Tom Arms’ World Review

Middle East

A quick round-up on Gaza, Israel, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, America and everywhere else that is affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden’s “outrage” following the killings of World Central Kitchen aid workers resulted in an apology and two new aid routes: The Erez Crossing and the port of Ashdod in southern Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that as a result 400 aid trucks went through to Gaza immediately after the presidential fury. UN officials said the figure was actually 223.

Disenchanted State Department officials – of which there are a growing number – say that …

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Observations of an Expat: Tyranny of the Majority

“Democracy,” Winston Churchill famously said, “is the worst form of government – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Then there is democracy unchained, or without the restraints of the rule of law and free speech.  Also known as “the tyranny of the majority” or the “will of the people” or, perhaps, “democracy flawed.”

These are elected governments with political leaders who have harnessed to their own pursuit of power a perceived threat to the majority, or a growing, vociferous and politically motivated minority.

There are far too many examples to choose from but let’s focus on Hungary, Russia, Israel, India and the US for starters.  In each of these countries, the leaders (or wannabe leader) have won the support of the majority of the population either through lies or by allying themselves with a social movement which promotes one section of society at the expense of another.

Technically speaking, Israel is a democracy with carefully monitored and oft-held elections. Its American supporters are keen to point out that it is the only democracy in the Middle East and this makes the Israelis their only rock-solid ally in the region.

Twenty percent of Israel’s voters are Arabs. As the occupying power, Israel is also responsible for two million Palestinians in Gaza and another two million on the West Bank – none of whom have a vote.  Their rights and concerns are totally ignored by Benjamin Netanyahu because his political base is conservative Orthodox Jews. The Israeli Supreme Court has attempted to protect Arab rights. As a result, Netanyahu is beavering away at dismantling the court and its powers.

Vladimir Putin was recently re-elected President of Russia with 87.5 percent of the vote. Such a large figure is of course suspect, but most observers accept that Putin would have won regardless. He has successfully portrayed himself as the only possible leader of a nation under attack from wicked, grasping Western enemies. His answer is that the best defense is a good offense which means the pursuit of Russian imperial ambitions.

Viktor Orban has cast himself in the role of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic saviour of ethnic Hungarians and European Judeo-Christian values. “We must state,” said Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, “that Hungarians do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed; we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with that of others.”

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12 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane
  • Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts
  • Energy Minister stands down: Drumbeat of Conservative resignations is becoming deafening
  • More than half of councils see rise in sewage dumps
  • Jardine Secures Commons Debate on Consular Assistance

GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane

Responding to the latest GDP figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This sluggish growth shows the UK economy is stuck in the slow lane under the Conservatives.

This government has no plan to fix the damage they’ve done to people’s living standards.

Instead we have a prime minister and Chancellor totally out of touch with families feeling the pinch. The only way to get the economy moving again is to kick this economically illiterate Conservative government out of office.

Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts

Responding to Labour and the Conservatives announcements on defence policy today, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to reversing the Conservatives’ irresponsible cuts to Army troop numbers. With Putin waging war in Europe and Trump threatening the future of NATO, cutting the British Army by 10,000 troops is a major threat to our long-term national security.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Labour only offer meaningless talk about vague aspirations for some unspecified time in the future.

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It can only get nastier until the election

It’s not surprising that polls suggest that many young people in the UK now despair about democratic politics. The partisan Westminster debate has become more and more negative. Prime Minister’s Questions have been getting worse week by week, throwing insults across the floor.  The Conservative Party has run out of positive themes to appeal to the public, and is falling back on attempts to discredit all of its opponents.  The right-wing media are in full hysterical mode, while conspiracy theories, culture wars and ideas about ‘Christian nationalism’ flow from across the Atlantic along with American finance to support Tory factions and think tanks.  And the Labour leadership is sufficiently intimidated by the right-wing media that it is responding cautiously and nervously – as are we.

I am as frustrated as other party members by the apparent timidity of both Labour and our own party leadership in the face of this right-wing onslaught.  But I’m also painfully aware of the ruthlessness and effectiveness of media monstering, and the closeness of the alliance between Conservative HQ and the right-wing media.  As soon as the Post Office scandal hit the headlines, CCHQ set out to pin the responsibility on others.  The Mail responded by going for Ed Davey, supported (of course) by the Telegraph and GB News – with the Standard giving him a frontpage monstering a few days later.  If he’d apologised immediately that would have fed the attacks and maintained the front-page coverage.  There’s nothing fair about tabloid press campaigns.

Conservative researchers have combed through cases Keir Starmer had any involvement with as Director of Public Prosecutions, hoping to find some dirt to throw – so far without much success.  So their press attack dogs are doing their best with Angela Rayner’s council house sale.   The Mail has given this front-page treatment several times in the past fortnight.  It’s an indication of what the Conservatives get away with that the allegations on Rayner taking advantage of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ on her council house came from Lord Ashcroft, who has avoided paying infinitely larger sums in tax through offshore havens like Belize.

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11 April 2024 -today’s press releases

  • Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them
  • Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party
  • Donelan libel costs: Donelan must pay this money back now
  • Lib Dems to create London Housing Company – Blackie: “I will get London building again”

Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has said Rishi Sunak is living in a “parallel universe,” after today’s figures reveal NHS targets are being missed while waiting lists have grown by 330,000 since the Prime Minister pledged to cut them.

NHS targets missed include:

  • NHS waiting lists: NHS waiting lists stood at 7.54 million outstanding treatments in February 2024, up from 7.21 million in January 2023 when Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them. This is an increase of 330,000 (NHS England).
  • 65 week waits: There were 75,000 65-weeks for treatment in February, despite a target to eliminate them by March 2024 (NHS England).
  • A&E: 71.3% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E in February, against a target of 76% (NHS England).
  • Cancer: 63.9% of people treated began cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral in February 2024, against a target of 85% (NHS England).

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This week we uncovered that over 150,000 people waited over 24 hours in A&E last year. Now we find that waiting lists have gone up by 330,000 after Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them.

To add insult to injury, the Conservatives have cut NHS spending while millions of patients are suffering in pain on endless waiting lists.

Rishi Sunak is living in a parallel universe if he thinks our National Health Service is recovering. The Conservative Party and the Prime Minister are out of touch, out of ideas and deserve to be kicked out of office.

Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party

Responding to Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley, telling voters in Ashfield that Reform UK MP Lee Anderson is the area’s “greatest champion” and that he needs to be back in Westminster, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

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The Independent View: ‘Benefits on Trial’: DWP Injustice Exposed

‘Benefits on Trial’ is based on my work in Cornwall since 2012 as a volunteer advocate with adults who have a learning disability. In recent years, that work has increasingly concerned benefits cases: helping people with their PIP and ESA applications; accompanying them to assessments; requesting reconsideration of decisions; and taking cases to the tribunal stage. That experience – particularly of tribunals – triggered the writing of ‘Benefits on Trial’.

The book describes how six people – for all of whom names have been changed to protect their identities – have to battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whose system, with built-in hurdles, is loaded against them. Two of them – Danny who has ABI and Thomas who has Down’s syndrome – figured prominently in my previous book, ‘Austerity’s Victims’. The others are Ben, Jon, Tony and Denise: Ben has fibromyalgia and ME as well as being on the autism spectrum; Jon has Global Developmental Delay; and Tony and Denise both have an unspecified learning disability.

‘Benefits on Trial’ builds up a detailed picture of each of the six people, their current lives and events in their past which have helped to shape them. The experience of Denise described below – her early years and her application for benefits – serves as an example of the inhumane treatment suffered by all six at the hands of the DWP.

When she was eight, she had the first of what turned out to be many epileptic seizures. Because of the way in which they have affected her memory, she cannot remember either much of the detail of her life after the seizures started or what her life was like previously. A member of staff at her day centre, however, who went to the same secondary school recalls both appalling bullying there and later when she was nearly twenty a sexual assault that was taken to court.

Not the start in life that most of us enjoyed and one that cries out for compassion. Instead, from the state, the reverse was inflicted upon her. She, like all the others in this book turned down for PIP, was left with an income which no-one should be asked to survive on. Her £107.50 in 2018 was only 26.86% of the UK median per week, 28.27% of the equivalent median for the South West and 39.99% of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Minimum Income Standard.

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A Tale of Two Polls

There have been two much-publicised polls in recent days which have produced headlines in the press for their common message that the Conservative government is in deep trouble. A Survation Poll suggested that there would be just 98 Conservative MPs after the next election. The other, a YouGov Poll, suggested that the Conservatives would win 155 MPs. Quite a large difference, but in either case adding up to huge Conservative losses, and that is what the media have concentrated on. If they’ve mentioned any other party, it has been the Reform Party and its effect as a ‘spoiler’ of the Conservative vote.

What was much less commented upon was the fact that these two polls, both published at the beginning of April, and both based upon interviews conducted during mid-March, were widely divergent in their estimates of how the third and fourth parties (in terms of seats in the House of Commons) would fare. The YouGov poll suggested that the SNP would win 19 seats, a substantial loss compared to 2019, while the Lib Dems would win 49, restoring them to third-party status. The Survation Poll, on the other hand, had the SNP maintaining third-party status, losing only 7 seats (from 48 to 41), while the Lib Dems, despite doubling their seats to 22, remained very much in fourth position.

It might be thought that the massive discrepancy over the projected seats for Lib Dems and the SNP in these two polls would arouse some interest in the media. Yet it hasn’t. The only thing that hit the headlines was the coming Labour landslide (of which the politics guru John Curtice appears to be 99% certain now) and the huge Tory losses. No one pretends that these aren’t the main finding of the two polls, but the question of who comes third and fourth matters too.

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10 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Government amendment on “deeply damaging” non-disclosure agreements does not go far enough to protect victims
  • Shoplifting: Govt continues to let organised gangs off the hook
  • Cole-Hamilton criticises state of sewage monitoring
  • SNP burn through ScotWind cash in record time
  • McArthur responds to opposition to assisted dying bill

Government amendment on “deeply damaging” non-disclosure agreements does not go far enough to protect victims

After tireless campaigning by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the Government in the House of Lords has tabled an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill that ensures non-disclosure agreements preventing victims from disclosing information to the police or other bodies (including confidential support services) cannot be legally enforced.

Responding to the tabling of this amendment, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

The Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning to end the deeply damaging practice of non-disclosure agreements. This amendment is a welcome move that will help victims to access the support they need.

But while this is a step in the right direction, the Government is not going far enough in giving victims their voice back.

We need a complete ban of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying to ensure that no victim is silenced.

Shoplifting: Govt continues to let organised gangs off the hook

Responding to the news that assaulting a shop worker will be made a separate criminal offence in England and Wales, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

For too long, the Conservative Government have been sitting on their hands while hardworking shopkeepers are left to face the brunt of the shoplifting epidemic alone.

As the majority of shoplifting cases go unsolved, the Conservatives has repeatedly failed to get even the basics right of tackling this issue – something their new gimmicks won’t change.

It is now vital the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary invest in proper community policing and ensure all shoplifting thefts are investigated.

The government is currently letting organised criminal gangs off the hook and leaving shopkeepers hugely vulnerable.

Cole-Hamilton criticises state of sewage monitoring

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has called on the SNP and Greens to get tough with Scottish Water as it was revealed that in three local authorities there is no monitoring of sewage dumping at all and in ten more local authorities just one or two sites are monitored.

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The culture war of the “gender-critical” has broken the NHS

The Cass Report, billed as an independent review into NHS provision of transgender provision for adolescents was published today. I’ve read the summary and recommendations (the whole report runs to over 300 pages), and running throughout it are the scars of the so-called “culture war”—a social movement where transphobes who hold so-called “gender critical” beliefs have been campaigning to marginalise trans people and roll-back hard won protection in equality law.

The report itself acknowledges the toxicity of debate around transgender healthcare. I’m going to try and be fair to the report here and deal with it as neutrally as I can. Transphobia does not seem to be seeping out of its pores in the same way that a recent Department for Education consultation did, which explicitly framed the discussion through the lens of the “gender critical” philosophy.

It is undeniable the harm that the culture war fuelled by transphobia has caused, and this comes through in the report.

Anti-trans campaigners are litigious and well-funded (allegedly by far-right American fundamentalists), and using these legal weapons has been effective in securing their campaign goals in places with a management culture focussed on risk management and minimisation.

The result of this atmosphere of fear created by the anti-trans movement is one the review describes as a situation where other services in healthcare are scared to do anything when gender dysphoria is present. Instead, everyone is referred to the specialist gender services for unrelated or co-existing conditions, which they might not be able to deal with. This is well-known in the trans community as “trans broken arm syndrome“. This is true in both children and adults.

There is no doubt that in part this is due to the fear within the healthcare community of being dragged into the frontline of the culture wars, which has had the chilling effect of marginalising trans people so that only the gender clinics can help.

The Cass Review strongly advocates moving away from single specialist centres to a regional model of trans healthcare, closer to primary care. This is also something many trans people and advocates (including myself) believe would be a better system of healthcare delivery, but it describes the current situation as far from that. Other recommendations in the report are fair assessments of the current situation. In the void left by the failure of NHS healthcare, private providers like GenderGP have emerged, but their standards of care fall short of best practice (trans streamer F1nn5ter recently did a video about this). The Cass Report is right to be critical of this, and this is one of the biggest indicators of how current NHS provision fails.

Much is made in the report of the lack of quality research covering transgender health. Transgender health has often been seen as at best niche, and at worst, something to be actively destroyed. During Nazi rule, the world’s first and leading research centre was ransacked and the research burnt, as well as trans people being among the identities targeted in the holocaust. Other research has overly focussed on transgender women and bears an undercurrent of the fetishisation that we’re often targets of, yet remained influential in the field for decades.

One example of this is that there has never been a longitudinal study of the impact of progesterone alongside estrogen in feminising hormones, which are routinely denied due to evidence showing no effect on breast growth, but anecdotally has an effect on mental health, which has never been evaluated. The assumption of medical researchers that trans women are only interested in breast development, and not in the mental health benefits of the hormone which is available to cis women, is one example of research being rooted in trans misogyny.

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Ed Davey’s message for Eid

We at Liberal Democrat Voice would like to wish everyone celebrating Eid Mubarak.

In his message for Eid, Ed Davey talked of our collective values of compassion and justice and assured British Muslims that the Liberal Democrats stand with them in solidarity and celebration.

He said:

Eid Mubarak to everyone in the UK and across the globe celebrating Eid.

As we mark the end of Ramadan, let’s reflect on our values of working together, of compassion and gratitude for what we have in common.

I know there are so many of you who have gone through this holy month and are now with your families and friends celebrating this moment.

And I know it has been a difficult time for British Muslims and Muslims across the world with the rise of Islamophobia and the horrible, awful conflict in Israel and Palestine and we commit ourselves to working for the peace we all need.

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9 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Hospital’s spend £3million on pest control as patients suffer from rats and insects
  • Cameron and Trump: European leaders’ summit needed to seize frozen Russian assets
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP have failed to help A&E recover
  • Lib Dems launch London Transport Policy – Blackie: “No more bus cuts”

Hospital’s spend £3million on pest control as patients suffer from rats and insects

  • Staff report being bitten by bugs as rats roam maternity and emergency wards
  • Freedom of Information requests reveal NHS Hospitals coping with 18,000 pest incidents since 2021
  • Liberal Democrat Leader demands urgent repair fund for crumbling hospitals

Freedom of Information Requests by the Liberal Democrats have revealed the extent of pests roaming NHS Hospitals. As the NHS repair backlog reaches record levels, these new revelations show staff and patients subjected to poor conditions.

Since 2021, over 60 NHS Trusts have reported £3.7 million spent on pest control at their hospitals. Imperial College NHS Trust, which includes St.Mary’s Hospital London, spent a staggering £383,597 on pest control, including dealing with 748 pest incidents last year alone.

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust spent £119,199 to deal with mice in the kitchen, maggots in the mortuary and rat droppings in a corpse bag, amongst many other pests.

The most shocking incidents were reported by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust, which includes Colchester Hospital and Ipswich Hospital. Staff reported:

  • Black insects are biting the legs of staff
  • Ants and fly infestations
  • Rats in the ambulance area

At Ashford NHS Trust, dead headless pigeons and dead rabbits, as well as slug and ants were reported. Royal United Hospitals Bath reported pests in the children’s ward and breast clinic.

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Ukraine: are we absolutely sure we want a wider war? Part II

Embed from Getty Images

It has become quite mainstream now to portray Russia as an evil regime, about to invade Western Europe, that needs to be defeated at any cost (i.e. nuclear war … even though some such advocates don’t understand that implication). Until recently this was seen as a fringe conspiracy theory.

Sure, Russia has a pretty appalling power structure with a lawless mafia-ised system clustered around the Presidency, with it’s tentacles around Europe, Mid East and Africa. It is also technologically advanced, especially in military and space spheres, and has vast natural resources, managed centrally. Russia is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. It is formidable, and limiting its ‘ethnic Russians’ propagandised mischief-making, (eg Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Donbass and the Baltic States), without getting to a counterproductive World War, requires a sophisticated carrot-and-stick approach.

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Westminster ‘Honeytrapper’ targetted MPs at LibDem conference in Bournemouth – via Grindr

Politico reports that the “honeytrapper” implicated in the Westminster scandal actually tried to target LibDem MPs at our last Bournemouth conflict. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

“I was at the bar at the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott ,” recalls an attendee at Lib Dem conference. He saw a message on gay dating app Grindr from a handsome man in a Levi’s T-shirt. “M – xl” said he was 28 — and that his name was Charlie.

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Ukraine; are we absolutely sure we want a wider war?

In war it is good to remember two bits of age-old wisdom, if unnecessary deaths are to be avoided; ‘know your enemy’ and ‘don’t believe your own propaganda’.

Ignoring these two adages led to the West’s humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, and Western-led conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Saharan Africa and Yemen, which have all been catastrophic for Western interests.

We now have a parallel in Ukraine.

As I wrote in LDV on 11th Feb 2023:

In April Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said ‘We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine’ and ‘Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here’. At the end of the previous month the US President called for the removal of President Putin from power.

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Sometimes sorry just isn’t enough

Wednesday was a day filled with sorrow and reflection as I learned about a tragic event unfolding in Gaza. A missile strike by the Israeli Defence Force claimed the lives of seven individuals associated with the World Central KitchenAid organization. Among them were three British citizens: John Chapman, James Anderson, and James Kirby. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives in this catastrophe, particularly those working tirelessly to alleviate the severe food shortages plaguing the people of Gaza.

The mission of World Central Kitchen, to feed the most vulnerable under dire conditions, where some have had to resort to animal feed for sustenance, is nothing short of heroic. This calamity, however, casts a shadow on their noble work, revealing the precarious nature of providing aid in conflict zones.

The admission by IDF Chief Herzi Halevi, attributing the strike to misidentification, does little to assuage the gravity of the situation. The meticulous targeting of vehicles marked with the World Central Kitchen emblem seems to point to a breakdown not just in the fog of war but in accountability and oversight by one of the world’s most technologically advanced militaries.

In a separate, equally disturbing event, a suspected Israeli strike demolished the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. This act, resulting in the death of seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), escalates tensions further and breaches the sanctity of diplomatic missions, a cornerstone of international relations.

These events have reignited the discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict, underscoring the urgent need for peace and the problematic nature of ongoing arms sales to Israel. Calls for a ceasefire from former Supreme Court Justices and reconsideration of support for UNWRA highlight the potential complicity in serious violations of international law.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Iran is unlikely to wreak a shattering vengeance for the Israeli attack on their diplomatic compound in Damascus. The attack killed Brigadier General Mohammed Reza Zahedi and seven others. General Zahedi led the Quds force, which is the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He was credited with helping the October 7 Hamas attack.

On the surface, it would be logical to think that Tehran would respond with a tit for tat attack — perhaps a strike against an Israeli diplomatic mission.

But the experts think not this time. There are several reasons. The first is that Iran is in a poor position economically and politically to take Israel head-on. Years of sanctions have damaged the Iranian economy and the theocratic leaders face strong and growing domestic opposition to their repressive interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini is quite happy to employ the Houthis and Hezbollah to keep poking at Israel and the US and their allies, but fears the result of a direct confrontation. At least until Iran has a nuclear weapon to deter a full-scale Israeli-American attack.

Another reason observers think Iran is holding back is because Tehran believes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to escalate and expand the war. Iran thinks, according to sources, that more war is Netanyahu’s best chance of staying in power and of securing wavering American support. Limiting the scope of hostilities makes it more likely that Israeli elections will be held and Netanyahu will be voted out of office.

Meanwhile, the biggest threat to Netanyahu’s government appears to be coming not from Gaza, Iran, Joe Biden or the West Bank. It is from Israel’s Orthodox Jews.

This week the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that government subsidies for the Orthodox community must end and that Orthodox men and women — who have been exempt from conscription since 1948 — must be subject to the Israeli draft like everyone else.

Almost as soon the court made its ruling, Attorney-General Gali Beharav-Miara, wrote to the education and defense ministers telling them to cut off funding to the Yeshiva schools and start drafting the estimated 60,000 Orthodox Jews aged 18 to 26.

But Benjamin Netanyahu is hesitating. He relies on the support of two Orthodox parties — Shas and United Torah Judaism — to stay in office. Their leaders are threatening to walk out of the fragile coalition government if the Supreme Court’s ruling is enforced. At the same time, the secular parties in Netanyahu’s coalition have issued warnings that they will collapse the government if the prime minister does not enforce the ruling.

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Observations of an ex pat: Suspend arms shipments to Israel

Selling weapons to Israel is a breach of international law.

This is not my opinion. It is the judgement of 600 British legal eagles, including three former members of the UK Supreme Court. They have been joined by 130 parliamentarians and the three main Opposition parties have demanded a debate on the issue.

It is also the verdict of the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Japan and Spain. They have all suspended arms shipments to Israel.

All the above agree that Israel is breaking a number of international laws with its attacks on civilians in Gaza. Furthermore, that countries that supply the Israeli government with weapons are complicit in breaking those laws.

So what laws is Israel breaching? To start with there is Article 7 of the UN Arms Trade Treaty which “prohibits the export of arms where is an overriding risk that the weapons can be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

It is an international law which has been enforced by Britain in the past. In 2019 the British Court of Appeals used it to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia based on the Saudis indiscriminate bombing of Yemen.

There is also the 1948 Geneva Convention Against Genocide, which, ironically, was enacted as a response to the killing of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. This convention prohibits “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group.” It goes on to describe the prohibited acts: “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the group as a whole.”

The Israeli government and their supporters say that claims that they are breaching international law are “nonsense.” But, so far the Israeli Defence Force has caused the death of more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza and seriously injured 52,000 more. Eighty-five percent – 1.9 million people have had their homes destroyed by Israeli bombs. Gaza’s hospitals are medical rubble. Israel’s refusal to allow food and water into Gaza have created famine conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that Gazans are “the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded.”

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5 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • NICs: Prime Minister is still peddling this deception
  • Chamberlains’s Carer’s Leave Bill to come into force
  • 91,000 people call 999 or turn to A&E after struggling to get GP appointment
  • Rennie: Fall in modern languages teachers jeopardises vision for Scotland
  • Blackie: ‘My top priority: fix the Met’

NICs: Prime Minister is still peddling this deception

Responding to the changes to National Insurance (NI) and freezing of income tax thresholds coming into force tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP said:

The Prime Minister is still peddling this deception and voters will see straight through it.

Hammering the public with unfair stealth taxes and then claiming people will be taking home more in their pay packets is frankly offensive.

This is an out of touch Prime Minister leading a directionless Conservative government with his party more interested in clinging on to power than ensuring people are better off. They do not deserve to be in power for a moment longer.

Chamberlains’s Carer’s Leave Bill to come into force

The “landmark” Carer’s Leave Bill introduced by North East Fife MP and Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain will come into force on Saturday 6th April.

The Bill will give an estimated 2.4 million carers across the UK a statutory right to take five days of unpaid leave per year. Carer’s UK have described this as a ‘landmark’ piece of legislation which would help carers to better balance work and care.

Wendy Chamberlain introduced the Carer’s Leave Bill in June 2022 after winning a place in the Private Member’s Bill lottery. The Bill enjoyed cross-party support and was passed on 19 May 2023. The legislation comes into effect on 6th April 2024

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ALDC By-election Report 4th April

As we get nearer to the local elections on 2 May the number of by-elections is naturally reducing a bit. However there is still a steady stream of by-elections each week between now and May that we will continue to report on. There were 3 principal council by-elections this week – including yet another Lib Dem victory.

Our win came on Cornwall Council where we held Looe West, Pelynt, Lansallos & Lanteglos ward. Congratulations to our new Councillor Jim Candy and Cornwall Lib Dems for holding the seat.

Cornwall Council, Looe West, Pelynt, Lansallos & Lanteglos
Liberal Democrats (Jim Candy): 604 (45%, -16%)
Conservative: 414 (31%, +1%)
Labour: 254 (19%, +11%)
Green Party: 75 (6%, new)

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New issue of Liberator is out

What’s inside this issue?

You can download Liberator 422 for free here: https://liberatormagazine.org.uk/recent-issues/

Find out in Radical Bulletin why there was a row over Lib Dem participation in the South Devon primary election, why members got four conflicting messages about Rochdale and about a mind-bending case for STV enthusiasts, and much more.

Also in this issue:

Why Putin Cannot be Allowed to Win

Lib Dem MP Sarah Green joined a parliamentary delegation to Ukraine and saw a country still determined to resist a tyrant with whom negotiation is impossible

Ukraine Resists – With Some Help From Shakespeare

Nataliya Torkut is Ukraine’s leading expert on Shakespeare and a professor at Zaporizhzhia National University. She was interviewed by Kiron Reid about Ukraine’s continued resistance to Russia and the role in this of intellectual life

How to Look for the Next Leader

With no Lib Dem leadership contest due, Liz Barker looks to the long term of how the party should choose its next leader

The North is Red – at Least for Now

The Rochdale by-election showed the realities of fighting Labour where it is entrenched in its heartlands, even with the unusual circumstances of disowned candidates, says Jackie Pearcey

Does a Decade Make a Difference?

It’s 10 years since the death of Liberator stalwart Simon Titley. Jonathan Calder delves into his writing and finds it alarmingly relevant today

Traffic in a Jam

Mark Smulian looks at why councils’ installation of low traffic neighbourhoods can cause such rancour

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Layla Moran reports that her family is safely out of Gaza

Some good news from Layla Moran:

She adds:

Thank you to all who have followed their story. But while theirs ends with reunification, having lost one along the way, this atrocious war rages on. I won’t stop working until we achieve not just an end to violence, but peace once and for all.

As a Palestinian, Layla has been a powerful voice on the war in Gaza, especially as she is our Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Back in December she talked to Channel 4 news about her extended family who were holed up in the church in Gaza.

For now we are just grateful that Layla’s family are safe.

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4 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Police taking up to 28 hours to attend burglaries
  • Sharp decline in STEM teacher numbers
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to Loch Lomond Highland Games cancellation

Police taking up to 28 hours to attend burglaries

Average burglary response times have increased by a shocking 25% in just one year, with some forces taking an average of 28 hours for an officer to arrive at the scene, damning figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The figures were obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests to all police forces in England. 26 forces provided responses.

Burglaries are often considered as Grade 2 priority incidents, which most police forces aim to respond to within one hour. The College of Policing defines these as “incidents where a witness or other evidence is likely to be lost”, and “a degree of urgency is still associated with immediate police action.”

But in the 2022/23 financial year, it took an average of 9 hours and 8 minutes across police forces for an officer to turn up to the scene when a burglary was reported. This is an increase of 25% from the previous year, when average wait times across police forces stood at 7 hours and 17 minutes. 20 of the 26 police forces reported longer wait times in 2022/23, compared to 2021/22.

When compared to figures from 2020/21, the deterioration in wait times was even more stark. 11 forces saw their burglary response times more than double in that time period. South Yorkshire experienced the largest deterioration in wait times, which increased by a shocking 443% – up from 2 hours and 21 minutes in 2020/21, to 12 hours and 47 minutes in 2022/23.

The figures also revealed a disturbing postcode lottery, with response times varying significantly depending on the police force. The worst performing force was Northamptonshire, with a staggering average response time of 28 hours and 2 minutes for burglary calls. They were followed closely behind by Durham, where victims were left waiting nearly 26 hours for an officer to arrive. Meanwhile, average response times in Bedfordshire were nearly 15 minutes, while Cumbria response times sat at just a little over one hour.

It comes just months after the latest Home Office statistics revealed that 3 in 4 burglaries went unsolved in the year ending September 2023.

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for these figures, arguing that years of ineffective resourcing have left local police forces overstretched, under-resourced and unable to effectively respond to local crime. This includes taking more than 4,500 community officers (PCSOs) off the streets since 2015.

The party is calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible and trusted, with the time and resources to focus on tackling neighbourhood crime like burglaries.

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Rob Blackie on the impact of crime on Black Londoners

Ademola Adeyeba, Rob Blackie & Chris French

Rob Blackie, our candidate for London Mayor, has highlighted an aspect of policing and the Black community that is sometimes forgotten.  For far too long the right wing media have drawn attention to Black criminals but ignored Black victims of crime.

Rob cites the statistics that show that Black people are six times more likely to be murdered in London, twice as likely to be raped, 66% more likely to suffer domestic abuse, and over 2.5 times more likely to be a victim of a hate crime. That disparity is really shocking. He says:

This is completely unacceptable, and the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has not made any significant progress. Since he has been in charge of the Met the proportion of Black police officers has only increased from 3% in 2016 to 3.6% in 2023. At this rate it will take 40 years to have a police service that reflects the makeup of London.

Rob met with Ademola Adeyeba, founder of the mentoring organisation 1000 Black Boys, and Chris French, Lib Dem Greater London Assembly candidate for Lambeth and Southwark and a former special constable, to talk through his proposals for a Race Equality Plan for Policing:

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3 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Aid worker deaths: Davey calls on government to suspend arms sales to Israel
  • Royal Mail proposal to cut second class deliveries: Another slap in the face
  • London Lib Dems response to Khan economic announcement
  • Worst hit rivers for sewage dumps revealed as Lib Dems call for new Blue Flag status
  • Rennie responds to CalMac boss stepping down

Aid worker deaths: Davey calls on government to suspend arms sales to Israel

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to suspend arms sales to Israel, following the deaths of seven aid workers including three British nationals in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

The deaths of these British aid workers in Gaza is an absolute disgrace. These brave people were trying to help starving families in Gaza.

Clearly, the thought that British-made arms could have been used in strikes such as these is completely unacceptable.

The government must take swift action to suspend arms exports to Israel. We must redouble our efforts to secure an immediate bilateral ceasefire.

Royal Mail proposal to cut second class deliveries: Another slap in the face

Responding to the news that Royal Mail wants to reduce second class deliveries to three days a week, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These plans are a slap in the face for families being asked to pay more for less.

The cost of first and second class stamps has gone up sharply in recent years. It risks creating a cost of postage crisis, as people feel forced to pay for first class stamps because second class delivery days are being slashed.

People shouldn’t have to pay the price for Royal Mail’s failure, after executives missed their delivery targets and paid themselves eye-watering bonuses.

London Lib Dems response to Khan economic announcement

Responding to Sadiq Khan’s joint economic announcement with Rachel Reeves today (Weds), Rob Blackie, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, said:

Labour’s plan ignores London’s biggest economic problem – Brexit. Labour are too scared to say that Brexit has damaged London’s economy, making us poorer and costing us jobs.

For instance, technology companies now have to spend time and money complying with two data laws, one each from the EU and the UK. And too many European citizens in London are made to feel unwelcome.

As Liberal Democrat Mayor I will campaign to fix the damage done by Brexit, and bring in a London passport to protect London’s EU citizen rights.

Posted in London, News, Press releases and Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , and | 28 Comments

Behind the lurid headlines: What the Scottish hate crime legislation actually says

An author got herself a tonne of publicity earlier this week by posting some very unpleasant, disrespectful and insulting comments on social media. She basically dared the Police to arrest her under Scotland’s new hate crime legislation.

There was never a chance of that happening. The threshold of what actually counts as a hate crime is pretty high and Police Scotland confirmed that no action would be taken against this person.

Perhaps an unintended consequence of this fuss is that it drives a coach and horses through the claims of many on the right that this new law is going to end up with anyone who says anything that isn’t “woke” being put on a list and carted off to jail. This is, to be clear, complete and utter bollocks.

Someone I know had been scared by her GB News addict dad that she could lose her job if she blurted out some of the stuff she comes out with after a few glasses of wine.  To be fair to her, it’s sometimes a bit gross but none of it constitutes either hate or a crime. She was worried nonetheless.

Thankfully, the Equality Network has published a very helpful guide to the new legislation which reassured her. Essentially, to face consequences, you have to commit a crime that is motivated by prejudice:

It is important though to know that many forms of prejudiced or offensive behaviour are NOT hate crimes. It is not a crime to be prejudiced, and the right to freedom of expression means that people may express their prejudice in offensive, shocking or disturbing ways, without crossing the line into criminal behaviour.

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2 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Government childcare announcement: More Conservative chaos hurting families
  • Only 0.1% of police dedicated to rural crime teams

Government childcare announcement: More Conservative chaos hurting families

Responding to the Government’s childcare announcment, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

This latest Conservative chaos is hitting families hard. Parents are seriously worried about what the Government’s botched childcare expansion will mean for them.

Free hours are no good if parents can’t find a good nursery or childminder for their child – and thanks to Conservative underfunding, more than 3,000 providers have closed in the last year alone.

Instead of plunging families into even more chaos, the Government should take up the Liberal Democrats’ clear and properly-funded plan to ensure all parents can access childcare that is flexible, affordable and fair.

Only 0.1% of police dedicated to rural crime teams

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservative government of “neglecting” rural communities as new data reveals that only 258 police officers and staff are dedicated to rural crime teams across England and Wales – just 0.1% of the overall workforce. It means fewer than one in 1,000 police officers around the country are dedicated to rural crime teams.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey will today call for Police and Crime Commissioners to be scrapped so the savings can be invested in frontline policing, including ensuring that every police force has a properly resourced rural crime team. It is estimated the move would save £150 million every four years.

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2 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax
  • Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election
  • Cole-Hamilton: No one should have to wait 12 hours at A&E
  • More than 1,900 stuck in hospital

Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax

1.6 million pensioners are set to be dragged into paying income tax due to the government’s stealth tax freeze by 2027/28, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The House of Commons Library analysis looks at the impact of the Chancellor’s decision to freeze the personal allowance at £12,570, the rate at which people start paying tax. Without the stealth tax freeze, the allowance would have risen to £15,220 in the coming financial year (2024/25) and up to £15,990 in 2027/28.

The analysis estimated that around 1.2 million pensioners will be dragged into paying income tax in 2024/25. By 2027/28, 1.6 million additional pensioners will be paying income tax compared to if the Personal Allowance had been increased in line with inflation.

The latest DWP figures show there are 12.7 million people receiving the state pension. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, well over 60 per cent of these pensioners now pay income tax, up from around 50% in 2010. The research found 8.5 million people over the age of 65 were now paying tax on their income, up from roughly 4.9 million in 2010.

Separate analysis from the Resolution Foundation has found that the freezing of income tax thresholds will leave the average taxpaying pensioner £1,000 worse off by 2027-28, or a collective hit of £8 billion.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These stark figures reveal the stealth tax bombshell facing pensioners under this Conservative government.

Older people who have worked hard and contributed all their lives are now being clobbered with years of unfair tax hikes.

Jeremy Hunt’s pensioner-punishing Budget will not be forgotten come the next election. The Conservative Party faces a reckoning at the ballot from older voters sick of being taken for granted.

Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election

Responding to Rishi Sunak laughing at being asked when the next General Election will be on BBC Radio Tees, Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson Helen Morgan MP said:

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Lib Dem April fools sail closer to the truth?

Well done to Lib Dem Voice editorial team member Mary Reid, who once again excelled at the subtle April Fools post on this website. “Another bank holiday?” stimulated about 30 comments debating the whys and wherefores of Bank Holidays and Saint Days, down to a spat about the pronunciation of “Æthelthryth”. We did think that proposing a variable bank holiday for the Prime Minister’s Birthday and one for Flora Poil, the “Victorian social reformer” might give the game away.

Party President Mark Pack had me going with his news that the party has a new phone app for leaflet delivery. The article was typically Mark Packish in its attention to detail. It was when I got to the paragraph about leaflet orientation that I checked the date of the article:

But the very best part of the app is the set of icons that appear as you approach each letterbox on your delivery round. Behind the scenes, Connect data (supplemented by data from Wintringham 1) and demographic information from public sources such as the census is used to tell you which way round to orient the leaflet: is the person likely to be at home, and so the leaflet should land on the doormat headline towards the door so that they can easily read it when they come to the door, or is the person likely to be away, and so the leaflet should land headline away from the door, so it’s facing the right way when they come home?

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 5 Comments

Another bank holiday?

Today is Easter Monday – one of a pitifully small number of bank holidays that we enjoy in the UK.  The Republic of Ireland has 10 public holidays each year,  France has 11, Spain has 12, Denmark and Norway have 14 each, whilst Nepal has an astonishing 39. We are right at the bottom of the list with only 8 public holidays per year.

This year the Republic of Ireland introduced a new public holiday on the first Monday in February to celebrate St Brigid, Ireland’s only female patron saint. The date is also known in Gaelic traditions as Imbolc, and it marks the beginning of Spring.

The Government has launched a consultation on adding at least two further public holidays across the UK. The Lib Dem Voice team supports this proposal and would like to gather suggestions from our readers so we can submit a response.

The proposals are:

  1. To identify a public holiday in each of our nations on the date of the relevant patron saint. So England would celebrate  St George on 23rd April, Wales would celebrate St David on 1st March, Northern Ireland would celebrate St Patrick on 17th March, and Scotland would celebrate St Andrew on 30th November.
  2. To identify a further public holiday across the UK. The Government is looking for suggestions for suitable dates.

The second proposal has generated a lot of interest. We have come up with a number of suggestions between us but we would welcome further ideas from you. Please add to the comments below.

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30-31 March 2024 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Revealed: 31,000 sewage discharges into bathing areas last year
  • Water firms committing “environmental cover up” as one in seven sewage monitors are faulty
  • Khan quietly ditches ‘Track My Crime’ victim tool

Revealed: 31,000 sewage discharges into bathing areas last year

  • Sewage dumped average of 86 times a day last year into bathing water sites, up 47% on previous year
  • Lib Dems warn families visiting seaside over Easter bank holiday will be “horrified” that popular beaches are being ruined by rise in sewage dumping
  • Allonby in Cumbria the worst hit bathing site with 4,500 hours of sewage dumped last year

The Liberal Democrats have accused water companies of committing “environmental vandalism” after the party’s analysis has revealed that there were 31,000 sewage discharges in bathing areas last year, an increase of 47% compared to 2022.

Shockingly this amounts to sewage being dumped an average of 86 times a day into bathing water areas last year, subjecting swimmers to potential serious health risks. The Liberal Democrats warned that families visiting the seaside over the Easter Bank holiday would be horrified that popular beaches are being ruined by sewage.

The analysis looks at the amount of sewage dumped into beaches officially classified as bathing waters, meaning they should be protected from pollution. In total sewage was discharged for 228,000 hours into bathing areas across England in 2023, an increase of 80% on the previous year.

The worst bathing area for sewage dumping last year was in Allonby where United Utilities dumped over 4,500 hours worth of sewage. This was followed by Haverigg where United Utilities dumped 3,600 hours of sewage into bathing spots, then Middleton-on-sea where 3,500 hours of sewage was dumped by Southern Water.

United Utilities were also the worst offending company overall with 10,467 sewage spills over 76,259 hours dumped into bathing sites. South West Water dumped the second largest amount of sewage into bathing sites last year with 8,500 spills over 59,000 hours. This was followed by Southern Water, Wessex Water, and Thames Water respectively who were all responsible for dumping over 11,000 hours worth of sewage into bathing spots last year.

Posted in London, News and Press releases | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments
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