A special request to Federal Conference Committee

My goodness, Conference is going to be an absolute blast this year. Our annual jaunt to the seaside takes place from 14-17 September in Brighton will be so much sweeter after our spectacular General Election result.

I wasn’t going to go because of caring responsibilities, but I’ve managed to book a flying visit for 24 hours as I can’t bear the thought of not being with the Lib Dem family in such a special year. I mean who wouldn’t want to be around to congratulate 72 MPs and maybe get  a cuddle with Jennie if she’s off duty? And I can vouch for the fact that she does love a cuddle. If you think I am talking about Jennie Rigg, well, her too.

Before I say anything else, I should make the point very strongly that Federal Conference Committee have even more of a challenge than usual this year because someone decided to go outside on a wet Wednesday and call an election round about the time we’d normally have our motion submission deadlines.  Whether you agree with every decision FCC makes or not, I think it is important to acknowledge the huge amount of work that they do.

So, this request to them comes from a place of love. Registration for Conference opened earlier this week. The Early Bird discount is only available for around two weeks. Until 23 July, a members’ pass to the Conference costs £90. After that, until 13th August, it goes up to £130.

Posted in News | Tagged | 5 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Special Relationship

It’s time for the Special Relationship to be extracted from the diplomatic cupboard and dusted off.

Britain needs it. Europe needs it. And, although they are less keen to admit that they need help from any quarter, the US needs it to become the cornerstone of a new Transatlantic Alliance.

For years the UK shared the “Special Relationship” tag with France and Germany. In fact, after Brexit, Britain probably slipped into third place in Washington’s relationship arrangements.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has politically castrated himself with the recent political elections and the dull and dreary German Chancellor Olaf Scholz fails to inspire either the Germans or the wider world community

Britain may no longer be an EU power, but Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide victory gives him latitude at home and kudos abroad.

He is helped by a foreign secretary who has the potential to go down in history as one of the best in modern times. David Lammy wasted no time in stamping his image on British foreign policy. Almost before Sir Keir had finished his acceptance speech, Lammy was on the plane for Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Kyiv. This week he was at the prime minister’s elbow for the NATO summit in Washington where Sir Keir was the only NATO leader awarded a tete a tete with President Joe Biden.

Lammy also has extensive American connections. The new foreign secretary has worked, studied and lived in the US. He has family in America and his father is buried in Texas.

But what if Donald Trump returns to the White House? A prospect which appears increasingly likely as Joe Biden ages with every passing day. Lammy is on record as labelling Trump a “woman-hating neo-Nazi sympathising sociopath” and a “profound threat to international order” as well as a racist and a fascist.

But both Sir Keir and Lammy have said that the transAtlantic relationship remains the “bedrock” of British foreign policy. And in a recent speech at the conservative US think tank the Hudson Institute, Lammy said that Trump’s comments on European security had been “misunderstood.” He has also gone out of his way recently to meet senior Trump foreign policy advisers.

Unfortunately, Trump’s negative policy towards Europe is based on good, sound politics. It is a reflection of a growing US isolationism which in turn is a reaction to series of foreign policy reversals. That feeling of being hard done by the rest of the world (especially its European allies) will continue regardless of whomever win the November election.

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

12 July 2024 – today’s press release

I’d rather let this feature slip during the General Election – the flood of press releases, and the fact that they generally got rather better coverage than usual made it seem slightly less necessary to cover them here. But, perhaps now that the news cycle has settled a bit, and given that we have a vastly larger Parliamentary Party in the Commons, this feature may offer some insight into what our new MPs are up to.

That said, there’s only one today…

SEPA need to show plan for cleaning up Portobello

Responding to comments from SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, saying that paddling or bathing in the water at Edinburgh’s Portobello beach could pose a risk to health, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West Christine Jardine said:

This is an iconic location in our capital but once again people are being asked to stay out of the water because of threats to health. As Edinburgh gears up for its busiest season, this sends a terrible message.

Residents and visitors need more information out of SEPA as to what is leading to these closures and what action is being taken to deliver a long-term solution.

Posted in News, Press releases and Scotland | Tagged and | Leave a comment

Is the Criminal Justice system broken?

Concerns about knife crime amongst young people, unacceptable delays in the court system, prisons bursting at the seams and yet most reported crime goes unresolved.

The UK has areas of deprivation the likes of which have not been seen since the second world war. There are children and young people with little to do and very little hope or aspiration. How can we punish children for behaviour which is a direct result of the society into which they have been born?

There are now 3.9 million children being brought up in poverty – 2/3rds of whom have a parent in work. Children brought up in poverty are less likely to do well at school, more likely to have health problems, making a demand upon the NHS, and have a shorter life expectancy.

Many children who offend, commit their first offence whilst truanting from school. The educational system has failed them. Children should want to go to school and not have to be made to do so. Schools should encourage children to get involved in organised out of school activity.

Community Policing should be exactly that by re-instating neighbourhood police officers who can be around so that the children know him/her and (s)he knows most of the children by sight.

Many children go on offending sprees between apprehension for an offence and disposal through the courts which is why this period needs to be kept as short as possible and to a matter of days.

Group residential intervention, be it Young Offender Institutions or residential care (secure or otherwise) for young people has been shown to reinforce offending and establish a pattern of offending for life. “Creating Criminals”.

During my social work training my residential placement was in a Remand Home. When boys arrived the others would ask what they had done. Which would usually be greeted by “Oh, is that all”. The story would get progressively serious with each telling and most conversation be about crime. Even if children were rehabilitated the local community would expect them to behave as before and they would soon revert to past behaviour.

Stigma and labelling is responsible for a great deal of anti-social behaviour.

Policies of diversion and alternatives to custody need to be adequately resourced because of the risks involved and capable of fully occupying the child who has offended throughout their waking hours on activities which interest and motivate him/her, so (s)he grows out of his/her offending.

Community-based activities are very visible and, as such, can lead to criticism of rewarding bad behaviour. Society is quite happy to spend £130,000 per child per year on Young Offenders Institutions which is seen as punishment even though it does not work than a fraction of that cost on constructive intervention.

This is why it is important that some of the activity should involve face to face contact with people in need (such as the CSV Children in Care Programme of the 70s and 80s) to change the perception from delinquent to helper in both the young person’s own eyes and in those around them.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

BBC celebrates new MPs

The BBC has been profiling some of our new MPs, with great photos. (You will have to click through to see some of them).

Mike Martin: Tunbridge Wells

Mike told the BBC:

I am absolutely humbled being here and elected. It’s a total privilege.

I just can’t wait to get stuck in now, to help with all of the issues people have told me about over the past two years.

David Chadwick: Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe

Twelve years ago David was in a serious car crash and was put in an induced coma. On top of that he developed a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome – I have huge sympathy for David as my husband has had it as well.   He said:

The experience made me realise how important a functioning health care system is, because we never know when we’re going to need it.

When I was totally paralysed I had a lot of time to think about my life and I decided I want to use my body and the rest of my life to do good.

I’ve met a lot of people over the past couple of weeks who really need support and it’s an honour to be in a place where I can hopefully help them as much as I can.

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Rt Hon Jennie

The other day Caron mentioned that Jennie, the guide dog for Steve Darling, MP for Torbay, now has her own account on X at @rthonjennie.

You can see the two of them swearing in here:

Steve was subjected to some appalling abuse during the campaign, with Tory canvassers claiming that he was pretending to be blind and using his guide dog for “political purposes”. Any such nonsense is, of course, counter-productive and many local voters jumped in to defend him. He won with a respectable majority of over 5,000, overturning a Conservative majority of 17,000.

And Jennie has had a tough time too. Last year she was viciously attacked by an XL Bully dog, but fortunately she has made a full recovery.

Posted in News | Tagged and | Leave a comment

Tactical voting works both ways

I want to thank all those Labour supporters who voted Lib Dem to ensure that a Conservative was not elected in their constituency.

I also want to thank all those Lib Dem supporters who voted Labour for the same reason.

The first time I ever voted it was for Labour. I had been a Liberal supporter from my teens, but my preferred candidate had no chance in my area in South West London. Labour selected a doctor who was black as their candidate, and he came in for all sorts of nasty racist dog-whistle and overt attacks during the election campaign. He seemed a decent man to me so I voted for him. Sadly he did not win, although I was pleased to see him take his seat in the Lords some time later.

The next time I voted I was living in Kingston where I have never had a reason to vote tactically.

Voters have become increasingly sophisticated in their understanding of First Past the Post and tactical voting. We have to thank all the vote switchers for holding their noses, in some cases, and backing the person most likely to defeat the Tory candidate. It worked.

So I was rather taken aback to see comments on social media from some party members moaning about the low Lib Dem figures in some non-target constituencies and complaining that the candidates didn’t do enough campaigning. They assume that the single figure percentages reflect our true base vote. This, of course, flies in the face of our clearly enunciated election strategy, and also the underlying assumption that Lib Dem voters should vote Labour where it would have the desired effect.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 28 Comments

Max Atkinson

Some of you may remember a World in Action TV programme back in 1984 called ‘Claptrap’ in which a first time speaker at the SDP Conference, Ann Brennan, was given an amazing standing ovation. Her success was the result of a social experiment, and the programme tracked the coaching she received from Max Atkinson.

Max was an academic who had studied political speechmaking.  Earlier that year he had published a book titled Our Masters’ Voices: The Language and Body Language of Politics in which he described various public speaking techniques that are almost guaranteed to get applause (ie claptraps). He worked with Ann, who had never given a political speech before, and taught her all the tricks he had observed.  The resulting speech that Ann gave to conference was highly praised at the time and enjoyed more than its 15 minutes of fame.

A few years ago Mark Pack uploaded a very fuzzy copy of the programme to YouTube, so you can watch it here. (If anyone can find a clearer version do let me know).

When he became Leader, Paddy Ashdown took Max Atkinson on as his speechwriter and adviser and they worked as a team for a dozen years.

Max Atkinson and Paddy Ashdown

Posted in Obituaries and Op-eds | Tagged | 10 Comments

First day at work!

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our elections are broken. Let’s fix them!

I’ve always detested First Past the Post. As a child getting into politics, one of the first things I did was learn about all the voting systems out there, and each one I learnt about seemed better than FPTP. 

This election has brought home to me just how flawed this system is, and how rigged it is in favour of the political establishment. I’ve spent much of the last couple of the days reminding people that Labour got just 34% of the votes in this election. Just over a third of voters endorsed Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, but he’ll spend much of the next five years behaving as if he has the full confidence of the entirety of the British public, and an unlimited mandate to behave as he wishes. We must remember that he simply doesn’t have the confidence of the majority of the British people, and to hold Labour to account as such. 

The biggest losers to our electoral system this time around were Reform UK and the Greens. Both those parties’ seat counts don’t accurately reflect their national support in the slightest. Our system is deliberately exclusive, shutting out parties who aren’t able to geographically concentrate their support, and keeping the two main parties in power. In my opinion, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. 

While FPTP suited us excellently this time around, we need to ensure this doesn’t make us forget our core beliefs. Constitutional Reform has long been at the centre of the Liberal Democrat agenda, and it needs to continue to be. We’re a large block in parliament now, and that gives us a platform. We need to work with whoever might be willing, to ensure our elections are truly representative. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

The dangers of country before party

It’s just as well that Labour reduced the election slogans on the placards to one word. I hope that Keir Starmer’s verbal repetition of the “country before party” slogan is quickly forgotten. It comes with its own dangers. Patriotism is fine, provided you and your hearers understand what you mean by that word. Unfortunately it is easily confused with nationalism.

The sleaze, cronyism and breaking of rules by government ministers and MPs over the past decade were offences committed by people, elected as Conservatives who put themselves before the country and indeed before their party. If only these miscreants could have been reprimanded in the style of an old-style school head by someone saying “You have let Parliament down, you have let your constituents down, you have let your country down and you have let yourself down.”

We should add “You have let politics down.” Sometimes as political activists we are tempted to despair when we hear a growing number of residents in some areas proclaiming that they are not going to vote because “they are all the same”. Some of those who tarred everyone else with the same Tory brush voted for Farage and his nativist/populists, which is one reason why Starmer’s vacuous slogan should trigger flashing warning lights. Vote switching Conservatives worked wonders for the Lib Dems but I have a certain grudging respect for those lifelong Tories who really did despair, understood that they had no party to vote for and therefore stayed at home.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

2024 Parliament: Lib Dem MPs get to work

This is what the last four years’ hard work has all been about.

Today, 72 Lib Dem MPs and Jennie, the gorgeous guide dog of Torbay MP Steve Darling posed for the 2024 team photo.

How many can you name? If you are not sure, have a look at our posts on our new MPs

Earlier, our MPs had filled up row upon row in the House of Commons, with Ed taking up the place traditionally occupied by the leader of the third party, last occupied by Nick Clegg up until the 2010 election.

Our Parliament really has some incredible pomp and ritual that some might argue reinforces its remoteness from the people. Black Rod is despatched from the Lords to summon senior MPs to read a proclamation from the King that is written in centuries old English.

Back in the Commons, they elect a Speaker who is dragged to the chair as a throwback to the days when being the Speaker was a dangerous occupation so the unfortunate victor was never enthusiastic about taking on the job.

With Lindsay Hoyle duly re-elected unoposed, each party leader was given a chance to say a few words of congratulation and intent:

Here’s Ed:

The text is below:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

A triumph on tenuous ground

The Liberal Democrats pulled off a historic feat in the 2024 general election, clinching a record number of seats and catapulting themselves back into the limelight. Becoming the third party once more and achieving the highest liberal seat tally in a century is nothing to be scoffed at.

Yet, beneath the surface of this triumph lies an uncomfortable truth: the newly minted caucus is both artificially bloated and alarmingly fragile. Whilst the party will no doubt aim to make hay while the sun shines, the shimmering successes of last week could quickly turn sour if the party misreads what’s to come.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 52 Comments

The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s progressive opposition

Seventy-two seats! Seventy-two! I doubt even in Ed Davey’s wildest dreams, he envisioned us winning so many seats. The “Blue Wall” lies in rubble. The Liberal Democrats now have more seats than at any time in over a century. Not since 1923, when Herbert Asquith was the party leader, have Liberals held so many seats in the House of Commons. We now represent dozens of seats across the South of England. But that’s not all, we also made gains in the North of England, the Midlands, Scotland and Wales. There is something poetic about our 72nd seat (and the final seat to be declared in this election) being that of our late great former leader Charles Kennedy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Blair-era veterans given ministerial roles – Starmer does what we should have done in coalition

Embed from Getty Images

Keir Starmer is bringing a few Blair era veterans back into government:

-Jacqui Smith as Higher Education Minister, first elected 27 years ago
-Douglas Alexander as Business Minister, also first elected 27 years ago and now re-elected at the recent election
-Pat McFadden as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, first elected 19 years ago
-Alan Milburn assisting the new Health Secretary, first elected 32 years ago

Between them, those four individuals have a total of 105 years experience in the British parliament/government/public life between them.

Compare that with our first batch of coalition cabinet members (figures as of 2010 when the coalition government was set up):

-Nick Clegg, first elected to the British parliament 5 years previously
-Danny Alexander, first elected to the British parliament 5 years previously
-David Laws, first elected for Yeovil 9 years previously
-Andrew Stunell (OK, I’ll give you that Andrew was a “grey haired” veteran at the time), first elected to the British parliament 13 years previously
-Chris Huhne, first elected to the British parliament 5 years previously.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Our new MPs: David Chadwick, Manuela Perteghella, Tom Gordon

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here

David Chadwick MP: Brecon, Radnor and Cym Tawe

David lives in Brecon with his wife Gemma and young son William.

David works as a consultant in Cybersecurity and became interested in politics when his grandfather took him to see the steelworks in Port Talbot to see what it was like to work in a blast furnace stating it gave him an early insight into how politics, industry and communities are intrinsically linked.

David is keen to build on the hard work of local Liberal Democrat councillors who took control of Powys Council in 2022 after the Conservatives were left with just a single councillor across Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe.

David’s priorities include:

  • Making sure local farmers aren’t sold down the river in the name of cheap trade deals.
  • Protecting our pristine natural environment, including ending sewage dumping in the River Wye. Tawe and Usk.
  • Fighting for better economic investment, well-paid jobs and improved infrastructure in rural Wales and the former industrial heartlands of the upper Swansea Valley; making sure that our residents aren’t ignored by those in London and the South East.

Twitter: @libdemdavid

Manuela Perteghella MP: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

Our new MPs: Steve Darling, Tessa Munt, Edward Morello, Adam Dance

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here

Steve Darling MP:  Torbay

Steve was brought up in a B&B on Lymington Road and has raised his family with wife Mandy in Torquay. They have 2 sons both of whom attended local schools. Steve’s eldest is now a medic in Torbay Hospital and the youngest is a university student in Bath. Steve’s wife Mandy spent more than 30 years working for the NHS, so the NHS challenges are well known to Steve.

Steve is registered blind and has lived experience and an understanding of equality and diversity, particularly around disability. Steve has a guide dog called Jennie who helps him enormously and is constantly by his side.

Steve Darling has served the people of Torbay for 30 years as a local councillor, 4 years of which was as Leader of the Council. Under his leadership, Torbay Council achieved most improved council of the year in April 2023. Steve spent 18 years working for the former Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders helping people with local problems and trying to tackle the big issues for the area.

Steve’s is particularly campaigning on improvements to our NHS services, tackling sewage dumping in Torbay and supporting local people through the cost-of-living crisis.

Steve wants to champion his home community in Westminster as he knows its people and their aspirations. Torbay is his home and the community he knows and loves. Steve knows he can hit the ground running as the next MP pulling together all sides of the community putting political differences aside and emphasising all that makes Torbay great and tackling the challenges that the bay faces. To be Torbay’s MP is a job, in a sense, for which Steve has been training all his life.

Twitter: @cllrsdarling

Tessa Munt MP: Wells and Mendip Hills

Tessa was the Member of Parliament for Wells from 2010 – 2015, winning the seat from the Conservatives and ending their 87-year rule. Tessa is passionate about representing residents and organisations in our community once again.

A prolific community campaigner, Tessa is known for listening actively to locals and has an outstanding reputation and proven track record from strong opposition to MPs holding second jobs to campaigning to keep our rivers, streams and sea clean.

Tessa has a long-standing commitment to openness and transparency, demonstrated by being the first MP to publish her tax returns and record every gift received while serving as MP.

Tessa has held regular surgeries in the constituency’s city, towns, villages and hamlets and her record of 704 MP’s surgeries remains the highest of all MPs.

As MP for Wells, Tessa co-ordinated the campaign to keep the Bishop of Bath & Wells in the Bishop’s Palace and secured £51m in funding for cancer equipment for local hospitals. Tessa stuck by her principles and resigned from her ministerial post in Government after voting against fracking.

Twitter: @tessamunt

Edward Morello MP: West Dorset

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

New effective healthcare policies on the breadline?

During these marvelous times for the Liberal Democrats we must capitalize on our success! Having always been the party with creative and effective ideas we must push the new government for the following:

Question: Reforming the NHS with no extra cash?

Answer: Reduce the need for preventable and expensive care in the first place by
making people healthier.

How: Introduce a supermarket-like loyalty card with healthy food discounts.

Cloud Cuckoo Land?

No – effecting change using the stick rarely works, but nudging or incentivizing does. Supermarkets get us to remain with them instead of switching, by offering discounts on their products using loyalty cards. Could the Government take a leaf out of their book, make the population healthier and consequently save money on health care?

How would the scheme work?

Obesity followed by diabetes occurs widely in society at the moment and costs the NHS billions. The poorest in society are particularly susceptible because they either can’t afford healthy food or don’t have the time or incentive to cook healthily. If this group could be targeted with a government loyalty card scheme which offered sufficient discounts on healthy foods to make them affordable, this would kill two birds with one stone: help to alleviate food poverty in low income families and at the same time nudge people towards more healthy eating.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Our new MPs: Andrew George, Gideon Amos, Cameron Thomas, Claire Young and Rachel Gilmour

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here.  

Andrew George MP: St Ives

Andrew George is a renowned local and national campaigner. He was the Liberal Democrat MP for the West Cornwall and Scilly constituency of St Ives 1997-2015 and nearly won the seat back (in spite of difficult circumstances) in June 2017 and in December 2019. He said he’s “not walking away”.

Andrew was born and brought up in the constituency, is third of eight sons and daughters of small-holding horticulturist (the late) Hugh and musician/teacher Diana George of Mullion. Schooled at state schools at Mullion, Cury and Helston he then studied at Sussex and Oxford (University College) Universities and worked in farming, research, community development work, environmental conservation, affordable housing and charity work before being elected to Parliament in May 1997 as the first non Conservative MP for the St Ives constituency for 68 years. He is married and has an adult daughter and son and continues to live and work in Cornwall.

Andrew is renowned as a successful campaigner and has a reputation for independent-mindedness and a record of rebelling against his Party whip in Parliament, especially during the years of the Coalition Government (2010-15) when he argued that his Party leadership were compromising far too much with the Conservatives.

He led successful parliamentary campaigns – e.g. to remove the Conservative’s 50% council tax subsidy for wealthy second home owners, for a new regulator to protect smaller farmers and other suppliers from the “bully-boy” behaviour of supermarket buyers (known as the Grocery Code Adjudicator) and has led other campaigns for safe registered nurse staffing on hospital wards, against the Conservative’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ and many other campaigns in the field of international development, environment, health, anti-poverty, anti-discrimination, housing and much else.

Andrew is Chief Executive of affordable housing charity Cornwall Community Land Trust and runs other research and campaign projects with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and others. Since 2006 he has been the Chair of the British Association for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Twitter: @andrewgeorge_ 

Gideon Amos MP: Taunton and Wellington

Gideon grew up in Somerset and lives in Taunton. He is married to Caroline and they have 4 children.

Gideon is a chartered architect and town planner and has helped deliver several affordable new homes for local families. He is presently working on wind farms and renewable energy projects around the UK. Gideon has served in the Territorial Army and was awarded an OBE for services to sustainable development.

Gideon and the Liberal Democrats are the clear challengers to the Conservatives in Taunton Deane with an ever-increasing vote – Labour and the Greens won’t be able to challenge.

Twitter: @gideonjamos

Cameron Thomas MP: Tewkesbury

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 1 Comment

Stopping the boats but what about the people?

We are, of course, delighted to have a Home Secretary that has humanity and is a decent human being, unlike her predecessors who “shall not be named”.

We are, of course, delighted that the wicked Rwanda Bill is going to be scrapped, and the remaining detainees threatened with being sent to Rwanda released and on bail for now.
However it is all very well to concentrate on Stop the Boats, but what about those who then are stuck in Northern France?

“New border security command” sounds good, securing our borders. But exactly who from?

There are thousands of people (yes people, not statistics or …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

How did the Lib Dems do for gender balance this election?

For the first time, the number of women elected to Parliament has topped 40%. As Lyanne Nicholl, the Chief of 50:50 Parliament wrote on the Huffington Post,

This truly is a historic day – a 50:50 Parliament is now no longer a dot on the horizon, it is beaming into view and – with a fair wind – we can even dare to hope to reach equal representation in the next election.

We are not there yet, 40% is not 50%, but to potentially have a government with more women MPs than ever before and the potential of a gender balanced cabinet; that is exciting and cause for celebration. This is a great day for women’s representation.

Gender balance has not always been a positive story for the Liberal Democrats. It’s only in the last Parliament that we have ever had a majority of women MPs. At the start of the Parliament, we had 4 men and 7 women. By the end, this had risen to 5 men and 10 women. How are we doing now that we have an extra 57 people in our Parliamentary party? After all, the last time we had 57 MPs, our number of women was in single figures.

The answer is not too bad. We have 32 women in the 2024 Parliament, which makes up 44% of the total. This is not too far off Labour, who have 46% women and it’s great Keir Starmer has appointed a record number of women to his Cabinet. I have to admit a small tear in my eye as Angela Rayner walked up Downing Street. Whatever political differences I have with her, I am so happy to see someone with experience of social housing and of being a care worker in charge of housing and employment rights.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Lib Dem fightback completed! But what next….?

Ten years ago, in 2014, I joined the Liberal Democrats. Shortly after, I witnessed the political collapse of the party. It was a sobering time, and I recall a few weeks later when Tim Farron took over and revitalized the party with the message of a Liberal Democrat fightback. The directive was clear: our party must survive, and we must fight to become a competent force once again. Thus, the Liberal Democrat fightback began.

Unfortunately, these were dark years. Despite our best efforts, we lost several key battles, including Brexit, and suffered significant setbacks in 2017 and 2019. By 2019, I even began to doubt whether our party would ever return to prominence or remain on the fringes forever. However, after ten years of relentless struggle from the sidelines, we are back. Under Ed Davey’s leadership and the hard work of our party members, we have not only secured a record number of seats but also rebuilt our liberal movement. The Liberal Democrat fightback is complete. But what now?

Now is the time to celebrate, to enjoy the moment of this election, and to recognize the success of our party’s machinery, the individuals, the volunteers, the workers, and everyone who is part of the party. However, with success also comes the responsibility to identify areas for improvement. While this victory, marked by our impressive seat numbers, demonstrates that target seating works, it also reveals a concerning issue that must be addressed in the next five years.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Welcome to my day: 8 July 2024 – have you not been entertained?

Good heavens, wasn’t Thursday night fun? It’s been nearly twenty years since I enjoyed an election night that much, given that even 2010 was bittersweet as a series of seats slipped out of our grasp just when we thought that a massive surge was on.

Watching Conservative MP after Conservative MP lose their seats was reassurance that the British public can’t be fooled all of the time, taking the opportunity to find imaginative ways to defeat a discredited and disgraced administration. And to see so many new faces, many of whom will be new even to our own membership, can only inspire a new generation of activists to push on in next year’s local elections, both to shore up our support in the gained seats, but to create a new set of potential targets for 2029.

Because times are about to get interesting. Labour are going to have to do something similar in those seats that they gained on 4 July, especially those in rural areas such as Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket or Suffolk Coastal in my neighbourhood, where they won despite the almost total absence of a local government base. We know that their activist base is predominantly urban, but does success breed a new activist base for them beyond the old heartlands?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | Leave a comment

Simon Foster’s campaign photos

The ever energetic and creative Simon Foster has been putting up amazing displays of stakeboards across the South Central region. He has sent us six of his best. Enjoy:

Local residents give their thanks in Winchester

Newly elected Cllr Richard Murphy (left) who won a district council election with a majority of over 1,000 on the night
with Danny Chambers MP (right)

A shrine to Liberalism which appeared in Eve of poll next to the strongest green display, right in the heart of Winchester.

The Shield Wall at an Eastleigh committee room. The people of Wessex were “invited to rise up in revolt at their evil Tory overlords. It worked!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

Our new MPs: Martin Wrigley, Ben Maguire, Ian Roome, Roz Savage and Caroline Voaden

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here

Martin Wrigley MP: Newton Abbot

Martin worked in high tech industry for over 30 years and has lived in Teignbridge for over 25 years.

He is a former Mayor of Dawlish and has been involved in local community politics since 2013.

Martin grew up in a Navy family and lived all over the world. Twenty five years ago he brought his young family to live in Dawlish and fell in love with the area.

Martin said “I want to make sure that that people locally have a good home they can afford and a good future.

We must look after the environment and the beautiful area in which we live as well as build a flourishing economy and a caring society.”

Twitter: @martinwrigley

Ben Maguire MP: North Cornwall

Born in Treliske, 32 year old Ben grew up in Withiel near Wadebridge and went to school in Bodmin where his mother was a teacher and his father a GP.
After graduating, Ben worked as a Parliamentary aide and constituency caseworker to former Lib Dem MPs Dan Rogerson and later Ian Swales. He also took research placements in the Hong Kong Legislative Council and the United States Senate.

More recently, Ben has worked as a solicitor in top international law firms and in the microchip industry.

Twitter: @benmaguirenc


Ian Roome MP: North Devon

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Our new MPs Max Wilkinson, Sarah Gibson, Anna Sabine, Brian Mathew, Vikki Slade

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here

Max Wilkinson MP: Cheltenham

Max Wilkinson is a well-known face around Cheltenham. He’s served the town for more than ten years and lives in Fairview with his wife and daughter.

During his decade of service to our town as a local councillor, Max has helped Cheltenham make progress on issues ranging from affordable housing to the environment and cost of living. He is already deeply embedded in the community and he knows how this town works. He’s ready to hit the ground running as our new MP.

Max was a local councillor until May 2024, when he stepped aside to focus on his campaign to become the MP. In his early years of campaigning, he led the fight for more affordable housing, leading to Cheltenham’s £180million investment plan for homes.

He spent two years fighting for our planet as Cabinet Member for Climate Change, leading on the introduction of a climate action plan and tough new rules on planning so we can get a better deal from developers.

He moved on to a role focused on the economy and wellbeing. There, he worked closely with our arts and culture sectors on a new plan to enhance the prosperity of our High Street. Max also worked on the cost of living, securing more money for food banks and support for food bank users.

He has also written a fair few articles for us.

Twitter: @mpmwilko

Sarah Gibson MP: Chippenham

Sarah was brought up here in Wiltshire, She studied architecture in London, joining the Liberal party at freshers week! She returned home to Wiltshire after working in Spain for some years to set up an architectural practice.

As a Wiltshire Councillor she realised that the issues she and her peers were fighting at Local Government level need a strong champion at Westminster.

As your Member of Parliament, she pledges to work tirelessly for the betterment of the whole constituency, addressing critical issues and advocating for positive change. Supporting our excellent local councillors here and across the constituency.

Twitter: @sarahgibsonld

Anna Sabine MP: Frome and East Somerset

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | Leave a comment

Pink News highlights trans and non binary candidates – and makes some notable omissions

While it was great to see Pink News highlight the trans and non binary candidates across various parties who stood on Thursday, it was disappointing that they left some high profile trans and non binary candidates out.

Our Chris Northwood is a councillor in Manchester. She stood in Manchester Central. She has written several articles for us, on issues like the importance of storytelling, the Cass Review and how we could fund a Universal Basic Income. She is also a member of the Party’s Federal Council.

From the Manchester Lib Dems website:

Chris is standing in Manchester Central. Working in Manchester’s tech sector for over a decade, Chris was elected to Manchester City Council as the city’s first openly trans councillor in May 2023, and is the deputy leader of the Manchester Liberal Democrats.

In addition to her council role and local campaigning activity, she also works for a national charity as a software engineer, building websites that provide support to those in need.

Fellow candidate Amanda Clark commended Chris’s help and support on Twitter:

Absolutely and an excellent ALDC mentor…learnt loads from her and was very proud to stand up for trans rights at all my hustings.

The article also missed out prominent non binary Lib Dem candidate Adrian Hyyryylainen Trett. They stood in Old Bexley and Sidcup and are a former Chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems, an international campaigner for LGBT+ rights.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | Leave a comment

Our new MPs: Mike Martin, Danny Chambers, Charlie Maynard, Will Forster, Clive Jones

We thought you might like to find out a little bit about our new MPs. We didn’t think we’d have quite so many, but this is a lovely problem to have. All details come from the party website or the MPs’ social media. We’ll get to know them more over the next wee while, but here’s a taster. 

Our editor sleepily compiled a Twitter list of all our MPs’ accounts she could find. You can follow it here

Mike Martin MP: Tunbridge Wells

Mike Martin is standing as the candidate for Tunbridge Wells. He is a former British army officer who served multiple tours in Helmand, Afghanistan. Since leaving the army, he has also had other leadership roles, including as a senior executive in a global charity working to bring different people and organisations together to solve problems.

Mike is a Senior Fellow at King’s College London – an expert in geopolitics and conflict – and the author of several books on psychology, conflict and travel.

His background has taught him a lot about how to understand and work with different perspectives, how to bring people together to solve problems and how to get difficult things done.

Mike is campaigning on making the town centre of Tunbridge Wells a town centre that is fit for the 21st century—greener, less traffic, and with more things for youngsters to do. He would also like to lead a drive towards building more affordable housing in the area and, crucially, to make sure there is sufficient infrastructure for the houses that we already have. This means enough GP surgeries, and school places, and public transport.

At a national and international level, Mike has significant expertise in geopolitics and conflict. If elected, his focus at a national level will be on helping guide the UK through the turbulent years that we face.

Twitter: @threshedthought

Danny Chambers MP: Winchester

Danny works as a vet in Winchester, is the trustee of two charities and was elected by his peers to the body that governs the veterinary profession. He’s been involved in charitable projects all over the world.

He is committed to campaigning for better healthcare services for Winchester. He has also used his platform as a vet to campaign nationally on wider issues ranging from mental health to animal welfare.

Danny enjoys cycling, running and hiking. One of his favourite routes is the Itchen Navigation along the route of the old canal.

Twitter: @dannyvet

Charlie Maynard MP: Witney

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

How I spent Polling Day

During a very long and miserable campaign by both Labour and the Tories, we Liberal Democrats had to resort to some pretty inventive campaign stunts to grab national attention. These efforts  aimed to inject some much-needed positivity into the campaign.

Finally, Election Day arrived, A momentous occasion where the collective voices of millions shape our nation’s future. Where employees (the politicians) meet their managers for their performance review and interviews (the voters). This is my election diary.


I was jolted awake by my dad’s cat, whom I am currently looking after.  Begrudgingly, I got out of bed and fed her her second meal of the morning. To unwind, I turned on the news, played some music, and tidied up my dad’s house. The day felt sluggish, and the anticipation of the election results only made time crawl slower. I couldn’t wait for the government to change.


Feeling restless, I ventured out for a long walk to my local polling station. On my way back, I chatted with various people.  I noticed a concerning trend: many in Stoke-on-Trent Central were planning to vote for Reform UK. Discussions often centred on Farage’s rhetoric about the NHS, immigration, and “woke culture.”

Stoke has a troubling history with far-right politics, having seen the BNP hold council seats and UKIP’s Paul Nuttall come second in the 2016 by-election. Despite its low immigrant population, people feel threatened by immigration.  Stoke’s managed decline since the 1980s of poverty, drug addiction, inadequate housing, and council mismanagement is evident. Unlike Liverpool or Manchester, it hasn’t seen significant regeneration. I remember a local headline from my teenage years promising EU-funded regeneration that never materialised. It worries me that Reform UK’s divisive politics are gaining traction here.

Back home, I recorded a few videos and decided what to wear for the count.

Evening: Voting

I arrived at the polling station, where a clerk reminded me to have my ID ready. I confidently reached into my pocket, only to realise I’d left it at home. Embarrassed, I raced back to fetch it.

10 pm: Exit Poll

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | Leave a comment

Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

It’s official: The United States judicial system is no longer independent.

And by destroying its independence the Supreme Court has knocked away one of the main pillars of American democracy and left the constitution’s carefully structured and revered system of checks and balances heavily politicised and largely controlled by the executive.

Of course, the US judicial system was already heavily politicised. But the Supreme Court took its role as the top court seriously enough to avoid political judgements. No longer.

America’s legal system is based on English Common Law. Many of the structures were determined by the great 18th-century British jurist William …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Thelma Davies
    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @David Raw - yes, you can register as an online member and vote for £20. I did it last time and it worked well. And anyone can watch it for free on the Lib Dem...
  • Simon Atkinson
    Thank you so much for these wonderful comments everyone, and for the smashing tribute, Mary. He would have been so chuffed to read your kind words. Max wasn't a...