12 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • GDP figures show need for more radical action from Government
  • Using mock exams won’t resolve grade award crisis
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats launch campaign calling for Rishi Sunak not to tax carers COVID bonus

GDP figures show need for more radical action from Government

Responding to the news that the economy is facing the worst recession in UK history, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Ministers must take immediate action to save jobs and livelihoods as the true economic impact of Covid-19 comes to light.

The Treasury must explain how it is going to stop mass redundancies when the furlough scheme wraps up. It

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Let’s find our Kamala Harris

There’s a great quote from Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the US Congress: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.” Maybe it was the combination of the heat and the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sandwich I’d just eaten, but when the news broke last night that Kamala Harris has been selected to be Joe Biden’s running mate, I whooped and woo-hoo-ed. A lot. Only four women have ever been named by a major US party as a presidential or vice-presidential nominee, and none of them have been elected.

We are all acutely aware that this US election is one of the most significant of our lifetimes – a chance for America to reject the corrosive rhetoric of Trump and the appalling racism which his administration has helped to foster. There will be numerous attempts to undermine Kamala Harris, Fox News will throw everything at her; but I have no doubt she has the tenacity to weather any kind of storm. And representation matters.

For the Liberal Democrats, it’s the opportunity to look around and see what we can and should be doing differently, and that means making sure more diverse voices in the party are allowed to take centre stage.

I was really delighted that both of our Leadership Candidates have publicly committed to supporting the Rooney Rule, and hopefully this will ensure that there are Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates in as many target seat selections as possible. Selections also still need to include female candidates – and if you don’t get why that’s important, when over 50% of our MPs are women, it’s worth noting that in the General Election, just 31% of our candidates were female.

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Exam Results and Gradings

Students and teachers are often disappointed with some or all of their grades, and this will always be so. Don’t let us be consoled by this and dismiss the anxiety over grades as a temporary, COVID driven problem requiring only an immediate, pragmatic solution.

I was for several years in the early 2000s, a senior A level examiner. I set papers, wrote mark schemes and participated in grade reviews before grades were published.

I participated in meetings that manipulated mark schemes after students had completed papers but before they were marked – also in the meetings which manipulated grade boundaries after marking. These manipulations had four aims:

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Lib Dem Mum week 2 – When you can’t deliver leaflets

Dear Lib Dem Mum,

My local party is moderately successful (we have some councillors but not an MP) and I want to help out. There are some great people in my local party, both elected to public office and on the executive committee, and I really want to help further the cause of liberalism. However, the only thing they ever want me to do is deliver leaflets, and I am not physically capable of doing a delivery round due to mobility problems.

 What can I do to show them that I can be useful in other ways?

 Frustrated, Yorkshire

 

Dear Frustrated,

 If our party has a major flaw alongside all the minor ones that come with being a group of human beings, it’s that we can be more of a leaflet delivery cult than an actual political party. Yours is not the only local party that tends to view volunteers as leaflet dispersal machines. Happily, there are other things you can do: 

  • Within your local party:
    • Stand for the exec. In my experience, local party execs tend to be in need of people who can do things other than deliver leaflets. A good treasurer, for example, is worth their weight in gold, similarly a secretary who is actually good at taking the minutes of meetings.
    • Someone who is good with computers and can do the admin work to arrange leaflet deliveries for other people is often helpful. 
    • Volunteer to do phone banking.
    • Volunteer to proof read the leaflets so that they don’t go out filled with embarrassing typos.
    • Start, or take over an existing, policy working group and work on policies to put forward to regional or federal conference.
  • Within your state and/or region, there is almost certainly a need for people to do all the things that you can do for a local party, but on a larger scale. You can also volunteer to be someone who scouts locations for meetings or conferences for accessibility: that’s not needed on a very regular basis, but it sounds like you would be the person to do it.
  • Within the many internal party organisations (Young Liberals, Lib Dem Immigrants, LGBT+LDs, Lib Dem Friends of Cake, etc. – there are hundreds of these, and there’s sure to be one that meets your interests, the party has a directory of them here), or for the party nationally, there are lots of volunteer administrative roles and most of these are done remotely, from the volunteer’s home, as a matter of course, just because of the geographical distribution of members.
  • You can also stand for federal committees, and/or join Federal Policy Committee working groups, and/or train to become a candidate assessor or an adjudicator for disciplinary matters, and do myriad other things to help out on a national level.
  • At the moment, you can also volunteer to help out your favourite leadership contender. Volunteer to help Layla here or Ed here.
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Are the Liberal Democrats manageable?

Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece questioning a proposal for managing the Party through a Steering Group, pointing out that, based on what I had been led to understand, it appeared to duplicate existing bodies while adding another step between those in charge and those to whom they are accountable. Subsequently, there were reassurances given, which I think were reasonable.

But today, I have another question.

When the Liberal Democrats were formed, it was said that it was a merger of one Party whose motto was “never trust the members” with another whose motto was “never trust the leadership”. The problem is, that the two beliefs continue to run in parallel, and are reflected in how we run our Party today.

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11 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats call for independent equality assessment of Voter ID plan
  • Liberal Democrats: Government must halt use of facial recognition by police

Liberal Democrats call for independent equality assessment of Voter ID plan

The Liberal Democrats are calling for independent equality impact assessments into voter ID to protect “the legitimacy and integrity” of the UK electoral system as the Government looks to press ahead with voter ID legislation.

Citing evidence from around the world demonstrating that Voter ID makes it more difficult for people to vote, Liberal Democrat MPs are raising deep concerns that voter ID checks “will disproportionately impact ethnic minorities” at …

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Donate your discount – help restaurants and raise money to tackle poverty

As restaurants are now open again, the Government is encouraging people to go to them with its Eat out to Help out scheme. You can get a 50% discount, up to the value of £10 from every participating restaurant.

Social Liberal Forum member Andy Galloway has come up with a brilliant idea which will not only help the restaurant but will also benefit Fareshare, a charity that distributes food to vulnerable people who need it.

The idea is that you donate your discount to the charity and show that you have done so on social media to encourage others to participate. From the Eat out and help out Crowdfunder page:

The ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme is proving popular, but I think we can make it better.

Everyone loves a bargain, but if you don’t want the subsidy, why not #DonateYourDiscount?

Here’s how:

  • Enjoy a meal Mon-Wed and get 50% off at participating restaurants.
  • #DonateYourDiscount (or part of it) to FareShare through this page, or to any other charity of your choice.
  • Share your receipt and donation on Twitter/Instagram using #DonateYourDiscount and encourage others to do the same.
  • If you’re part of a charity, why not set up your own page and spread the movement raising money for your cause?

Why Fare Share?

In the UK, 14 million people are living in poverty – and the numbers are rising. During the last two weeks of March 2020, food bank usage more than doubled compared with the same period the year before and organisations continue to be under immense pressure to feed families across the country.

Fare Share do fantastic work all over the UK to fight hunger and food waste by redistributing food to frontline charities.

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Refugees are not our enemy – thoughts on Priti Patel’s remarks


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Around 4,000 migrants have crossed the channel from France in small boats this year. For context, 105,425 migrants crossed the Mediterranean sea to Southern European countries such as Italy and Greece last year. The overwhelming majority of refugees find sanctuary in the country neighbouring their own. Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uganda are amongst the host countries for the majority of refugees.

Refugees are under no legal obligation to claim asylum in the first safe country they land in. All refugees have a legitimate claim to asylum in any safe country if they are still at risk of persecution in their country of origin. There are just no legal routes to seek refuge in the UK. Seeking asylum should not be a crime.

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A challenge to the leadership candidates

Few people outside Liberal Democratic circles take any interest in our party leadership selection, yet this selection has the potential to be historically significant.

The right choice of candidate could lift the party into relevance again, thus allowing Britain’s proud liberal movement to live on in hope. The wrong candidate could kill us off completely.

As we reach the final rounds, we’ve witnessed the standard heated debates online, the bonding of two teams, occasional frustration spilling into rudeness, cries for civility, apologies, and even a few giggles. What we haven’t seen is anything that sparks the political imagination.

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LibLink – Christine Jardine SNP’s policies on education have failed to make the grade

It’s been a hugely stressful week for thousands of Scottish teenagers and their parents.

They did not receive the results they were expecting for their HIgher exams after marks submitted by their teachers were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This has disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Willie Rennie supported pupil protests against the system used by the SQA.

Pupils who have worked hard for months have been marked down because of how previous students performed at their school. This is grossly unfair as it reinforces the inequity that has been growing for years.

The Education Secretary and the SQA were warned for months that their moderation process would damage the prospects of pupils for life. It’s no surprise that so many young people are out protesting. They feel as if their grades and their futures are being robbed by the SNP.

We can only hope that the appeals system is robust enough to deal with the tsunami of appeals heading its away. The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand and the Scottish Government must ensure teachers have the time they need to fully support the many appeals that will be required.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon apologised and today Education Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

But the problems in Scottish education go much deeper than this fiasco. Christine Jardine used her weekly Scotsman column to highlight how pupils leaving school this year have had their entire education under SNP Government – and the system is mired with problems with schools, colleges and universities.

International reports show Scottish education plummeting down the league tables which compare our schools with those abroad.

That proud boast that ours was the finest education in the world now seems empty, and out-dated.
Certainly for those at the chalk face it has long ceased to be the case, replaced by the reality that too many of our young people leave school functionally illiterate and the past few years have been to endure rather than enjoy.

Many of those who graduated from our universities this year are the same young people whose school years were disrupted by being the first to sit the new National 5 exams. Their teachers had to deliver a curriculum which was not only untried and untested but, by common consent, largely chaotic and stressful for all.

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Lib Dems: The party of wellbeing?

Lib Dem leadership elections often bring up the same criticisms of the party:

  1. People don’t know what we stand for.
  2. We aren’t radical enough.
  3. We need to advance a “core voter” strategy based on values, not just on being “hard working local people”.

I agree with all of these criticisms, but get weary when they are repeated ad infinitum without solutions. Both Davey and Moran talk about the importance of building a distinctive liberal message without saying what this distinctive liberal message should be. What I’m seeing from both candidates is a list of reasonable policy ideas which aren’t meaningfully linked (except by the vague claim that they are “liberal” or “evidenced-based”).

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Dawn Butler incident – hopefully this will lead to review and change in the Met Police

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I have been very impressed by the calm and fair way that Dawn Butler MP has dealt with the police stop incident on Sunday. She has been very specific about the particular behaviour she is criticising.

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10 August 2020 – today’s press release

Almost 1300 drivers still on roads despite receiving 12 points or more, Liberal Democrats reveal

The Liberal Democrats have today revealed that 1278 drivers with 12 points or more on their record are still behind the wheel and called for an examination of whether persistent offenders are being properly dealt with.

Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Sarah Olney has warned Ministers that people’s safety is at risk and said, “it’s important that repeat offenders and dangerous drivers are kept off the roads.”

With a fall in car use because of the Government’s efforts to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, the Liberal Democrats believe that …

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Britain needs a Liberal party, let’s make sure there’s still one left

At the time of writing this, we have 17 days left of the leadership election and here is my confession: I cannot wait for it to be done.

Whilst we have two fantastic candidates standing for us, you would think from the comments being slung around by some members on social media that there is some vast ideological difference between the two.

I had the pleasure of chairing Liberal Reform’s Leadership Q&A this weekend and really enjoyed the debate. We discussed everything from nationalisation to the housing crisis, from party structure to the Orange Book.

And you know what? There was very little …

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Tim is right – the real housing crisis is in social housing for rent

Bravo Tim – at long last a clear and radical Lib Dem message on the scandal of social housing (Press Release 06 08 – ‘Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis’). We must pursue this with all possible force, because it is manifestly right and, in purely political terms, it highlights a massive void in the policies of the other two main parties.

As Tim says in his response to Jenrick’s lamentable proposals, there may be a shortage of affordable property to buy, but the real scandal concerns the least well-off. It is they who are condemned to rent insecure, insanitary, …

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7-9 August 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Blocking pupil grade appeals could deny opportunities “for years to come”
  • Government should encourage universities to “exercise leniency” for 2020 admissions
  • Lack of test and trace leaving local authorities blind-folded with regional lockdowns
  • Government must provide practical and financial support ahead of schools opening fully

Blocking pupil grade appeals could deny opportunities “for years to come”

Responding to news that schools, but not individual pupils, will be able to challenge the GCSE and A Level grades awarded, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

This completely fails to get to grips with the issue. If individual pupils are not able to challenge grades which are an unfair reflection of their ability, it could seriously impact their education and employment opportunities for years to come.

It is absolutely unacceptable for any student to be unfairly penalised because of their family’s income or any other factor.

The Secretary of State needs to urgently put in place resources to ensure every child has the chance to appeal their grades and resit assessments when it is safe to do so.

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Daisy Cooper MP writes…Ed Davey is the right leader to rebuild our party

Each week, LDV invites the leadership candidates to write a post for us. This is Team Ed’s for this week. 

As a new MP, I’m passionate about making sure we build a party that can succeed in elections from 2021 and beyond. I want more people to feel the same excitement and joy that we felt when we won St Albans.

If we want to replicate the success right across the country, the job our next leader faces is huge. The election review, rightly, didn’t pull any punches: it set out in detail the big, fundamental changes that we need to make in order to rebuild the strong foundations of our party.

How we do that naturally leads to who we elect as our next leader. Who is the best candidate to implement the election review, rebuild our party from the grassroots up and stand up for the liberal, internationalist values that are so under threat today? Put simply, who is the leader who puts us in the best place to win in the future?

Like many of you, I didn’t know who I was going to support when our leadership contest started. I saw the qualities in each of the candidates, and was open to being persuaded to back either of them. After seeing their campaigns, working with them on a daily basis and listening to their plans to rebuild our party, the choice became clear and that’s why I’m backing Ed Davey.

Working with Ed since I got elected, I’ve seen up close the impact he has had. He helped create an outreach drive that made more than 100,000 phone calls to vulnerable people, he led the response to the Dominic Cummings scandal, and he forced Boris Johnson to agree to holding a public inquiry into Covid-19.

More than that, I’ve seen how Ed works to build winning teams, both in his own seat and among our MPs in Parliament, to take on big challenges and I know that’s what we need to drive our party forward. There are a lot of different characterisations of this election, but my lode star has always been which candidate will put the building blocks in place to help us win elections right across the country.  And it’s for this reason that I am backing Ed, because I know that his leadership will see us best placed for success going forward.

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Ed and Layla set out electoral reform hopes

It wouldn’t be a leadership election if we didn’t talk about PR at some point.

Layla and Ed have both written for the Electoral Reform Society setting out what they want to see in terms of changing our rubbish voting system.

Here are some highlights:

Layla

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would therefore look to establish a common cross-party statement of support for legislation for PR ahead of the next elections.

The aim would be to establish a firm pre-election commitment to PR with support from across different parties. Keir Starmer has voiced his support for a fairer, proportional voting system, and it’s becoming clear that Labour is being increasingly disadvantaged by First Past the Post. This means there is an important opportunity for all those who believe in electoral reform to deliver on it.

I believe that under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would be better placed to have these discussions with Labour and other political parties, and to help build a cross-party consensus for electoral reform.

Electing me as leader would send a strong signal that the Liberal Democrats are refreshed as a party and have put coalition behind us. That is why I am urging all those who believe strongly in electoral reform to support me at this election, so we can move forward together as a country and build a voting system in which everyone has a voice.

Ed

In respect of elections it is shameful that the United Kingdom continues to use the antiquated, First Past the Post System. I believe we should look to introduce a proportional system to both Westminster and local elections, at the earliest possible moment.

This is not just because the system is needed for both, but because the problem in some local areas is acute. There are areas which have become almost ‘one party states’ with votes for all mainstream parties being ignored and authorities left with little or no opposition scrutiny.

I am passionate about devolving power – all the more reason to make sure the scrutiny of these bodies is representative and effective. I believe there is an appetite to devolve powers from some in other parties and think making common cause on reforming our electoral process as we pursue this is a way to secure the changes we need.

Other areas around how we run elections are ripe for reform – we should introduce automatic voter registration to make it easier for people to vote and scrap the ridiculous plans to require voter ID at polling stations. The Conservatives’ desire to require ID creates another barrier and ends up with more people – likely from minority communities – not exercising their democratic right: it is indefensible.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine stand up for immigrants on Channel 4 Political slot

Channel 4 runs a regular political slot and this week it was the turn of our Christine Jardine to highlight an issue close to her heart. Our Home Affairs spokesperson made a passionate case for immigration and why we need to welcome and support immigrants. This was filmed at the height of the pandemic and she did a Zoom interview with a doctor who was working long hours and taking huge risks, yet still faced exorbitant fees and visa stress to be able to work here.

You can catch up with the three minute programme here. 

 

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Let’s become the Party of the Universal Basic Income

September will mark 10 years since I attended my first Liberal Democrat Conference, albeit this year’s Conference being entirely online. Having attended most Federal Conferences over that period I have witnessed numerous debates on topics ranging from public services to constitutional reform and from scrapping Trident to building more houses. 

Lately, several of the motions that have come to be debated at Conference have been very uninspiring; all motherhood and apple pie, while not wanting to scare the political horses too much. Can we truly call something a debate if 99% of conference goers are already in favour of it? When we look back at the party’s history, we see moments of great policy radicalism and an unflinching willingness to be the shapers of the big ideas of tomorrow. A liberal party, especially a liberal party with only 11 MPs and currently on single digits in the polls, needs to be bold, radical and imaginative in its policy development.

I was therefore delighted to see that a motion on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been chosen to be debated on the evening of Friday 25 September. The Universal Basic Income is the idea that all citizens should have an unconditional guaranteed minimum income. It would enshrine the principle that everyone has the right to own some capital. A UBI would guarantee a social minimum for the poorest members of society and would be the jewel in the crown of the party’s commitment to social justice. I welcome the motion’s commitment to guaranteeing continued additional income support mechanisms for people in receipt of housing and disability support payments. I also welcome a UBI being rolled out on the basis of the best available international evidence.

A Universal Basic Income would deliver essential social protection for those who fall outside traditional realms of employment, such as carers, students, parents with child caring responsibilities, as well as continuing to deliver welfare support for the elderly, the unemployed and people with disabilities. It would also help to raise the income of low-paid workers and those in precarious employment situations. It would help to remedy the injustices faced by the so-called ‘WASPI women’ who have lost out financially as a result of changes to the pension system. Finally, it would give additional financial support for those wanting to pursue a new vocation (such as becoming a musician) or to set up a new business, where there may be a significant period of time before a secure income can be received.

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Building a progressive alliance on the basis of the past, and now looking to the future

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP giving the Beveridge lecture to Liberal Democrats last week, admitted that some of his party believe that ‘labourism’ is the only progressive future. Certainly Lib Dems have to accept that Socialists who believe that Liberals will always defend capitalism against the workers will never accept us as a progressive party, and will consider any alliance as a mere tactical ploy. In a mirror image, there are plenty of Liberals who believe that Labour cannot shake off its Far-Left inheritance and will always aim for state control and management, with the soaking of the rich to enforce greater equality.

Yet if a majority of both our parties can focus on policies of social justice, full employment and moderate redistribution within the new challenge of climate change, we can surely begin to work together in more ways than is already happening in the All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

There is, as Clive Lewis said, a “shared tradition of the social liberal and the socialist”, based on “our common values embedded in our collective institutions… (and) our principled commitment to defend the human rights of all.”

For Liberal Democrats, the Thornhill General Election review instructed us that “we must reconnect with the electorate as a whole. We must give a fresh distinctive vision of a liberal Britain in the 21st century with policies that resonate with – and are relevant to – ordinary people.” Indeed, it must be the first requirement for both parties, to discover and strive to meet the needs of the electorate, among which measures of social justice and provision of jobs with fair pay will surely rank high.

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Observations of an expat: If Biden wins

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It is looking good for Joe Biden. He is racing ahead in the polls as foot-in-mouth Trump slumps under the weight of the pandemic, economic woes, legal problems and a growing credibility gap.

But what would a Biden win mean? In terms of the tone of political conversation it would mean a dramatic change. We would also see some big differences on the domestic political front. In foreign policy, an evolving international situation plus difficult to change actions which Trump has started, means shifts could be less dramatic.

Compared to Trump’s stream of consciousness rants, Biden is practically mute. Throughout his career, he has been known for his gaffes, but nearly half a century in Washington has taught him that there are times when it is best to say nothing, or to leave it civil servants to do the talking. Don’t expect a daily tsunami of tweets or cleverly-worded personal insults.

One of Joe Biden’s biggest tasks would be to close the national divide that a Trump presidency has created. He must find a way to push the hate-mongers and conspiracy theorists back into the woodwork from which they have crawled while at the same time avoiding the trap of forcing them underground.

Gun Control is a key flashpoint between the former vice-president and Trump’s dedicated base. Biden was heavily affected by the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and is a keen advocate of gun control. Among his past proposals has been a buy-back scheme for owners of assault rifles. And if the owners refuse to sell they will be required to register the weapons under the National Firearms Act. Needless to say, the powerful National Rifle Association opposes his candidacy.

Biden comes from what has been termed the “sensible centre” of the Democratic Party. The problem is that in recent years the party has moved to the left with the rise of figures such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biden’s “sensible centre” position is looking more like that of right-wing Democrat. This could create difficulty for him in Congress with issues such as welfare and defence spending and healthcare,  even if the Democrats hold onto the House of Representatives and win control of the Senate.

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Conference agenda now available

The agenda for the online party Conference in September can be downloaded here. It is at the same time both very familiar and rather different from usual.

All the expected elements are there: policy motions (with amendments), business motions, speeches, Q&A’s, reports, consultative sessions, fringe meetings, training, exhibition stands and helpdesk. There is even a feature that enables you to network with other members at random, just as you might chat with someone while queuing for a coffee. Conference Extra and Conference Daily will be published as usual and the Conference app will be available nearer the time.

The most obvious changes from the norm are with the timing. Auditorium sessions will run between 2.15pm on Friday 25th September and 9pm on Monday 28th September, in shorter bursts than usual – presumably to avoid screen fatigue. This means that many more sessions will be accessible to people in full-time work. The (new) Leader’s speech will be at 2.50pm on the Monday afternoon.

And, of course, it will be much more affordable this time. The only cost will be the registration fee, as travel and accommodation will not be needed!

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7 August 2020 – the overnight press release

Failure to sack Cummings shows PM’s “weakness and incompetence”

Responding to a new report from University College London showing that public confidence in the UK Government’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic dropped sharply following news about the travel movements of the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Millions of people across the UK have made heart-breaking sacrifices to comply with the lockdown and help keep others safe from coronavirus. They were rightly outraged when Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser thought it was one rule for him and another rule for the rest

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6 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge
  • Liberal Democrats: Ministers are playing fast and loose with safety of NHS staff
  • Liberal Democrats: Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis

Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent extension to the support for those currently shielding, warning people could become “cut off” when the support ends next Sunday.

Under Welsh Government plans, the support currently available to those shielding, including foodboxes, will end next Sunday when shielding is paused. Local Authorities will then assume responsibility for providing additional support upon request.

However, new figures published by Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have revealed that 88% of those shielding are concerned about a return to work, with 12% so concerned that they have said they will refuse to go back – even if they lose their job as a result.

This creates a risky situation where thousands could face severe hardship by being cut off from existent support before they feel able to return to work and before Local Authorities can establish a proper functioning support network.

In response, Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to extend the support currently provided until the end of September, to avoid people being left isolated and give local authorities time to establish their own support schemes.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

I am deeply concerned that when the support for shielding ends next Sunday we will see thousands being cut off from the support they desperately need. Although some shielders are ready to go back out into the world, many still feel it is too unsafe and plan to stay home for longer.

While some of those are lucky to have a good local support network, many sadly do not. We must make sure these people are not be forced decide between unsafely returning to work or going without basic essentials.

That’s why we’re calling for the Welsh Government to extend the support currently available to those who are shielding until the end of September. This will provide a transition period, stopping them being cut off while also allowing Local Authorities time to talk to shielders and establish their own tailored support schemes.

I am grateful to Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales for raising this issue and hope the Welsh Government will act quickly on this. We must give shielders the reassurance they deserve.

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What next?

This has been a difficult year for everybody. We have all been in lockdown, giving us all time to reflect.  This process finally enabled me to  build up the courage to leave the Labour Party and join the Liberal Democrats.

But why?

Simply as Labour is no longer a party that champions progressive politics. I do believe the Lib Dems have learnt from the coalition – but let’s be real, we are still polling at 6%.

So with all this doom and gloom why join now? Well it’s simple, now more than ever Liberal Democrats have a golden opportunity to rebuild themselves as a real political force within our country and I want to be a part of that.

Let’s look at Scotland, where Scottish Labour are the so called main progressive opposition to the SNP … well, to be frank, they leave a lot to be desired. Scottish progressives who believe in the union deserve an opposition who are actually competent. We as a party need to show that it is us who are proud to be a unionists and ready to oppose the SNP, especially on education where they are slowly destroying it piece by piece, while Labour look like headless chickens. Liberal Democrats need to show competence, unity and fundamentally show that we are leading the way on policy.

Next year we have the local elections. This will be a big test for us as a party and especially for the new leader. One thing we must remember is that being anti Conservative does not mean we are pro Labour, and if we do go into alliance with other parties in local government we do not compromise our basic Liberal Values and beliefs. We must be bold when holding Labour councils to account and ambitious in what we demand for our communities.

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Multiculturalism on the defensive

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Ever since the then Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “multiculturalism has failed” the concept has found itself on the back foot in Western political discourse. This has been a matter of dismay for many – I suspect most – Liberal Democrats, as multiculturalism is part of our DNA. This means not just tolerating but accepting difference, be it about ethnicity, religion, language, ability, sexuality or other forms of collective and personal identity.

Alas, with a few noble exceptions, political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have tapped into a seam of populist fear or resentment of The Other. This is not just a phenomenon of right-wing extremism, as represented by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, France’s Marine Le Pen or Brexit’s Man in the Pub, Nigel Farage, all of whom have demonised Muslims and refugees. Listen to Donald Trump’s rambling speeches or read Boris Johnson’s journalism and you soon sense the undercurrent of prejudice and discrimination.

One of the reasons so many LibDems love the European Union is because the EU actively celebrates diversity. The Lisbon Treaty (the nearest to a Constitution that the EU has adopted) specifically declares that the Union respects cultural diversity and national identities. It would be nice to think that all member states treat this pledge equally seriously, and that those who don’t can be nudged back into line. Ideally, as a European Liberal Democrat I would moreover hope this could be a template for the rest of the world to follow.

However, I am enough of a realist to recognise that this is far from the case in 2020. Moreover, core European values, such as a respect for human rights and the Rule of Law, which were placed at the heart of post-War multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, no longer hold sway over much of the planet. Indeed, some totalitarian regimes argue that promoting these values is a form of neo-colonialism.

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Liberal Democrats and Socialists: can we form a progressive alliance?

Last Thursday Clive Lewis a Labour MP was the first non-Liberal Democrat to give the Social Liberal Forum’s Beveridge lecture (you can access it HERE ) entitled ’21st-century progressive alliances & political re-alignment’. Clive Lewis called for ‘a progressive alliance of the mind’, involving individuals, campaigns and movements. After outlining the great challenges facing us all today, he said that there is a crisis of democracy in our country, with people turning to the wrong solutions such as Brexit and populism.

“Liberalism”, Clive continued, “is a powerful political philosophy with important things to say about individual freedom, democratic politics and the market economy and about how these interact” (time stamp in the video: 23.18). But he said that much conservative and liberal propaganda claims socialists want to snuff out the freedom of selfish individualism and mould it into a perfect collective (27.59), as a kind of Socialist ‘Borg’ (antagonists of Star Trek) wanting to assimilate liberalism. He said this was not true as “Most Socialists want to find ways of allowing more people to benefit from and have a say in the management of the co-operative processes in which they are already engaged in almost every aspect of their lives. That sounds remarkably like freedom and equality to me” (28.38).

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Thank Goodness! The Real McCoy back – and I’m not talking about the Crisps!

I have never agreed with the debate around TV censorship, these past few weeks with the broadcasters initially pulling and then u-turning on a string of British comedy programs previously deemed offensive.

Many of you would have noticed the return of the 1990s TV Series “The Real McCoy” which was mysteriously “lost” and then subsequently “found” now being shown on BBC iPlayer. The show is a satirical take on Black British culture and the lived experiences of the children of the Windrush generation.

The BBC joined other media outlets in removing content found to be racially insensitive in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, with ‘Little Britain’ removed from iPlayer due to its portrayal of minority characters.

A 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers was also temporarily removed by BBC subsidiary UKTV for racist language, and The League of Gentlemen was taken down by Netflix over concerns about a character in blackface make-up.
As someone who grew up in 1970s Britain, watching programmes like “The Black and White Minstrel Show”, “Till Death Us Do Part” with the infamous “Alf Garnett” character; and others like ‘Love Thy Neighbour’, ‘Mind Your Language’, and “Rising Damp”, I struggle to see what this memory-holing problematic culture demonstrates other than our inability to deal with own uncomfortable past.

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Tax carbon and reduce poverty

The 2019 Autumn Conference approved a generally good Policy Motion F29 Tackling the Climate Emergency, listing actions which reduce UK emissions to net zero within a few decades. It included point 2d – “Greening the taxation system to make the polluters pay and to reward progress towards net zero.”

This appears to be a statement of intent rather than a genuine action point. I believe that we should go further, committing to a carbon tax designed to:

  1. reduce carbon emissions – globally
  2. fight poverty
  3. protect the UK economy against unfair competition from overseas polluters

This might sound a classic trilemma (three mutually incompatible goals), but one policy can deliver all three. Here’s how.

We currently have a mishmash of carbon pricing measures (Climate Change Levy, Fuel Duty, etc.) which affect specific sectors.

  • These only exert downward pressure on fossil fuel consumption in some sectors, and prices are generally too low to drive rapid reductions.
  • They are potentially regressive, impacting the poor more than the rich.
  • They risk carbon leakage – when emission reduction policies in one country lead to increases elsewhere.

The solution is a carbon tax, dividend and border adjustment.

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