Have you ever thought of becoming a Parish councillor?

Now I fully accept that, for many of our readers, the idea of Parish Councils is all a bit redolent of “The Vicar of Dibley” (albeit the cause of confusion between Parish Councils and Parochial Church Councils), but they can be a key element of rural campaigning.

I ought to declare an interest first, in that I’m a Parish councillor in mid-Suffolk, and have been for about six years. Mine is a small Parish, population about 270, with an annual precept of less than £6,000. But this tier of local government is widely varied, ranging from the likes of Hereford City …

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Devolution – what is it good for?

The idea of devolving power to the “lowest possible level” is about as unifying an idea as there is for Liberal Democrats. But, as often happens with the best ideas of politicians, the current system of devolution to the regions is failing spectacularly.

This is because politicians, across both old parties, who become mayors, when they fail to deliver an improvement, have the get out clause of claiming its all the fault of central government for not funding them properly.

The latest example of this trend is the recent declaration by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, that the blame for the current …

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Today on Lucy Salek’s Lewisham campaign…and why you should go to help her soon

I have a friend who’s heading down to Lewisham for a few days today to help Lucy Salek. She’s travelling 400 miles to work in a by-election in London. Why?

Well, the sooner you get there, the bigger the impact. We’ve had a fair few people out this weekend – 3 figures – which isn’t bad. We need more, though, to show that we are aiming high and taking the fight to the pro-Brexit Tory and Labour parties.

It’s those early days of a by-election where we can lay down a statement of intent. If people get lots of stuff from us early on and we create a bit of a buzz, we have more chance of a really good result. In Dunfermline in 2006, we were able to establish our credentials in the first couple of weeks and went from strength to strength after that.The more we can be seen all over the constituency and the more leaflets people get from us and, most importantly, if they find us on their doorsteps, the bigger the chance of a successful result. So if you possibly can, do get down early and often.

There’s also a purely selfish reason why you should go now – to see what happens in the early days of a big campaign. See if they are trying out any new quirky things, get some samples of early literature to crib from in your campaign.

Oh, and you will have massive amounts of fun too. I’m probably not going to get there in person but I have donated and I will be making calls.

Lucy has been campaigning tirelessly since she was selected. Today she was talking to people at a farmers’ market.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #517

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 517th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (13-19 May, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

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

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

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Will MPs finally get parental leave?

Jo Swinson is expecting her second baby this Summer. As Minister, she made sure that everyone else had the option to share their parental leave with their partner in a way that suits them.

Men and women will no longer be tied to what history dictates their traditional roles should be with mum holding the baby while dad goes out to work.  Parenting is a shared endeavour and now dads have the opportunity to spend more time with their new baby in those vital early weeks.

Shared parental leave is my proudest achievement in government, and I’m delighted that it is

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Temporary reprieve for funds for disabled election candidates

Last month, David Buxton wrote about how the Government’s freezing of the Access to Elected Office Fund meant that he simply couldn’t stand in the 2017 General Election:

For the 2015 General Election, I obtained a grant of £40,000 from the Access to Elected Office Fund, which I used to participate in the Liberal Democrat candidate-selection process. But I could not have participated without the Fund’s support.

And​, last year,​ I was effectively barred from standing in the 2017 General Election because of the absence of the Fund.Many o​ther deaf and disabled candidates from ​the Lib Dems and from ​other parties ​are affected too, ​including Emily Brothers from Labour who is blind, ​and Simeon Hart for the Greens who is deaf, both of whom feature in the More United campaign​.​

The Access to Elected Office Fund used to help deaf and disabled people from all political parties, to stand for election, at any level. It ran from 2012-2015, and was intended to create a level playing field, given the additional costs that disabled people can incur when standing for election.

British Sign Language Interpreters, assistive technology for blind people and mobility transport all cost money. But the Fund was frozen, put “under review”, in 2015.

That review has not been conducted or completed, and the Fund has not been re-opened. The Fund has now been closed for longer than it was open so we are calling on the Government to restore it with immediate effect.

More United ran a campaign to restore the fund and Lib Dem MPs, including Christine Jardine and Stephen Lloyd, wrote to the Government to tell them of the importance of supporting disabled candidates.

This week, they won a legal challenge and secured the fund for the 2019 elections.

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Actually, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP could help win a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon was on the Peston show today talking about various aspects of Brexit. One thing struck me when she was pressed on the issue of a People’s vote of the Brexit deal. She said that the SNP won’t be the block to that but if there was to be another EU referendum, the big question for Scotland would be what would happen if we got the same outcome, where Scotland voted to remain and Wales and England voted to leave.

To be honest, I think it would be so much better if the SNP threw their massive campaigning energy behind securing a vote that means we can all stay in the EU. I reckon we could do a lot better than the 62-38 result. To be honest, the SNP sat the last one out. Our local SNP didn’t do much because they said they were tired after the Scottish elections.  It was the Lib Dems who ran the street stalls and did all the work.

It is unlike the SNP to be tired. For three years up to the Independence referendum in 2014 they were everywhere. They campaigned their hearts out. For the last month of the campaign, you couldn’t go to the shops to buy your rolls in the morning without seeing a posse with saltires and Yes leaflets. In that referendum, there was an 84.6% turnout. In the EU referendum, only 67% of people voted.

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Liverpool Labour meltdown – what the Lib Dems are doing

Our group leader in Liverpool, Cllr Richard Kemp, has outlined the drama, fear and loathing, accusation and counter-accusation that is the rather sorry life of the city’s Labour administration at the moment. It’s almost like we’re back in the 80s. In no way does the Labour party sound like any sort of competent administration.

It’s quite a story.

I’ve been an active politician in Liverpool for 44 years but I have never seen anything like the farce that is being played out within the Liverpool Labour Group at the moment. Even when things were at their most rancorous in the Lib Dem Group, and we did have arguments, they were sweetness and light to what is happening with Labour at the moment.

Of the 10 people in the Cabinet on 2nd May only 5 are left. One we defeated, three have resigned and one has been sacked. The departures include the Deputy Mayor and one of the assistant Mayors. Labour’s enforcer-in-chief and best mate of the Mayor, Cllr Alan Dean, has also lost an election – this time inside the Labour Party!

Such change is absolutely unprecedented and shows the panic that is currently going through the Labour Group. But even more unprecedented is the way that this is all being fought out in public. Tweets, statements and requests for action are being openly paraded and sent to the press or in other cases leaked to the Press and Liberal Democrats.

The LIb Dems have a plan to provide some serious opposition, but Richard appeals for help:

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WATCH: Michael Curry’s incredible sermon at the Royal Wedding – how to make poverty history

One of the most talked-about highlights of yesterday’s Royal Wedding was the lively and passionate sermon preached by the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Michael Curry. I doubt it was any accident that this man, who has a strong record in supporting same sex marriage, was chosen to deliver this address.

I don’t believe in God and didn’t find anything in his words to change my mind on that score. That didn’t stop me being utterly inspired by the message he brought to the heart of the British establishment.

His theme was “the power of love” and it asked us to imagine politics and government and business and commerce where love was the way. No child, he said, would ever go hungry again and poverty would be history. By the time he started talking about the benefits of human migration around the world, I was sold. This guy stood there in front of the British Royal Family and talked about revolutionary movements. It was utterly compelling. A lot of fire and no brimstone.

As it’s Sunday morning, and the BBC has kindly put the whole thing on You Tube, I thought it was worth putting up here. This man embraced the opportunity to address 1.9 billion people and made the most of it. Even if you have been avoiding all other parts of the Wedding, watch this. I’m sure you will feel at least a little bit inspired.

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Lord Martin Thomas writes….Jeremy and me

We are going to hear a lot of adverse things about Jeremy in the next few weeks. But I doubt even Hugh Grant can portray the style of Jeremy as he really was. He was a terrific campaigner. It was typical of him to swish in on a helicopter to support me in West Flintshire in 1970, to make a speech on the stump and to swish out again, leaving the gathering gasping for breath and hugely impressed.

He had one amazing political attribute – an abiding memory of your name and always, …

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Wishing Harry and Meghan all the very best

Laugh at me all you like, but I’m loving this Royal Wedding stuff. There are some truly awful things going on in the world at the moment, but for one day, I’m going  to smile, bask in the sunshine and watch two very happy people get married. Actually, I’m probably going to blub my way through it. The coverage had barely started this morning and I was filling up.

I’m slightly disturbed by the fact that someone I remember very clearly being born is now in his mid thirties, but I’ll cope with that. And, yes, a monarchy isn’t ideal, and …

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National Liberal Club to trial relaxation of dress code

After two years as the National Liberal Club’s first woman Chairman, I am proud to be stepping down just as the Club has agreed to experiment with relaxing the strict dress code it has had since 1979.

During my time, we have taken many leaps forward as a home for liberalism: a 15% growth in membership, driven by large-scale Lib Dem recruitment; an array of transparency measures and governance reforms; and a swathe of exciting and stimulating events drawing on the liberal tradition from the world over. But I’m aware that we haven’t always lived up to our liberal mantra – as a club founded as an inclusive home for liberals – in having a strict dress code that was first introduced as a temporary measure 39 years ago.

At Wednesday’s Annual General Meeting, members voted by 49 votes to 36 to relax the dress code for a trial period this summer, so that men will no longer be forced to wear a jacket and tie. (Women continue to enjoy a much greater degree of latitude in their dress, provided it is smart – we trust our women members, and I hope we can trust our male members, without having to tell them what to wear in the 21st century.) There was a stormy debate, with sincere, passionate opinions aired on both sides – opinions which I respect, since they were expressed with sincerity. What is important is that members and their guests should have CHOICE: no one is obliged to abandon a jacket and tie, but they are at liberty to do so – except in the Dining Room – during that trial period.

When the club was founded by Gladstone in 1882, it had no dress code – apart from a stipulation that members should not turn up naked, or in their pyjamas! This continued for the next 97 years, and it was only in 1979 that the club introduced its first dress code. The club was going through a difficult time in the 1970s, having been defrauded and asset-stripped by its chief executive and being the subject of various police investigations. At the time, it was felt that the one thing the club could do to draw a line under the difficult times was to introduce a dress code. But the vibrant, confident liberal club today is not the vulnerable, scandal-ridden shadow it was 40 years ago, and I don’t think our reputation rests any longer on asking men to wear a piece of silk around their necks at all times. In an age when both the House of Commons and the House of Lords have dropped a necktie requirement, the club’s 1970s dress code seems ever more out of date.

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How YOU can help Lucy Salek in Lewisham this weekend

Enthusiastic Liberal Democrats are heading to Lewisham to help our fabulous candidate Lucy Salek who has already started campaigning with a visit from Vince Cable earlier this week.

There’s lots going on this weekend. Here’s how to help. This was originally posted as a comment by Michael Andrewes here:

There are details on how to help the by-election here and here – including delivery this weekend and how to make phone calls from home etc.

Labour have pushed back their selection from last Wednesday to 9.30am tomorrow according to Labourlist.

But as I posted the neighbouring Conservative MP for Beckenham, Bob Stewart has conceded, defeat saying on Sunday Politics London that they had “absolutely no chance” on BBCSunday Politics London – leaving it a two horse race between us and Labour.

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Jamie Stone’s identity likely “stolen by a drug dealer in Manchester”

In a debate on cyber security this week, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone talked of his shock at receiving a letter threatening him with a fine and points on his licence for a traffic accident in Greater Manchester.

This is how it all unfolded. The Speaker started it off:

Order. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) has just sent me a most gracious letter of apology in respect of a matter for which he has no reason whatsoever to apologise. I think we ought to hear the fella.

Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

I received a letter last week from Greater Manchester police that informed me that on 18 April I was involved in a vehicle collision in Salford and that, if I am convicted, I will face a fine of £1,000 and get six points on my licence. As many Members will testify, I was in this place on 18 April. This is a clear example of identity theft. Greater Manchester police have been most helpful and told me that it is likely that a drug dealer in Manchester has stolen my identity. You will be interested to know, Mr Speaker, that he has put down my occupation as “cobbler”. I would be interested to know what the Minister has to say.

Mr Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record with considerable alacrity.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats highlight perinatal mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Willie Rennie again used his questions to the First Minister to highlight the crisis in Scotland’s mental health provision:

Post-natal depression and depression during pregnancy affect up to one in five women. Half the women who experience it will go undetected and untreated.

During an FMQs session in April, Willie Rennie highlighted the lack of perinatal mental health services and drew attention to the fact that new mothers in half of Scotland cannot access specialist services. Only Glasgow meets the required standard in the whole of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have a number of ideas to provide better perinatal services. They include:

  • The six week post-natal check to include support from a GP and Health Visitor with specific training on maternal mental health;
  • Referrals to suitable community support networks, supported by a health visitor;
  • Inpatient care to allow mothers to continue caring for their babies and be close to home;
  • A new campaign to remove the stigma of mental ill health for new mothers;
  • A new plan to increase core training for GPs and health visitors in identifying and treating maternal mental health.

Yesterday there was a debate on perinatal mental health at Holyrood:

Our health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

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This Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, remember to say ‘no’ once in a while

For this year’s stress-themed Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to write about my experiences with mental health and campaigning and some of the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, some of it is useful for others in the party. 

To start off, I think it’s fair to say that most Liberal Democrat activists are campaigning for love, not money. 

That description certainly applies to me. I’m one of those people who loves to get out and knock on doors, man the phones, and rush through last-minute print runs. Politics is exciting, and a great doorstop conversation is almost as sweet as the first beer at the end of the day. 

And that makes the one-month deferral of the election in one of Southwark’s council wards something of a treat for me – after all, who doesn’t want to fight a very winnable by-election in the sun?

However, the extension is a bit of double-edged sword on a personal level. I say that because, several times in the last year, despite how much I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve had to slow down and step back from the campaign. Partly, that’s because I wanted to focus on looking for a new job, but equally it’s because I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I’d volunteered to do. 

In short, I’ve come to appreciate that I need to occasionally say ‘no’ and put my wellbeing first. 

This is a lesson I think many activists could do with learning. It’s taken me a while to crack. Back in 2014, I got a job as Constituency Organiser in Eastleigh, a bastion of Liberal Democrat campaigning. I wasn’t, in truth, the strongest addition to the team, lacking in experience and parachuted into a well-established operation with less than a year to go. 

This wasn’t exactly ideal, and I can’t say it did wonders for my mental health. I’m grateful to Rachel Palma Randle, who appropriately is now the party’s Director of People, for scooping me up after a serious wobble and making sure I got the support needed to make it through the campaign.

Looking back, what I lacked – in addition to a clue about how to do the job – was an appreciation of how to work smart, when to ask for help, and when to say ‘no’ to things that ultimately weren’t a priority. 

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Christine Jardine: We cannot rest until LGBT people across the globe can live freely

Yesterday was the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. In a Commons debate, Christine Jardine talked about the progress made over the last 40 years and the work still to do to rid us of discrimination against LGBT people. She particularly mentioned the prevalence of transphobia at the moment Here’s her speech in full.

This is an unusual situation because it is an important debate to have, and yet one that we probably all wish was not necessary. My right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), who is no longer in her place, talked about many countries being on a journey. Regardless of the progress that we have made in this country and what we might think of that progress, and while we have travelled further than many countries, we have not yet completed our journey.

One of the things about being a Liberal is that when it comes to protecting and standing up for LGBTI rights, one has a lot to live up to. As far back as 1975, we committed to a gay rights policy with a resolution in favour of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’s proposed law reform Bill. What sticks out for me about that is that it was 1975—just over 40 years ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) said, it is unimaginable that it was only 40 years ago that we were first talking of a campaign about full equality for homosexuals and equalising the age of consent for gay sex. If we fast-forward 40 years, at our 2015 conference we overwhelmingly opposed conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people—imagine that in 2015. We have travelled a considerable way, but we should not pat ourselves on the back quite yet, because we have a long way to go.

One of the most significant things for me—so far—was a statement made by Nick Clegg before the 2010 general election. When speaking about equal marriage, he said simply:

“All couples”—

I emphasise, all couples—

“should be able to make that commitment to one another”,

and now they can. Under the equal marriage legislation championed by Lynne Featherstone, of which I am particularly proud, we now live in a society where everyone is able to love equally.

I remember being asked just before the Scottish elections in 2011 whether I would support equal marriage. To me, that was a ridiculous question. What struck me was that if I had two children, one of whom was gay while the other was not, would I not want them to have the same rights, the same protection and the same respect from the law? What a ludicrous question.

Only today, my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) has raised the issue of not being able to get married in church. I would like to make him an offer. Not that sort of offer. One of my friends is a Church of Scotland minister, who is gay. If I had a word with him, I am sure that he would be more than happy to oblige when it came to the ceremony.

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Observations of an ex pat: Media attack

The press is under attack. It is accused of disseminating fake news, invasion of privacy, distortions, half-truths and conspiracy theories. Journalists are demonised, denigrated, locked up and even murdered.

The media has always faced such problems. Power brokers pay lip service to press freedom but are, at best, reluctant supporters.  In rare rational moments they  acknowledge its value. But they throw up barriers  the moment  the media spotlight shines on their unsavoury activities.

The press has always managed to see off such opposition because the courts were behind it, and because its operations were based on sound commercial foundations.  The former is still true, but changing in countries where populist governments are twisting the law. The latter is definitely no longer the case.  The media’s commercial base is rapidly eroding and public interest is suffering as a result.

For three centuries the press prospered, and it is no coincidence that those same three centuries saw the fastest growth and the greatest advances in science, technology and political thought in the history of mankind. Newspapers and magazines have been a channel through which flowed world-changing ideas and information.

By the turn of the twentieth century every city in the world had at least one newspaper. Commercial restrictions were dictated largely by geography and technology. General circulation of the  New York Times and Washington Post were limited to a radius of about 100 miles from their respective printing plants because that was how far the newspaper lorries could drive in the time available. The British London papers did not achieve a national reach until the development of the railways.

Market forces dictated that the editorial content reflected the varied interests of the readers in the respective geographic areas. New Yorkers read about events in New York with a focus on the business and financial world.  The Washington Post was the paper to read for American government happenings. The national distribution of the London newspapers were different. They pointed the way to a readership base based on ideology rather than geography.

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Ed Davey says arming all police would be “disproportionate”

National Police Chiefs have said that rural police officers might end up carrying guns because of a lack of specialist counter-terrorist officers.

Ed Davey has said that this would be a disproportionate move.

Police Officers carry out dangerous and often lifesaving work on our behalf, not least in the face of ongoing threats including terrorism. We must therefore ensure that armed officers are able to respond quickly to situations.

However, any move towards routinely arming officers would be totally disproportionate and contrary to the principle of policing by consent.

There needs to be sensible guidelines in place to ensure that armed officers on

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Renters need fairer access to affordable credit

The poverty premium is taking a crippling toll on people who can least afford it. It’s estimated that every year those living in poverty pay an extra £490 for the basics of energy, phones, white goods, food and furniture. But how can it be fair that the poor pay more?

The problem is that the rental payments of Britain’s 11 million renters aren’t recorded or recognised in the same way that mortgage payments are. This means some of the least well-off pay the most to borrow. All the while, over two-thirds …

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International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of ‘mental disorders’. Since 2004 the anniversary of this has been used to promote awareness of the legal and cultural discrimination LGBT+ people still experience around the world.

In the UK that we have come a long way towards achieving equality – and yet we know that, for many, there is still a stigma around their sexuality or gender identity. Imagine being a teenager struggling to reconcile same-sex attraction with the teachings of their parents, or religion. Think about why you may not know many people who are openly bisexual, or those who have multiple partners in consensual polyamorous relationships. Consider the workings of the “spousal veto” which insists a trans person’s husband or wife must consent in order for them to gain gender recognition.

IDAHOBIT is about celebrating the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and challenging the barriers to people living their lives as openly as their cis, straight peers.

In the UK, this year’s day takes place against a backdrop of the current media storm over self-ID for trans people. This is the proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act such as to reduce the hoops that trans people have to go through to replace their birth certificates. Despite what you may have read, it’s not a licence for any man who wants to perv at naked women to walk into the female changing rooms at the local swimming pool. There are, after all, already rules against that sort of thing. It is merely the UK catching up with such notoriously socially liberal states as Ireland.

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We’re turning away skilled workers

6,000 skilled people were denied entry to the UK last year due to visa caps. The Campaign for Science and Engineering reported on a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office which showed that thousands of workers had been denied entry between December 2017 and March 2018.

The Government have refused over 6,000 applications for skilled overseas workers holding a job offer due to an arbitrary cap on visas, including engineers, tech professionals, doctors and teachers.

Many posts up and down the country are being left unfilled because overseas workers can’t get entry. …

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme is this year is stress. Stress can pervade our lives, but one aspect is stress at work. Keeping a mentally-healthy workforce is best for everyone: the employees, the business and the customers.

Being self-employed as a musician, workplace stress has a slightly different connotation. I’m preparing this week for a solo piano recording on Friday. It can be highly stressful and intense, but I’ve done enough of these projects to know how to manage my stress.

And it is in managing stress that workplaces are now realising they need to put provisions in place. Stats show that mental ill-health cost UK businesses £35 billion last year. A massive sum, made up of absences for illness, lost productivity and staff turnover. And it doesn’t take into account the personal cost to each of those who suffer mental ill-health. Mental Health First Aid is being rolled out in many businesses.

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Time to appeal to youth, and to enrol more students

Liberal Democrat members on campuses, tell your friends. Parents and grandparents, contact your offspring at University. Teachers and lecturers, get active on Facebook and What’s App!

A lot of young people won’t have heard yet. But Sunday’s Observer broke the story – that student organisations representing almost a million young people studying in UK colleges and universities are starting a campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’ before a final Brexit deal can be implemented, and I believe they will be a potent voice.

They want another referendum, on the proposed deal with the EU. From 60 of the country’s universities and colleges, student union leaders have now written to their local MPs asking them to back the idea. They argue that promises of the Brexiters haven’t been fulfilled, and point out that there are now thousands more young people eligible to vote. They plan a big summer campaign.

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Alderdice Review: Campaigning or Enforcing?

The Party is coming to terms with the implications of John Alderdice’s review: “Race, Ethnic Minorities and the Culture of the Liberal Democrats.”  We spent much of last Saturday’s Federal Board awayday talking about how to take it forward.

A natural default option is an argument: “wouldn’t it all bit a lot easier if we could just tell people what to do and they’ll do it”?  There was a similar feeling about how to get people to go to target seats during the last two General Elections.  It is, of course, an unconvincing argument in a Party full of Liberals working as volunteers.

I was reminded of a campaign we ran many years ago in the Liberal Party. It was a “Party Education Campaign” about gay rights*. In the early 1970s, there were a lot of Liberals who were very uncomfortable with the idea and also, believe it or not, some Parliamentarians whose religious views affected their position.

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UK participation in Eurovision 2019 in Israel would condone “outrageous human rights violations”

Embed from Getty Images

I’m just back from Lisbon where I was lucky enough to have a stageside position for the Eurovision Song Contest last Saturday. Apart from a nasty stage invasion during Surie’s performance (with which she dealt brilliantly), the whole thing went without a hitch.

Portugal were Eurovision Song Contest entrants for 53 years before they won it in 2017. As a result, they were desperate to welcome everybody to their country and to put on a fantastic experience. That they did. Apart from anything else, Lisbon must have been the most LGBT+ friendly capital city in the world during the last week or so.

This was a “bucket list” trip for me. A one-off. Any temptation to become an annual Eurovision camp follower was cut short with the prospect of a 2019 contest in Israel.

From a musical point of view, Israel deserved to win last Saturday. The scoring system is, nowadays, fairly balanced between national juries and the vote of viewers throughout the 42 participating countries. So, they won fair and square.

On Sunday I was resolved to resist any 2019 Eurovision trip to Israel. While I might one day tour Palestine, Israel and Jordan as a triplet itinerary, visiting specifically Israel for Eurovision would feel like condoning injustice.

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Vince Cable talks about his mother’s mental illness, his father’s racism and overcoming prejudice in a moving and candid interview

Embed from Getty Images

You probably don’t know that Vince Cable was on Radio 5 Live as the birthday guest on Sunday night because it’s not really been reported anywhere. It’s worth catching up on it though because it’s one of the most open, personal  and moving interviews I’ve heard him give. He’s mentioned the racism he and his first wife Olympia faced as a mixed race couple before but in this

Vince was 75 last week but he said that he was both physically and mentally fit – he was introduced as a dancer and black run skier. His age isn’t an issue, he says. He says he’s well received amongst audiences of young people and derided by older people.

He said there was a period in politics when it was important to be youthful, citing Kennedy, Blair and Cameron but talks about a blend of youthful innovation and experience is necessary.

Growing up in York to ambitious working class parents, he learned about aspiration and ambition. He says he was a bit lonely when his brother arrived at 11. HIs mother suffered post natal depression and spent some time in hospital as a result. He has talked before of the role of adult education in helping her recover from that. His brother was fostered for a while and his father had to look after him.  He said people were quite cruel about it and taunted him about is mother going to the “loony bin.” He says we’ve made some progress with that sort of attitude.

The idea of women working when he was growing up was frowned upon. He sees this as adding to his mother’s loneliness. His father was a very traditional person who had campaigned to stop women teaching and who believed in a hierarchy of races.

He talked of forming a “little liberal cell” in his house with his mum, who defied the instructions to vote Conservative she received from her husband.

It was playing Macbeth in the school play which helped him overcome his awkwardness as a teenager and he spoke of how his involvement in a drama group led to his first relationship – with Lady Macbeth.

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Evening with Vince Cable

Wokingham Borough local party invited Vince Cable to a question and answer session on Saturday 12th May 2018. It was good to see members from Wokingham, Reading, Newbury, Maidenhead, and Bracknell who came to meet and listen to Vince. Councillor Clive Jones asked wide-ranging questions with supplementary questions from the audience.

Some of the main points addressed by Vince were: –

  • Vince mentioned his meeting with the head of National Union of Students (NUS) and how the NUS talked about the neglect of further education (FE);
  • Vince highlighted the importance of vocational education and giving people a second chance;
  • FE education was different to University education as you pay cash up front for FE unlike for university courses when you start to pay after you start earning money. Vince also said that he was looking at how to reform both further education funding and university education funding and he hopes to have a proposal ready for the September conference;
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Fantasy Frontbench – University College London (UCL)

University College London has started a Fantasy Frontbench to debate major current issues. The first in their series was “Should Climate Change be UK’s Top Policy Priority?”. The guest speakers were Natalie Bennett (previous leader of the Green party), Ahir Shah (a comedian), Professor Mark Maslin (Geography professor at UCL) and Dr. Emily Shuckburgh (climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey). About 120 people attended including children from local schools.

Before the discussion started, the audience was asked the question, and the result was 52% for Yes and 48% for No (to which Ahir commented that this was considered an overwhelming majority these days).

Each member of the panel had two minutes to put their case: for or against the motion. Interestingly Natalie started with “Climate change should not be the dominant policy priority but be one in a combination of high priority policies” – after a gasp, the indicator went to 43% for Yes and 57% for No.

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How do benefit sanctions affect mental health?

There are few things more obvious than if you are deprived of the means to feed yourself, it’s going to be stressful and more than likely affect your mental health and not in a good way. This Mental Health Awareness Week, the excellent Scottish Association for Mental Health is collecting evidence to present to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions. 

People on benefits can lose up to all of their personal allowances if they are deemed to have not done enough to find work or have missed an appointment or have been sacked for …

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  • User AvatarJoeB 21st May - 3:10pm
    David, Tim Oliver at the LSE has written on the issue of devolution for London http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2016/01/30/the-uk-needs-a-devolved-government-for-london/. All, regardless of political stripe, of the Metro Mayors...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 21st May - 3:09pm
    Michael 1, small plea. can you please spell my names correctly? You are right, we need to campaign now on big and bold policies, for...
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    I agree, Denis. But as yet we have not seen that braying, slightly manic laugh or giggle that Jeremy employed and was part of his...
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    Just to say what a superb performance Hugh Grant is putting in. My direct experience of the remarkable Jeremy Thorpe is limited to being in...
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    There are three very strong reasons why Nicola will be hesitating on supporting Euro-ref 2. Firstly, as she is very well aware, her supporters made...
  • User AvatarDavid Yeld 21st May - 1:49pm
    No