities with Corbyn; the only difference is he never wrote that the dying May/Johnson government doesn’t have the right to push the divided UK out of the EU.

So we cannot possibly, ever expect any strong Remain endorsement from Wilsonite Corbyn.

On the other side we have Farage’s raging Brexit Party, and a field of four Tory leadership candidates with unicornish ideas of blackmailing, cajoling the EU (with threats of No Deal and no Severance payments) into a “good deal”. The only voice of reason and realism about that, Rory Stewart, stayed in as long as he was useful to push Raab out, and then was left dangling.

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Rory Stewart: you were honest with the Tory Party about Brexit, now it’s time you were honest with yourself

Dear Rory, 

As the only person standing for the leadership of the Tory Party (“Conservative” must now surely be considered an oxymoron) who recognises how much damage Brexit will cause our country, I was saddened to see you knocked out of the contest yesterday. 

I will not go as far as saying I would vote for you; fundamentally I only vote for people who will stop Brexit and address the real problems in this country through root and branch reform of our own broken political system. However, I did very much respect your open and honest approach with Brexit supporters and the clear way in which you explained the fundamental problems that are yet to be addressed by this failing government.

Sadly your Party appears to have chosen to “believe in the bin” and are duly committing themselves to the trashcan of history. 

However, although I admire the honesty of your campaign, I also think you have been naïve. Although, you have recognised and communicated the problems of ‘no deal’ Brexit, the only solution you were able to offer was to ratify May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

Like many others, I don’t see the DUP, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems, Greens or ERG suddenly shifting position because of a People’s Assembly. However, even if you managed to get the deal through Parliament and avert ‘no deal’ in October, I believe this would only be a very short-lived stay of execution. Any such agreement would become the new rallying point of the Faragists and we would just face another battle to try to save a weaker agreement in which we are already relegated to being a rule-taker.

Fundamentally, I believe this is an attempt to appease the unappeasable. Such efforts actually only serve to undermine our work to crystallise support for a People’s Vote and rally opposition against the media-dominant isolationist agenda. 

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