Gosport findings ‘shocking and devastating’

We have all be shocked by the revelations about the inappropriate treatment of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Here is Norman Lamb talking about the way the NHS closed ranks when he was Health Minister, and how he called for the enquiry that has just been completed.

We also have some quotes from him:

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‘Not-Spots’: if the networks won’t fill them, should Lib Dems try to force them to?

It’s mid-June and the time for London Technology week, a showcase for technological innovation. 5th generation mobile phones are almost upon us and along with the promise of blazingly fast mobile download speeds comes a renewed call for mobile phone operators to improve the rural coverage of their networks. In a conference sponsored by technology thinktank Cambridge Wireless, industry players gathered to discuss the issue in the high tech ambience of the Digital Catapult on the Euston Road.

Large areas of the UK, especially Scotland, still do not receive good quality mobile coverage. A report published earlier this year by Ofcom, the official body that regulates communication, found that 30% of the UK’s landmass lacks coverage from at least one of the ‘big four’ mobile networks, increasing to 60% in Scotland. Worse, there are many so-called ‘not-spots’ where there is no coverage at all. As one speaker explained to the assembled audience, planning rules don’t help: the UK has one of the most stringent height restrictions in the world for mobile phone masts, greatly limiting the coverage area each mast can provide.

Worried about the continuing ‘digital divide’, Ofcom proposes that new licences to operate networks should come with an obligation to provide 92% coverage of the UK landmass. They claim that this will benefit rural communities that otherwise would miss out if operators determined coverage on purely commercial considerations. This has powerful political support from lobbying groups such as the Countryside Alliance, and the 2017 Liberal Democrat manifesto committed to improving rural mobile coverage. I believe these calls are misguided and will create social injustices while reducing the quality of mobile networks in the UK, thus directly harming our economy.

There is no doubt that improving coverage in a rural area does indeed benefit the local economy since individuals and businesses that rely on good mobile and internet can occupy properties they would not have previously considered. This attracts more affluent persons to low-cost rural areas, providing them with improved lifestyle opportunities, and creating a demand for local services.

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Review: Global Soul – Nick Clegg’s latest podcast with author Elif Shafak

The latest in Nick Clegg’s Anger Management series of podcasts is my favourite in the series so far, by a long way.

He talked to writer, feminist and campaigner Elif Shafak. I was so impressed with her that I immediately went and bought a whole load of her books.

She talked about the importance of appealing to emotions, of the very real threat to democracy posed by populists across the world, of the threat of majoritarianism – where the rights of marginalised groups are ignored.

She talked of the importance of dialogue and not writing off people who have a different view, of …

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Winning back former south-western strongholds: looking beyond Brexit

As a member in the south-west of England I am acutely aware of how we have fallen behind in the rural areas of England where we used to be able to garner a large amount of support. The south-west has a quite rare mixture of very rural communities and a long liberal tradition. In fact, my own constituency of Tiverton and Honiton (now a deep blue Tory area) was once partly represented by Lord Palmerston who was the MP for Tiverton while Prime Minister. Given the past support in the south-west …

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Christine Jardine’s personal story on why we need to legalise cannabis

I was moved to read Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine’s take on the legalisation of cannabis. She has epilepsy and tells her personal story about why she feels legalising medicinal cannabis is necessary.

“The doctors could not then, and cannot even now, offer an explanation as to what caused me to have a major grand mal seizure in my sleep.

For many years, I was afraid to sleep alone if my husband was away in case I had attack and there was nobody there to look after me.”

She also shared the story of a constituent who is desperate for medicinal cannabis for her young son.

Medicinal cannabis has the potential to alleviate the suffering of thousands of children in this country.

Children like my constituent Murray Gray, whose rare myoclonic astatic epilepsy can put him through multiple seizures a day, have their schooling interrupted, their health affected and their families constantly worried for their safety.

Christine’s empathy and angle on this subject is well worth a read. You can find the full article here.

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All the best, Jo…

This afternoon, MPs who really shouldn’t have been in the House of Commons, either through very advanced pregnancy or serious illness, had to go in and vote on that Brexit amendment.

One of them was our Jo Swinson, who is two days past her due date with her second baby. It is entirely unsurprising that she made it in to vote. Anyone who knows how committed and determined she is will know that unless she was in fairly advanced labour, she would made it. She still deserves respect for doing so. Most women have stopped going into the office …

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Theresa May – the Tories’ Harold Wilson?

Embed from Getty Images

Mark Pack recently tweeted:


It is a very interesting parallel.

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Know about crime and policing or how to share benefits of economic growth?

The Federal Policy Committee is looking for volunteers to serve on two working groups which will bring forward new policy on crime and policing and on sharing the benefits of economic growth:

The FPC is looking to appoint members of these groups to develop policy in each of these areas.

Both working groups will take evidence in the second half of 2018, run consultation sessions at Spring Conference 2019 and prepare their final drafts over March-June 2019. These will be presented to FPC for amendments and approval. Subject to this approval, the final papers will be published in July 2019, and debated

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What’s happened to the “Official Opposition”?

We have all got used to the Labour leadership opting out, abstaining, even penalising their MPs who actually vote to oppose the Conservative Government. So I suppose we should not be surprised when they stay mum, sit on their hands and pretend it is not important to investigate whether the Russians interfered with the 2016 EU Referendum.

This was the issue I raised with the Minister in a Topical Question in the Lords on Tuesday. I warned that the “piecemeal approach” currently adopted could prove dangerous; I had in mind the lack of effective protection of our electoral system if …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | 12 Comments

Compassion and Trust in Politics

What is the matter with Theresa May?  Is she really the untrustworthy and uncompassionate minister she has been portrayed, or does she just surround herself with advisers who are like that?

This morning on the Today programme Dominic Grieve spoke with barely veiled anger at the way he and others were let down by the PM last week over Europe amendments.  Well, that’s politics you may say.  But this interview followed soon after John Humphreys interviewed a mother who had been trying to get special cannabis oil for her epileptic child.  Not the mother who was interviewed by him yesterday who had just got Sajid Javid to relent and let her keep the cannabis oil she had brought back from Canada. Both families had spent tens of thousands of pounds having their children treated abroad and met uncompassionate and callous resistance from ministers and officials – especially in the Home Office.

Coming back to Theresa May – she apparently met the mother interviewed this morning, in March, and promised her that she would sort it so that her child could use the oil.  Her officials have still not approved the special licence and been deeply unhelpful to the mother concerned.  Theresa May’s flash of compassion has not been followed through – again showing she can’t be trusted.

Who presided over the Home Office and is responsible for the Windrush debacle: the families split up, the heartbreak of so many mistreated people?  This was no isolated case as readers of the I newspaper, and the Guardian know from reading week in and week out of bad uncompassionate decisions being made by Home Office ministers and civil servants.  The Law Society recently published a report that didn’t get nearly enough attention, in which it highlighted that the Home Office loses over 50% of immigration appeals.  This is a scandalous waste of public money.  Meanwhile, so many individuals and families are put through while uncompassionate civil servants mount ridiculous challenges to the most deserving asylum seekers for example.  The Law Society suggested that there might be institutional racism at the Home Office. That has been rather obvious to me for a long time.

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Radical Drugs Reform Needed

“The case of Billy Caldwell who needed cannabis oil for his severe epilepsy again highlights legalising cannabis not only for medical but recreational use. Although the Home Secretary (Sajid Javid) made an exception for Billy (by allowing cannabis oil use for 20 days) cannabis is still banned for recreational use. Sajid Javid said this week in the commons the position “We find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory”. Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. These are used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis or used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. Other ingredients from cannabis help children with epilepsy. Cannabis does have medical benefits.

Some countries have regulated legal markets for the non-medical use of cannabis. There are Cannabis Social Club, sometimes called a Teapad, that control the cannabis market as non-profit organisations for the purpose of relaxing or for social communion that are only accessible to members. These can be found in Spain and also in the US. There are also cannabis coffee shops that are operating as coffee shops where cannabis is openly sold. These are usually found in the Netherlands.

Also in the US to regulate cannabis they have cannabis enterprise set up like businesses that are tightly controlled and sell cannabis. Uruguay’s has the government-controlled system for cannabis regulation. These are some examples of models for regulating non-medical cannabis being used around the world.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Freedom of movement and liberal overreach

Not every nuanced political point is a dog whistle for it’s crude cousin, and case in point is Nick Clegg’s recent column in the FT, arguing that the EU needs to consider wider caveats to the principle of freedom of movement that already exist, for its own sake and not just to improve the prospects of rapprochement with the UK.

Posted in Op-eds | 87 Comments

Liblink: Baroness Thomas… ‘do away with hostile atmosphere’

Over at Politics Home, Celia Thomas criticises the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments, highlighting the very large number of decisions that are found wrong on appeal and the ‘hostile atmosphere’ for claimants.

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Tim Farron MP writes: Lib Dems would restore decency and dignity for refugees

The sight of refugees arriving on the Greek coast in 2015 will never leave me. It’s not the sort of thing you forget.

Parents and children were packed onto makeshift boats in search of safety, fleeing Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and other brutal conflicts around the world.

This isn’t a ‘refugee crisis’, even if that is what we have ended up calling it. It is a crisis of violence and persecution, with dictators and murder squads killing and displacing families across the world. Refugees are the human face of what has gone so badly wrong. 

Refugee Week is underway (it is World Refugee Day tomorrow), which is a timely reminder of Britain’s role supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes, both in the work we do in refugee camps around the world and in how we treat asylum seekers who make it to our shores and ask for help.

The current system lacks decency and dignity. The Lib Dems would restore these values.

Firstly, and crucially, the quality of asylum decisions is nothing short of a national scandal. The Home Office wrongly refuses people sanctuary so often that around 40% decisions are overturned on appeal each year. The result is that people who have already endured so much are left scared and uncertain, when they should have been promised safety here much more quickly. 

This can’t be allowed to continue. The whole process needs reform, from top to bottom.

We shouldn’t just focus on decisions, though. Even as the government focuses on improving integration in our country, for example, asylum seekers are barred from working. 

Work helps people integrate, learn English, and contribute to society – all things asylum seekers badly want to do.

So let’s join-up government a bit better and give people the chance to work if their asylum claim is delayed. There is nothing liberal about forcing people who can work to sit around all day doing nothing. 

Plus we should celebrate what we already do well, and plan for how to do more of it.

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Unpicking the great mish-mash of policy wheezes

The trouble with HM Treasury is that it “is simultaneously short-termist, obsessed with controlling spending, but unable or unwilling to do anything to boost growth … fixated on ‘policy wheezes’, short-term fixes and initiatives, and over-centralised”.

And don’t take my word for it. This was the innovation thinktank Nesta’s judgement in 2014, as quoted by Duncan Brack in his essay on Greening Government in the SLF book Four Go in Search of Big Ideas.

I became fascinated by why the government machine creaks so badly, and takes such poor and contradictory decisions, during the coalition years. And particularly during period I was working for the Cabinet Office in the Treasury, on public service choice.

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Victory declared for ‘upskirting’ Bill

(R-L) Vince supports the “upskirting” bill with campaigner Gina Martin, sponsoring MP Wera Hobhouse and Ms Martin’s solicitor, Ryan Whelan

The Liberal Democrats have declared victory in their bid to make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence.

Following Tory MP Christopher Chope’s shocking move to block Wera Hobhouse’s Bill last week, the Justice Minister met Wera Hobhouse this afternoon and, on behalf of the Government, agreed to take her Bill through Parliament.

Wera said:

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The decline of local journalism may mean more than just a lack of transparency…

Amidst the drama of Brexit, the Guardian covered a report from the US which may well have gone unnoticed by many. “Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Local Newspaper Closures on Public Finance.”, published by academics from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago on 8 May, might not, on the face of it, seem of great import, but I would suggest that it gives those of us who care about local government some cause for concern.

The authors summarise their report as follows;

The loss of monitoring that results from newspaper closures is associated

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A gentle ramble through Mrs May’s arithmetic…

I’m a mathematician by training, and work professionally with numbers. And, because I find testing arithmetic projections entertaining, I thought that I might play with the proposed “£20 billion for the NHS”. See what you think.

Firstly, I should note that that £20 billion isn’t for you, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although the Barnett Formula might mean that there is more money available for you too.

I’ll assume that the BBC’s figure of £114 billion for NHS England’s budget is accurate, and note that the Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting that inflation will be fairly constant at 2% per annum …

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Welcome to my day: 18 June 2018 – now you see it, now you don’t?

I was told on Saturday that there was going to be an announcement of £20 billion for the NHS, and my first response was incredulity. “Where does that come from?”, was my question.
But sure enough, the announcement has come, and whilst the proposal for finding this sum is, how can I put it, less than entirely concrete still, it has complicated the arithmetic of opposition to Brexit. I’ll take an initial look at the numbers later.

It’s expected that the Lords could be sitting as late as midnight, as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns for consideration of Commons amendments. Will …

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #520

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 520th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (10-16 June, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Theresa May shamelessly takes up discredited Leave campaign slogan

Most of my memories of the Leave campaign involve the blatant lies it told. 77 million Turks, we were told, would pretty much be here the day after we voted Remain, according to their literature. And the biggest lie of all was emblazoned on the side of a bus. £350 million a week for the NHS.

It was the thought of more money for our beleaguered NHS that prompted many people to vote Leave, something confirmed by Vote Leave’s director, Dominic Cummings.

Within hours of the referendum result, that pledge was in tatters. Nigel Farage distanced himself from

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Christine Jardine: Why I support equal marriage and transgender rights

Here’s Christine Jardine speaking to Edinburgh’s Pride march yesterday. One of these days, I’ll remember to hold the phone round the other way.

She was speaking at the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile to a vast, sparkly and bright crowd. As always the atmosphere was incredible.

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The Thorpe Affair – What if?

I am one of those with a fascination for history, who sometimes indulge in the practice of ‘What if?’. Some of you may know what I mean; but, if not, here are a few examples. Let’s start with 1066. What if King Harald had actually defeated Duke William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings? Scroll forward some eight hundred years and ask yourself what if President Abraham Lincoln had not attended Ford’s Theatre on that fateful night in April 1865? What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver hadn’t taken a detour in Sarajevo in June 1914 or what if Adolf Hitler hadn’t shortened his speech at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich in November 1939 and left early? And finally, more recently and perhaps nearer to home, what if Nick Clegg hadn’t accepted David Cameron’s ‘generous offer’ in May 2010? I’m sure you get the idea.

So, you might say, what has this got to do with Jeremy Thorpe and the Liberal Party? Well, what if, following a massive surge in support (around 20% of the popular vote) which, thanks to FPTP, resulted in only a derisory 14 MPs, he had managed to win over his colleagues and the party grassroots and accept the offer of Ted Heath to join a coalition government following the ‘Who governs Britain’ general election of February 1974?

The ‘baby boomers’ will surely remember the early 1970s, which started out with Heath’s surprise victory in the ‘70 General Election, when his government embarked upon a race for growth with the infamous ‘Barber Boom’, that, despite the inflation it eventually unleashed, especially in the housing market, appeared to many, even up to the summer of 1973, to be bearing fruit in economic terms, despite storm clouds on the horizon.

What really derailed the ‘project’, besides the Heath government’s inability to deal effectively with Trades Union militancy and ineffective management, was the OPEC oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War between the Arab states and Israel in October 1973 which saw oil prices quadruple in a matter of months, thus presenting unions such as the NUM with an open goal. Just to think that, only a few years earlier, the Economic Minister of the booming West German economy, Karl Schiller, had confidently claimed that “the future belongs to oil”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Christine Jardine: Make medical cannabis available for all who need it

The Home Secretary should make medicinal cannabis available to all who need it, says Christine Jardine, after Sajid Javid granted an emergency licence for Billy Caldwell to be treated with the drug. His supply had been confiscated by customs earlier this week.

Christine is supporting her constituentKaren Gray, whose son Murray has Epilepsy and needs the drug to control his seizures:

Sajid Javid has done the right thing for a young boy enduring unimaginable pain.

These treatments can have enormous benefits for patients like Billy Caldwell and my constituent Murray Gray.

The Home Secretary should now take common sense steps to ensure

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Could you help take the Party’s training to the next level?

Last year I became Chair of the new Federal Training Committee, set up to make sure the Party’s training meets our long term needs. I have to admit that delivering training is one of the most fulfilling things I do as a Liberal Democrat. Whilst winning elections is intoxicating, there’s nothing quite like bumping into someone months after a training event and hearing them excitedly tell you about the next steps you’ve inspired them to take.  

Do you have ideas about how to take the party’s training up a notch? Do you want to ensure the party offers the training you need, when and where you need it? Then why not join us to make sure we all have the skills needed to win elections and deliver Liberal values to our country at a time when they are so desperately needed.

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Vince’s message for Eid al-Fitr

Apologies for not putting this up yesterday – it appeared after we had set up for the day – and it was one of THOSE days where we couldn’t get online.

So, a belated Eid Mubarak to all who have been celebrating.

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Triple win in deferred Council election for Lib Dems

Good news from Southwark:

Well done to our new councillors.

In Doncaster, …

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Radical Liberalism and Taxes

Radical Liberalism is a distinctive philosophy that presents a superior alternative both to capitalism in its established form and to socialism. Existing capitalism, as propounded by the Conservatives, and socialism as proposed by Labour, are systems both based on the concentration of property and power in few hands.
The central principles of capitalism in its purest form are the free exchange of goods in an unregulated market; limited taxes to pay for limited government, and
private ownership of property.
The central principles of socialism are government control or regulation of the market; high taxes to pay for expanded government services; and government ownership …

Posted in News | 55 Comments

Wera Hobhouse slams lone Tory MP for pointlessly sabotaging “upskirting” bill

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has slammed an ‘out of touch’ Tory for sabotaging her Bill to make upskirting a specific sexual offence today.

Having secured the Government’s support for her Bill to make upskirting a specific offence, it was expected to pass through the House of Commons today. The Bill comes off the back of Gina Martin’s campaign, which she started after falling victim to the crime last summer.

However, in a shocking move Tory MP Christopher Chope, known for objecting to the second reading of the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill, defied the Government and Number 10 by opposing the Bill, preventing it from proceeding to the next stage.

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Lib Dems wins three seats on Southwark Borough Council in delayed election


Many congratulations to Humaira Ali, William Houngbo and Damian O’Brien on being elected to Southwark Borough Council in the new London Bridge & West Bermondsey Ward. This election yesterday was delayed from 3rd May following the sad death of Conservative candidate Toby Eckersley. Well done to the local Southwark team on achieving this great result while also helping in our very strong showing in the Lewisham East by-election. This result means that, overall in Southwark, we made a net gain in seats for this year’s elections.

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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