Isolation diary: Picturing the beach

There is a meme going around Facebook – post your favourite photo of the beach. So here is mine. Just say aaah…

I took it some years ago in Jamaica and there is quite a story behind it. My cousin was British High Commissioner in Jamaica and we went to visit him a couple of times while he was there. Most of the time we were based in Kingston, so we got a different perspective on the island from most holiday makers. But one weekend we all rented a house on the north coast and enjoyed the amazing white sand and warm turquoise sea.

As it happens that year I was Mayor of Kingston upon Thames, so I arranged a courtesy visit to the Mayor of Kingston, Jamaica, who welcomed me warmly and presented me with some Appleton Estate rum. That visit set off a chain of events which eventually led to something that happened last week.

Through the Mayor we arranged to visit some primary schools in some of the poorer areas of downtown Kingston. I was hugely impressed by what the teachers managed to achieve in very challenging circumstances. Educational funding only covered the most basic provision so all schools had to call on external support, usually from the parents. But in the most deprived areas parents simply could not afford to contribute. As a result schools were desperately short of text books and other resources.

Now you may not know, but for the last twenty years or so I have been making a living as an educational writer – mainly writing Computing text books for the 16 to 19 age range. I contacted my publisher Heinemann, who also have a Caribbean imprint, and asked if they had any ideas about how the need in Jamaican schools could be met. They told me that it was quite common for businesses and other bodies to sponsor books for schools – it gave them good publicity whilst doing good. What is more, the publisher offered an attractive deal for bulk purchases.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Caring for our elderly – poor dears!

I am hearing increasing talk about “our elderly” in the current crisis.  

As ever, language and clarity of expression are amongst the first victims of emergency.

I want to say a word or three about the indiscriminate use of “elderly” and particularly its emergence as a noun – as in “the elderly” or, even worse, Boris’s description of “our elderly” – poor, incompetents that we are, ready to be patronised by any passing do-gooder. Bah!

There are several different definitions of “elderly” underlying the current widespread use of the word.  Regrettably, I fall into most of them. In the current, coronavirus, case, I’m also to some extent in the category of “vulnerable”.  These words do not define who or what I am to a greater extent than any other characteristic – indeed, they say a lot less about me than some.

Nor am I owned by Boris Johnson, or the community in general or, indeed, by my “loved ones”.  I am, unequivocally, only owned by me.

I have campaigned against the use of “the elderly” for at least 45 years. As with “the disabled” or “the mentally ill”, it reduces a person to one simple fact about them. And, of course, that fact isn’t usually very simple anyway. There are lots of types of disability or mental illness or, indeed, politics. That’s why organisations concerned with disability or ageing and older people have insisted that we always talk about older people, disabled people and so on.  We are all people first; each an individual person. Shared facets of personality or experience come a long way after our individuality.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Put your questions to Lib Dem CEO and Party President

Mike Dixon took over as Lib Dem CEO just before the General Election. He’s had to deal with an unexpected election, a change of leader and president and the impact of a global pandemic on our operations.

Mark Pack took over as Party President in January.

It’s been an emotional, tumultuous, frenetic few months for the party. From the crushing disappointment of the General Election to the recent cancellation of our York conference and the postponement of the leadership election.

Mike and Mark will be taking questions from party members in an online Q & A on Tuesday night. If you are a member, you should have received an invitation to register in your email March newsletter.

Had the York conference gone ahead, they would have done this at some ridiculously early hour and very few people would have turned up.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Why postponing the leadership is a good decision setting a new challenge to those who wish to lead us.

Why postponing the leadership is a good decision setting a new challenge to those who wish to lead us.

Not only do I agree with the difficult decision to postpone the leadership election, I believe also that it is an opportunity to set a challenge to those wishing to lead us.

Declare your intention this year, pull together a team around you and set out your vision for Britain, our party and our philosophy in a book or manifesto. Tell us about it at Spring Conference and hustings so that we can elect you and give us time to debate and fine tune the vision by Autumn Conference. Build on the vision and build the party by leading for as long as Charles or Paddy.

Since December I have been concerned that we were rushing to select our next leader too soon. Before Covid-19 many of us were in a state of shock with the populist Johnson’s election victory, his majority, and his Cabinet of Brexiteers. A subsequent leadership election was always going to be defined by Brexit and the failure of our Remain or People’s Vote strategy, and the perceived failures of the Stop Brexit era. An era that has now gone, Corbyn has gone, conservatism is dead and replaced by populism.

An election during these challenging times as the country pulls together to resist the Coronavirus risks alienating or even angering the public if we are seen as too self-indulgent and too political. Even fellow Lib Dems have questioned campaigning or online meetings at this time and have gone silent. The media holds our party and our politicians to a much higher standard than the Tories and Labour. I think a leadership election now would be turned against us.

Posted in News | Tagged | 6 Comments

Isolation diary: Baking cookies

I don’t really bake. I love cooking meals but I haven’t made a cake or pastry for years. I have had a lifetime battle with my weight so I find it easier to avoid temptation by just not baking.

These days, like everyone else, I am trying to be very careful with the food in my cupboard, fridge and freezer, and I have time on my hands so I can try new recipes. Nothing is being wasted; oldish vegetables are being turned into soup rather than being thrown out. Sometimes my meals are like the invention challenge on MasterChef  – now what can I do with some pak choi, pineapple and parmesan cheese?

So when I found half a bag of flour, some muscovado sugar and half a jar of peanut butter in the cupboard I wondered what I could make with them that didn’t involve eggs (which I am keeping for omelettes). So I present to you peanut butter cookies. I sort of followed a recipe, adding in quite a lot of butter, and they actually taste good. I need to ration them out a bit so most of them have gone into the freezer for now.

Talking about food, I spotted this post on the BBC: Food wholesalers offer online orders to sell stock. Food wholesalers supply restaurants and pubs, but are now turning to home sales during the closures.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

When politics really does take a back seat

Professor David Runciman, writing in the Guardian this week, may be right about a layer of politics being stripped away in this current crisis and, as he describes it, there being “a trade off between personal liberty and collective choice”. Speaking to his nation on the Edison phonograph at the start of World War One, Kaiser Wilhelm II ended his address with the words; “I recognise no parties any more, only Germans”.

Whether we like it or not, what we are now in the middle of is a war; but, as Mr Spock might have said to Captain James Kirk; “not as we know it”. Wilhelm was the head, despite the trappings of democracy, of a basically autocratic regime, which sought to shore up its power by enlisting patriotism, and it worked for a while as it did also in Tsarist Russia, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey.

I know that there are many people, who suspect the motives of many of those advocating obedience rather than debate; but these are extraordinary times for mankind. As Dr Liam Fox, not someone whose views I generally share, wrote last weekend, we, who have only been around as a species some 200,000 years, are facing an ‘enemy’ that has survived for millions.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 29 Comments

Our vision for the future must be sound

Extraordinary times can have extraordinary outcomes. And these are extraordinary times. Civil liberties are restricted, the global economy is shutdown, and emerging communications technology is proving its worth. It’s very easy to assume that the world will change.

People point to the outcomes from other extraordinary times, such as the post World War II Labour Government which built upon the liberal foundations of social care. Folk say, “surely now people see the need for change”.

There is surely much to change – from the need to ensure effective scrutiny of Government can continue, requiring significant reform of parliamentary procedures, through proper valuation of those we now class as key workers, to the need for financial and medical security for all.

The challenges our society is having to work through in very short order are immense. The potential repercussions on the way we used to do things are also huge. For example, how many people are now finding that technology is making routine use of their office questionable?

But people have short memories, and the next General Election is scheduled to be many years away. The current Government doesn’t seem that minded to change very much. The clue is in the name of the governing party.

The saying “oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them” almost always holds true. In 1945, the election most pointed to by left-leaning advocates of change, Churchill’s Conservatives were seen to have no viable plan for the post-war world, while Attlee’s Labour held out a positive vision for the future, rooting it in the horrors of the immediate past and explaining the clear benefits in a way which resonated.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Accountability in the age of Covid


So now we know: no new leader for at least another fourteen months. This comes on the back of the cancellation of the Spring Conference, and talk of the cancellation of this Autumn’s conference as well.

Cancelled along with the Spring Conference, of course – and up for re-cancellation if Autumn is indeed cancelled as well – were the party’s sorely-needed consultative sessions on our values, on the 2019 general election, and on our 2019 manifesto, as well as the regular opportunities to hold party bodies and office-holders to account. The decision to cancel the Spring Conference, and any similar decision to cancel Autumn (as currently feels likely) means that we will not have a meaningful forum to discuss, debate and scrutinise the party’s general election performance until long after that election has receded over the horizon behind us.

The decision to postpone the leadership election again, this time for an unprecedented fourteen months, is a remarkable departure from the letter of the constitution, Article 18.2 of which only allows for a maximum extension of one year, and no article of which allows the Federal Board to vary this provision. Perversely, this means that our acting leader will not only remain in position for over a year, but will be acting leader for three times as long as the woman who beat him in the last leadership election. More concerningly, it means that we will not have a permanent leader in place for the huge round of local, regional and devolved elections scheduled for 2021.

Any one of these things – the catastrophic performance in the 2019 general election; the shocking loss of a popular newly-elected party leader in a general election; the decision to cancel Federal Conference at next-to-no notice; the decision to postpone a leadership election beyond the period set out in the Federal Constitution, leaving us vulnerable in the largest round of non-Westminster elections in a political generation; potentially, the decision to cancel a second Federal Conference on the trot – should rightly merit a great deal of introspection, and robust and extended scrutiny from party members.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

Isolation diary: Going for a virtual walk in the woods

Ten days ago, when the world was a different place, I wrote about going for a walk on Box Hill. We were in voluntary self-isolation but without any symptoms, and it seemed safe to go for a drive and then a walk, well away from other people.

That was, in fact, the last time either of us left the house, apart from one hospital appointment. Days before lockdown was imposed on us all, we had decided to stay safe within our own boundaries.

Our son has been FaceTiming us each day, and yesterday he did so while he was out for his daily exercise with our two grandsons. They live in a village with some beautiful scenery within walking distance, and the two boys were keen to explore the woods with us in virtual tow. We loved it.

That was a simple way to share the countryside with people who are stuck at home, so do think about whether you can do the same for family or friends. Of course, it doesn’t have to be out in the country – anywhere other than inside a building would be a welcome change, even a walk around your garden if you have one. And if you can’t manage FaceTime or similar then take some photos and share them.

Virtual walks are mood boosting, but don’t do much for our fitness. I have never really enjoyed doing sports, or going to the gym, although I have tried. But I am concerned about keeping fit and active, so a couple of years ago I bought a Fitbit, simply to keep track of my step-rate. I have to admit that I don’t always reach the magical 10,000 and when I do the vibration on my wrist makes me jump. But at least it has kept me conscious of the fact that I needed to move and, crucially, encouraged me to go out for a walk every day.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

Poverty and Education: do schools need more support?

Embed from Getty Images

On 24th March 2020, the Education Endowment Foundation said the attainment gap for children from the poorest homes will widen while they are not in school. So here is a short version of the speech I was to make at a fringe conference meeting.

It has long been known that early years care and education is extremely important for people’s education for life. So why is spending per pupil on this down at the bottom?  The expansion of free childcare with inadequate funding for staff, reduces the quality of provision. Our Spring 2018 conference paper identified that.

This January an Education Policy Institute (EPI) report “Early Years Workforce Development” agreed that this is affecting the disadvantaged. There are staff in early years work with great knowledge and skill, but Early Education, an organisation representing them, is very critical of government, saying that the proposal to introduce baseline testing of children when they enter the Reception Class is fundamentally flawed. The Education Endowment Foundation expressed doubts that new government Early Learning Goals will better prepare children for schooling.

It is Lib-Dem policy to triple the pupil premium for that age group and radically change the testing regime.

The gap in progress from disadvantaged backgrounds widens with age. The EPI annual report in July 2019 says that young people aged 16 to 19 from poor homes are disproportionately on lower level, lower quality courses. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) in April last year (Family Matters and NEETS) says these young people are 50% more likely to be not in Education, Employment or Training. In September last, we passed a motion stating that a young person’s premium at 16+ be introduced.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Observations of an expat: The political vacuum

Embed from Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is a global problem. It requires cooperation at the local, regional, national and international level. Political point scoring, unilateralism and nationalism have no place in defeating Covid-19. Pandemics are no respecters of bank balances, social position and especially not borders.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Western democracies are failing to rise to the occasion, and the result could very likely be long term damage to our political system.

Ever since World War Two, the world has looked to the United States for leadership in times of crisis. Not this time. Nearly four years’ experience of Donald Trump’s isolationist unilateralism has taught us that he is congenitally incapable of forging the international consensus that is called for. Trump’s arsenal of political tactics is limited to attack, mockery and denigration. He has no strategy and the concepts of compromise and cooperation are totally absent at the personal, national and international level.

So far Trump has managed to damage the prospect of essential bipartisanship by referring to coronavirus as the Democrats’ “new hoax”. In any national crisis it is essential to have the media on board as the vital channel of communication. The president has denounced them as peddlers of fake news and “sensationalism.” European allies were estranged by Trump’s unilateral decision to close American borders to their citizens.

But perhaps worst of all, has been the president’s treatment of China. By repeatedly referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” he has alienated the one government whose experience of the pandemic could prove invaluable in stopping it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

In a liberal society, should police be using roadblocks and drones to enforce the virus lockdown?

Embed from Getty Images

The Guardian reports that the police are using roadblocks and drones to enforce the virus lockdown:

Derbyshire police tweeted drone footage taken near Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, and said they had checked the numberplates of vehicles in the car park and found that some cars were registered to addresses in Sheffield, a 30-minute drive away.

…In North Yorkshire, police said they would set up checkpoints to determine if drivers’ journeys were essential. The move was being introduced to ensure motorists are complying with government restrictions, North Yorkshire police said.

Officers will be stopping vehicles and asking motorists where they are going, why they are going there, and reminding them of the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” the force said in a statement. The checkpoints will be unannounced and could be anywhere across the county.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 44 Comments

Leadership election postponed

The Federal Board met remotely yesterday and agreed to postpone the election for the Leader of the party until next year. The party’s President, Mark Pack,  issued this statement:

Not only are we going through what could become the country’s biggest crisis since 1945, but we’re also entering a very new world that will persist once the immediate crisis is over.

I’m proud of what we have achieved so far by championing NHS workers and pressing the Government on issues such as offering a better deal to the self-employed.

Throughout our history, we have always put the national interest first.

Our Federal Board has

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 34 Comments

Let me be very clear!

Too often politicians, of any political type, come to an interview with their usual hype and the phrase “Let me be very clear,” only to then confuse or speak vaguely!

I am not a politician. But I am political. I have a tendency to reflect, rather than hector. I usually persuade, rather than command. To some, on any thread, in any context of debate, particularly online and in writing, what they seem to want to some real degree is one sided, strong opinion to agree with or disagree with. Even if that is then what is presented, the same types, reacting, want it expressed with little subtlety, no humour or irony. Of a recent article of mine, one reaction was, “this has no clear message!” Thinking aloud is not meant to. It was what I was doing. It was the intention of that piece. It was thus, in cause and effect, clear.

Let me be very clear. Not reflective. Nor thinking aloud. I am angry. No. I am sad. I am angry and sad, not because I, my wife and others are having to stay at home as the full extent of our apparent sacrifice. I and many are angry that it was not possible for that to be voluntary because of people and their irresponsibility. I am sad because people are so into business, as usual, and yes I mean that in every sense, personal, and political, societal, and economic, that it was considered, so anathema to them, that it is no sacrifice to avoid pubs, clubs, bars, markets, when the only reason is to help others in doing it. And the government assured us there would be compensation.

Well, many of us have no sympathy with the naysayers, individuals or companies. Not with any of them. Those unknown or known to us as famous, or infamous. Tim Martin, who thinks his pubs essential, or Mike Ashley, who forces people to stack the shelves of his sports goods shops calling them key workers; shame he didn’t think them this when he treated them so disgracefully all the years prior to their new found apparent status! Construction companies not told strongly enough to do so are at least better than these two examples, in closing down non essential contracts.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Isolation diary: Shopping online

Enjoying yesterday’s sunshine

To shop or not to shop?

Should we be buying non-essential items at the moment? On the one hand, continuing our shopping habits (but online of course) helps to save jobs and keep our economy floating. On the other hand, should we be asking people to work outside the home to create, pick and deliver goods to the nation? What is the ethical position on this?

The Government advice to consumers has not be clear, so I posed it as a question to my Facebook friends. And I learned that businesses have been told “Online retail is still open and encouraged.” But it took me quite a bit of searching to find the primary source of that quote, which is bizarrely in an article headed Further businesses and premises to close: guidance (23rd March).

In full it says:

Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance on Friday 20 March. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

It’s a pity that hasn’t been conveyed clearly to us, the consumers.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Going ever-so-slightly “stir crazy”?

Embed from Getty Images

We’re very fortunate to have modern communications technology in the current crisis.

Here’s a few ideas of things you could try to break up your days at home. Please use the comments to share any of your own ideas.

Yesterday, I did some very energetic exercises with Joe Wicks, the body coach. He is doing a 9am session aimed at children not at school, but it also suits adults and he is at pains to reassure people not to over do things and simplify the exercises if they are too strenuous.

Before yesterday, I had only ever seen Joe Wicks in photos on the front of his many books.

I have to say it was a pleasant surprise to hear his cheerful broad Essex accent and his very motivating chatter!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Christine Jardine MP writes…Our party’s priority needs to be supporting communities, not a leadership election

I think that it is fair to say that this Spring is not what any of us expected.

By now we all planned to have come away from York conference in full campaign mode for the local elections and once that was finished there was the not insignificant matter of the leadership election.

The first two have already been victims of the Coronavirus guidelines and social distancing.

But what about the third element of that triumvirate? The leadership election.

I am afraid that I think that should also be postponed.

As the pandemic tightens its grip, and we are seeing both increased public concern and an escalating death-toll I think it would be completely inappropriate to prioritise ourselves.

This for me, however, is not about whether or not we have hustings, whether the candidaes will be able to campaign effectively or whether it will be possible for staff to run the process remotely.

No I am thinking about all those people, including many members, whose lives are going to be turned upside down over the next three months.

How many will be on reduced income , or perhaps none at all?

I am trying to avoid mentioning it, but bluntly what sort of national death toll will we be coming to terms with?

Frankly those are the things I want all of our elected representatives to be focussing on.

Getting the information and action the country needs.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Can volunteering be safe currently?

Embed from Getty Images

The homeless and the needy have been victims of the current crisis. Many rely on volunteers to feed them and provide warm clothing, tents etc.

But volunteers are often over 70 years old or constrained by safety measures related to the Coronavirus.

For about eight years, I have worked voluntarily at a local drop-in centre for the homeless and needy. Our normal service involves 20-45 people thronged into a small hall, cheek by jowl. So, we had to stop that. Fortunately we are continuing our service by giving out bags of ready-to-eat food. But we’re having to get the clients to queue outside two metres apart, place the bags on a table by the door and retire, liberally wash hands and disinfect surfaces.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Isolation diary: Writing it down

City Hall, London

I am really enjoying writing this diary. It takes me back to the time when I was blogging every day as a councillor. I have been worried that it might be seen as self-indulgent, but friends have urged me to continue, so I will.

There are many benefits of writing about my life, especially during this time. It helps me to process what has been happening to me and to the world around me. I am determined to remain cheerful, and the very act of looking for good things to write about each day lifts my mood.

Keeping a diary would be just as beneficial even if it wasn’t being published and shared so widely. And although I naturally turn to writing as a way of expressing myself, I could just as well have kept a video diary or created a podcast.

So why not try it yourself? You can post on Facebook to share with friends, or you can email out your thoughts to friends and family on a regular basis, or you can set up a YouTube channel or share on Instagram. If you prefer, you can simply keep a private diary and not share it with anyone else. Some people recommend handwriting a diary as it slows things down and gives you time to think.

Just take time to reflect on and process each day.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

The making of a Liberal

A recent conversation amongst colleagues from the Social Liberal Reform regarding the need to reaffirm the history of Liberalism and what we are all about got me thinking about my journey. It is undoubtedly an interesting one! Growing up in a family that voted for the old Liberal Party I took a different route as a young man, first becoming mainstream Labour than a supporter of its left-wing and simultaneously a committed trade union activist. When I lived in Newbury in the early 1980s, the Liberals were viewed by us socialists as people who had usurped the Labour vote which prior to 1974 had been high enough to be the primary challenger to the Tories. In 1987 when I ran as a council candidate, I was pleased to be facing just a Conservative, no Alliance competitor to muddy the waters I thought. When the merger occurred, I was surprised at how what I then viewed as a collection of the middle of the road moderates could fall out so badly. Then came Blair and New Labour. Prior to 2005, I met the two Lib Dem candidates for the Reading seats Denise Ganes and John Howson; their pitch was more radical than that of the party I still belonged to.

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Press Briefing – 25th March 2020

Davey: We must urgently put in place remote working for Parliament

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has called on political parties and parliamentary authorities to work together to urgently put in place remote working for Parliament in response to the Covid-19 crisis. He said:

“It is right that Parliament physically closes to keep people safe, including parliamentary staff, but this cannot mean an end to scrutiny of the Government.

“The political parties and parliamentary authorities must now work together to urgently put in place remote working for parliament – so MPs can continue to represent our constituents, raise urgent issues with Ministers and hold the Government to account for its response to this crisis.

“Businesses of all sizes have found ways to keep going through video conferencing and other technology, so it cannot be beyond the wit of Parliament to do the same.

“Parliamentary scrutiny is more important than ever during a national emergency, especially given the emergency powers needed to keep people safe. Liberal Democrats will be carefully scrutinising the Government’s use of these powers to make sure they do not curtail individuals’ rights and freedoms any further than necessary.”


Posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

The uneven path of British Liberalism – from Jo Grimond to Brexit by Tudor Jones

Tudor Jones has updated his 2011 publication setting out and analysing Liberal thinking so that now his purview runs from 1956 to 2016. Everything in the review of the earlier volume applies to his extended work. There is no better single-volume reference work on sixty years of Liberal thought, and Tudor Jones’ analysis of the numerous and diverse publications during that period is both rigorous and reliable. 

The additional chapters in this new volume cover the years leading into the Coalition of 2010 and the disastrous electoral consequences of that Coalition. Tudor Jones deals with the policy issues raised by the Orange Book and its answering volume Reinventing the State. He points out that the reputation the Orange Book acquired for expounding a Liberal economic doctrine was exaggerated and was more tone than detail. He traces the development of a shift from the Ashdown ending of equidistance between Conservative and Labour, and his effort to achieve an arrangement with Tony Blair, with an almost imperceptible move towards being more friendly towards conservatism, a trend, he says, that was not unacceptable to Nick Clegg.

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

Isolation diary: Clearing out

After yesterday’s orchids here is a picture of rubbish

This lockdown will have come as a real shock to some people, even though many saw it coming. When we decided to go into self-isolation we had two or three days to prepare ourselves, not only in terms of getting in food and other necessities, but also psychologically. Moreover, it was something we chose to do, rather than being forced on us. Today many, many people will suddenly, and perhaps unexpectedly, find themselves isolated and frightened.

For some families this period will be fraught. Younger children had been shielded from the rising sense of panic, but are now having to come to terms with it. They are angry, bewildered, scared, missing their friends and full of excess energy. Parents may feel worried because they are unable to meet their children’s educational needs.

But for most of us it’s not all that bad, if you can put aside the constant anxiety.

Here are some of the blessings…

Friends and members of your wider family, some of whom you have not heard from for a while, will contact you. If they don’t, then contact them yourself. My brother lives in Canada and we are now on a weekly Skype, whereas before we tended to email. My cousin phoned me yesterday from Australia. It has brought us all closer together.

You can now get on with all those projects that you had been putting aside until you had the time. That could mean culling old documents (I found bank statements from 1998), clearing out cupboards, sorting out wardrobes, having a good go at the garden, writing your memoirs, starting an art or craft project, reading those books you had always intended to read, even putting books into alphabetical order.

You can be creative with your cooking. Some ingredients may be unavailable but this is a good chance to try some new techniques or be inventive with what you have got. My son told me that he had made pizzas with naan bread, and it worked very well!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 26 Comments

Ed Davey asks for more help for self-employed people during Coronavirus pandemic

The Chancellor has announced unprecedented levels of support for British business in the last few days. However, one group of people are not getting what they need to survive.

Self-employed people have been told that they can claim for Universal Credit at the rate of SSP, which would give them a derisory £94 per week.

Today Ed Davey called on Rishi Sunak to do much more to give our self-employed friends and neighbours, the people who clean our homes, cut our hair, walk our dogs and do so much to make our lives easier.

An article on the Lib Dem website sets out the practical help we want to see:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments

Lib Dem reaction to Boris Johnson’s speech

Lib Dems have been reacting to the Boris Johnson speech earlier this evening, in which he imposed a strict lockdown.

Ed Davey,our acting co-leader said:

We must do all we can to stop the spread, and I urge people to play their part by following these measures, and not risk their own or others health by ignoring them.

Many people will be anxious about the steps the govt has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 58 Comments

+++Boris Johnson announces strict lockdown

Embed from Getty Images

Here is the text of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation tonight:

Good evening,

The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades – and this country is not alone.

All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer

And so tonight I want to update you on the latest steps we are taking to fight the disease and what you can do to help.

And I want to begin by reminding you why the UK has been taking the approach that we have.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

+++Open thread – Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation at 8:30pm

Boris Johnson is speaking to the nation at 8:30pm. Some expect him to announce a “lockdown”.

Please comment below as the speech unfolds….

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

I have high hopes for the next three years – let’s get to work!

It’s been just weeks since Brexit ended my brief term as an MEP, but today I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been elected as Chair of the Federal People Development Committee.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Like many of you reading this, I’m a relative newcomer to politics and to the Lib Dems. I joined in 2016, so I think I bring a fresh perspective to this role as a newbie. I’m eager to help the party expand and improve on its strategy, structures and processes for recruiting, engaging …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 7 Comments

Isolation diary: Trying to sleep

Just a photo to cheer you up. Orchid Festival, Kew Gardens 2019


You can find previous Isolation diaries here.

I haven’t been sleeping too well recently. I don’t suffer from classical insomnia, but I have been waking up very early and then finding I’m unable to go back to sleep. So I have been taking a nap in the afternoon, but it would be so much easier if I could get a good night’s sleep. I can’t really complain, and I’m having a much easier time of it than many others, but clearly the general anxiety is getting to me.

Mark Blackburn, who is my fellow admin on the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group, has given this advice on the use of social media:

One, maybe stay away from Twitter and use FB more. Twitter tends to exaggerate and sensationalise, and can be pretty scary. Anything useful there appears somewhere else soon anyway. FB you still need to be a bit selective about, avoiding some of the generic stuff, but obviously groups like this and similar local-based ones can be very useful and supportive!

Two, maybe avoid social media, and for that matter all news media, in the evenings. Nothing’s going to change significantly before the next morning anyway. Watch some trash TV or read a good book so your head’s not in a bad place before you go to bed.

I don’t use Twitter much but the second piece of advice struck home. So I am now trying to avoid the news from 7pm each evening. Let’s see if that helps.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

Corona Virus Emergency Powers Bill – what are your views?

I’m reviewing the Government’s plans for dealing with the Corona Virus.

Do you agree with the new emergency powers contained within the Corona Virus Bill? Do they alarm you? Are you from a minority group with observations on how this will impact you either positively or negatively?

Here’s an example of some of the proposals:

  • It will be easier to section people into mental health facilities, and to keep them detained there for longer periods.
  • There will be a temporary removal of the legal duty on councils to provide social care to vulnerable older people, disabled people etc.
  • The process for funerals will be

Posted in News | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNigel Hardy 29th Mar - 10:35pm
    Presumably someone's having a joke. To lead a political party or local WI the ability to build alliances and have something to offer is essential....
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 29th Mar - 10:22pm
    @ Katharine, Yes the Resolution Foundation. I had a mental crosswire there!
  • User AvatarManfarang 29th Mar - 10:10pm
    The beach is at the Baie aux Tortues.
  • User AvatarGordon Lishman 29th Mar - 9:58pm
    The reason I don’t use “seniors” is that the UK polling evidence shows that older people don’t like it. The Japanese reference doesn’t only apply...
  • User AvatarJohn Barrett 29th Mar - 9:47pm
    it is interesting how the same group can be described in completely different ways. When it comes to the coronavirus the over 60s are often...
  • User AvatarNigel Jones 29th Mar - 9:44pm
    I agree with the postponement, not because of media coverage but because we need our MPs to think, discuss with us and the public and...