We have to defend open debate and democratic government against fears of dark forces and betrayal

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Most of us never see most of the social media that feeds conspiracy theories about the European Union. As we have all learned, the algorithms operate to feed back to consumers stories that confirm their existing views, not challenge them. When the wilder beliefs filter through into letters to newspapers, the deepest prejudices have often been removed.

A letter in the Yorkshire Post last week, for example, warned of the threat of German domination, and referred to the re-emergence of ‘militarism in Germany’. Anyone who follows German military expenditure will know that German forces are under-equipped and poorly trained, suffer from a budget allocation much smaller than the UK spends on defence, and are rarely deployed. But the anti-Brexit blogosphere, taking its cue from the Bruges Group and other sources, has latched onto German calls for a ‘European army’ – an ill-defined concept that enables them to avoid hard questions about national defence and strategic priorities – and mispresented it as a wicked German plot to conquer us all.

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Message to Extinction Rebellion: Flying is here to stay – but we need to reduce its carbon footprint

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It was 13 July 2005, and I was sitting in an office in Madrid when I got the dreaded phone call to tell me that my father, who had been suffering from cancer, was slipping away. By that evening I was by his bedside in Surrey, and held his hand as he died the next morning. I am very glad, to this day, that I got back in time.

Extinction Rebellion had the intention on Good Friday of disrupting flights at Heathrow. ‘Terribly sorry’ – they said – ‘if your Easter getaway is delayed’ – fortunately none were. Delaying an Easter skiing break might be annoying, but not the end of the world – is how their argument goes.

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Change UK peacocking threatens to let jingoists and the far right run amok

As a lifelong active member of the Dutch party “Democrats 66” (D66), I know how difficult constitutional, structural and cultural improvements of state (and European) democracy can be. My party had both improving national democracy (example: direct election of the prime minister who would lead the formation of the post-election coalition government) and direct European elections in its 1966 founding manifesto,

As anybody consulting Wikipedia can read, D66 was founded by a coalition of both members of existing parties (including an orthodox Marxist one) and unaffiliated, new citizens who’d become concerned that Dutch politics was stagnating and becoming oligarchic. (From 1963 until 1967, there were three different coalition governments on the basis of the 1963 general election results).

So, I can sympathise with the pride of Chuka Umunna over assembling a similar British party (wanting to renew the existing party democracy, solidly pro-EU feeling; assembled from active party members and concerned unaffiliated citizens) in Change UK.

We entered the Dutch parliament in 1967 with a spectacular 7 seats (of 150) thanks to proportional voting, but struggled to be heard for years.

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Vince Cable declines invitation to State Banquet for Trump

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Vince Cable has today declined an invitation to a state banquet with Donald Trump.

In a letter to Palace staff organising the impending state visit in June, Mr Cable said:

I have taken the view that as a party leader I should not support state visits where the government of the day has issued invitations inappropriately.

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An enthusiastic, proud, grassroots attempt at values-based campaigning

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of participating in some conversations, on a dark corner of the internet, about values-based campaigning. Over the last few days I’ve had the delight of seeing this break out of the dark corner, when Henry Wright (candidate for Cherry Hinton, Cambridge) shared what he’d been creating and why he joined the Lib Dems in the first place:

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Change UK plan to grab the Lib Dems’ money, members and policies – leaked memo

The Mail has published a leaked memo from Change UK which sets out its current strategy in relation to the Lib Dems.

It is a bit of a shock.

We were hoping that there would be co-operation between Change UK and our party.

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Our European Election campaign priorities

It seems inevitable that the elections to the European Parliament will be read as a vote on Brexit. That risks the election campaign being a rehash of the referendum,  alienating an electorate frustrated by #BrexitShambles, and putting the emphasis on whether we should be there rather than on what our we are electing people to do.

Instead of this, campaigning on the core of the programme of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe gives us a chance to shift the debate, adding something new and inviting supporters of Brexit to see things differently.

ALDE’s programme begins with a summary the British electorate would do well to hear:

In more than 60 years of European integration, the European Union has served us well in achieving peace, stability and prosperity. The EU has promoted and extended to half a billion people the four freedoms: the free movement of people, services, capital and goods across borders. We want the Union to play a key leadership role in tackling today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges.

As such, the ALDE Party believes in a Europe based on the fundamental Liberal principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. We believe in a fair, free and open society which harnesses the abilities of each and every one of its citizens to participate fully in society, presenting them with the opportunities to fulfil their potential, free from poverty, ignorance, and discrimination.

The full ALDE manifesto is something to be proud of. The core statements in the political programme strike a powerful chord: a prosperous Europe, sustainable development and peace in the world, renew the EU and building a transparent, democratic and accountable Europe. Nuancing the descriptions a little for a British audience:

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We must safeguard our younger members and be radical – reasons why we should not raise the age limit for Young Liberals

It has been the buzz for years and the main topic within our echo chamber of an organisation: the Young Liberals want to raise the membership age ceiling from 26 to 30. But this isn’t the type of “raise the roof” action that the organisation should be taking.

In previous articles written, you’ve heard about the issues that the Young Liberals face. Yet, at the same time, you can be a supporter of our campaigns and guide us without being in the organisation. We already turn to our elected members, local parties and other inspirational people in the party for guidance and wisdom, so why does being in the Young Liberals after the age of 26 matter? Instead, we hope that members are mature enough to see that some major issues aren’t being addressed in these reforms.

There is a widespread belief that these reforms have been overwhelmingly and unanimously supported within the Young Liberals’ membership, but we beg to differ. At their Glasgow Conference, we were told the idea was met with an astounding approval. Yet with approximately 35 members present at the conference, this is not, and cannot be, a fair representation of the organisation.

And at the same conference, members of the organisation under 18 were informed they had to not only get written consent to attend the conference, but also were not allowed to stay at the hostel where the conference was taking place. The reason given was:

This year Young Liberals have made the decision not to offer accommodation to members under the age of 18. (…) Young Liberals are not sufficiently trained to adequately safeguard such members (…) such training could be in place for future Young Liberals Conferences, however not for current conferences. Members are free to stay in private accommodation in the city.

This was unacceptable. How can our organisation not have in place the proper training to include all our members? Letting them stay off the premises is not any safer, neglects their safety and ignores their accommodation needs.

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Fire Services: Campaigning in Local Communities and Parliament

As one of our lead members at the Local Government Association, I have worked to ensure that our national campaigns are linked to what’s happening in local communities. There are a variety of ways to do this, but I hope this article is a helpful example.

In 2015, the Conservative Government launched a consultation on a ‘joined up’ approach to Police and Fire Services. Nationally, Fire Brigade Union General Secretary Matt Wrack, in January 2016, described the national proposal as a “half baked suggestion” and accused “one or two” PCCs supporting the plan of “empire building”. He told the BBC: “There’s very little evidence, there’s no research been carried out, there’s no support for it among firefighters and there’s no support for it among police officers, there’s no support among local communities and yet the government seems to be intent on forcing it though.”

Here in York and North Yorkshire, these proposals led to the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner spending more than £140,000 on consultants to prepare a business case on and unwanted takeover of the local fire service. We have campaigned in our communities for a fair deal for local Fire Service funding, but the unpopular takeover took place following Government agreement in November 2018.

In order to campaign locally and nationally, I worked with Liberal Democrat peers, including Baroness Kath Pinnock as our national communities and fire services spokesperson, and Baroness Angela Harris, to table a motion of regret in the House of Lords and issue press releases. This debate took place on the 21st November 2018, where peers were asked if they regretted the decision by the Government to agree the takeover of North Yorkshire Fire Authority, following other takeover examples nationally.

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Reflections on the Tory Party Revolution – part two

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Part 2: from the 1940’s generational change to the growing hostility to Europe
Reading Alan Clark’s history of the Tories 1922-1997 (Phoenix/Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999), and Alan Sked and Chris Cooks “Post-War Britain” (Penguin, London, 4th. ed., 1993), you see how in 1940-51, while party leader Churchill was concentrating on foreign affairs (winning a war until ’45, then uniting Europe in his “interlocking circles”: Europe, the Commonwealth, and NATO), the other parts of the Tory party reacted to more domestic modernising trends and proposals. (See about Churchill’s priorities: Clark, Tories, p. 321-22; Sked & Cook, Post-War, p. 77-78).

Alongside the “Post-War Problems Central Committee” (PWPCC) formed at Tory party HQ in 1941 under Education Secretary “Rab” Butler, there emerged a progressive “Tory Reform Group” (TRG) of “Young Turks”. Clark says Food minister Lord Woolton (Tory from 1945) was the only Cabinet minister caring about “Post-War Problems”.

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D’Hondt complain afterwards if you d’Hondt understand it…

Not everyone in the country takes a lot of interest in the intricate details of electoral systems, and that probably includes most politicians including the new Chukkers on the block, and almost all the media.

A lot of people know that you can have “first past the post” (FPTP which in practice usually means the candidate who has got closest to the post when the whistle goes) and “proportional representation” which includes all the other systems ever invented. And that’s about it.

The thing is that the way the votes are counted is one of the two things (together with how people vote) that decides who gets elected. Stalin is supposed to have said that what matters is not how people vote but who counts the votes. In the Euro elections, the counting takes place by a system known as d’Hondt after one Victor of that ilk who is (possibly) one of the most famous Belgians to have lived.

FPTP is designed for a binary choice. It works perfectly when there are only two candidates – or in a for-and-against referendum. In elections when there are lots of parties, all standing for different things, it’s hopeless. On the other hand, d’Hondt is designed for just that – it will allocate seats more or less proportionately between lots of parties standing for different things (though it discriminates against the smallest ones). It is useless at making a binary choice.

Yet it has for a long time been as clear as daylight that if we have EU elections next month they will be proxy for a new referendum on the UK’s EU membership. It would work if there were just two parties standing (though I suppose we would have to let the Labour lot in to provide a third choice for the fence-sitters.) In practice, there are going to be more serious contenders than ever. And there is a huge danger that Farage’s Brexit party will sweep up the Leavers and “top the poll” in both votes and seats, while the People’s Voters and Remainers are split umpteen ways.

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Great news that the Mental Capacity Bill is set to pass final stages

I have been watching the progress of the Mental Capacity Bill closely. One of the reasons I, and many activists I’m sure, became involved in politics was because of our concern over mental health, the marginalised, and mental capacity issues. Indeed, my other half researches in this area, so I have an in-house expert on mental capacity and I’m well aware the law needs improving.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill as introduced in July 2017 was radically improved by the Liberal Democrats and is set to pass its final stages in Parliament before becoming law.

This is a very important piece of legislation which could apply to any of us. For example, if people are in care homes and are having to be locked in, protections are needed to make sure this deprivation of liberty is necessary for their safety and in accordance with their human rights.

This new piece of legislation aims to improve these protections for anyone who lacks capacity and may be deprived of liberty. It took the Liberal Democrats to lead a cross-party effort to force the Conservative Government to remove their exclusionary definition of the deprivation of liberty.

Our changes also included a commitment to review the Code of Practice.

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Press Release: Cross-Party Climate Change Statement

On Tuesday 23rd April 2019, sparked by the visit of Greta Thunberg to the UK, the Westminster leaders of the UK political parties, except for the Prime Minister and the DUP (both invited), took part in a private round-table with a number of the leaders of the youth climate strikes to discuss the UK’s response to the deteriorating ecological crises.

At that meeting, the Westminster Leaders present agreed to three actions. These actions mark a significant cross-party response to Greta’s visit to the UK; the UK youth climate strikes and ongoing climate protests; the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 Degrees; the upcoming Committee on Climate Change report on a net-zero greenhouse gas target for the UK on May 2nd; and above all, the knowledge that it is young people across the world who will bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

There is an open invitation for the Government, and all other political parties, to sign-up to these cross-party actions.

Ongoing Cross-Party Cooperation & Dialogue with Young People

By working together collaboratively, political parties, even without the Government, can start to build the bold solutions and public consent needed to ensure young people are guaranteed a secure, safe and prosperous future.

Westminster party leaders therefore agree to ongoing cross-party roundtables with the youth climate strikers – and to increased cross-party collaboration on climate change, including an agreement to issue a statement endorsing the UK’s bid to host COP26 in 2020.

Supporting the UK Youth Climate Assemblies

Over the coming months, the UK youth climate strikers will continue to expand and build their movement – and it is essential that the views of young people are incorporated into the decision-making of politicians and political parties and that politicians have chance to engage directly with young people across the UK.

Westminster party leaders therefore agree to actively support and engage with youth climate assemblies in towns and cities across the UK.

Stress-Test UK Climate Policy

The United Kingdom has signed and ratified the Paris Climate Agreement – the international treaty negotiated in 2015 part of the United Nations’ climate framework – which places a commitment on the UK to meet the targets in the Paris Agreement, including efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Greta Thunberg to Parliament: “Is my microphone on?”

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Here is the full text of Greta Thunberg’s speech to Parliament today, via the Guardian:

My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

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Reflections on the Tory Party Revolution – part one

Conservative Party logoPart 1: From the 2019 Constituency Revolt to the 1846 Corn Law Split, and back

In its April 22th coverage of the Tory Constituency Party leaders’ revolt in demanding an “Extraordinary General Meeting” to shake May’s throne, the BBC inserted the link to its article from August 2018 about how, between the Chequers Cabinet Brexit Agreement and May’s disastrous Tory 2018 Autumn Conference, a Hard Brexit revolt started brewing in the Tory grassroots.

That 2018 article, by BBC researcher Georgia Roberts, referred to the Tory party Conference revolt of 1950, right after the general election that slashed Labours massive majority, when the Tory grassroots “educated the platform” by pushing through the “build 300.000 houses a year”-target for its 1951 election manifesto (whereas the Tory front bench had reacted to Attlee’s nationalization drive by retreating from state direction). That promise turned out to be extremely popular, election-winning (for Churchill, and later Macmillan), and long remembered. Previewing the 2018 Tory Autumn Conference, Roberts wonders if it will see a similar “educating” Brexiteer uprising; it halfway did.

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Greta Thunberg speech in Parliament today should help everyone to take notice of protecting our planet – Cable


Today, schoolgirl Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Houses of Parliament. Vince Cable has said that he hopes that this event will greatly increase the profile to our climate emergency.

He remarked:

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In praise of The Gambia and the Economic Community of West African States

A fishing boat is unloaded at the Gambian fishing town of Tanji

Three years ago I wrote about a visit to The Gambia in West Africa which was bitter sweet. As always the country itself, and the people of The Gambia, were charming. However, the country was in the last days of a dictatorship which lasted for 23 years. Indeed, I left out the name of the country in my article to avoid any problems with future entry.

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Sending thoughts of sympathy and support to all those affected by the Sri Lankan horrors


The photo above shows the view from the Sri Lankan Independence Memorial Hall in Colombo. The flag flying is the Buddhist flag. I took the photo last November. The Memorial Hall is very much a centre of national events in Sri Lanka. Annual Independence celebrations are held there. It is a very peaceful place. When I visited, children played in the hall while families sat admiring the sunset.

That peacefulness is very much a keynote of Sri Lanka. The majority Buddhist religion is pervasive in its emphasis on meditation and spiritual development. The people of Sri Lanka are generally very peaceful, easy-going and welcoming to strangers. While I was there, there was a full blown constitutional crisis ongoing, with the President and Prime Minister involved in a stand-off which was eventually settled (in the Prime Minister’s favour) by the Supreme Court. If you weren’t reading the news, you wouldn’t have known that anything was awry – life went on peacefully and cheerfully as usual across the country.

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Change for change’s sake wouldn’t be worthwhile

Change UK reports that among 3,700 applicants to be their candidates in the Euro elections are 105 former Lib Dems, along with 895 former Labour activists and dozens of former Tories.

Why would former Lib Dems join Change? Did they leave our party in the rout of the Coalition and haven’t been won back since? Do they think they have a better chance of getting elected now with Change? Or do they simply feel that in the current British political crisis some real change is essential to unstick it?

The trouble with the last argument is that it isn’t the Lib Dems …

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The Mojito Affair highlights a warped sense of priorities

I have to confess that until all the headlines about Diane Abbott yesterday, I had no idea that the relatively innocent act of sipping a Mojito on a tube train was illegal, thanks to measures brought in by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

But my main reaction to this spectacular non-event was to wonder what on earth the world has come to when sipping that Mojito is worthy of a public apology and acres of virtual and actual newsprint when lying and cheating your way to a narrow referendum victory is not.

March 29th was the day when we were scheduled to leave the EU. I wake up every day grateful that I am still an EU citizen and am hopeful that I will always remain so.  Leaving would break my heart. I can only imagine how it would have felt on March 29th if we were leaving to know that Vote Leave had dropped their appeal against a fine imposed by the Electoral Commission. 

The BBC reported:

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: “Vote Leave has today withdrawn its appeal and related proceedings against the Electoral Commission’s finding of multiple offences under electoral law, committed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

“Vote Leave was the designated lead campaigner for the leave outcome at the referendum.

“We found that it broke the electoral rules set out by Parliament to ensure fairness, confidence and legitimacy at an electoral event. Serious offences such as these undermine public confidence in our system and it is vital, therefore, that they are properly investigated and sanctioned.

“We have been advised that Vote Leave has paid its £61,000 fine and look forward to receiving the sum in full.”

The fact that Vote Leave cheated has achieved remarkably little traction. This is something that could easily have affected the legitimacy of the referendum result. We are still poised on the brink of taking a regressive and harmful step on the basis of a result obtained by cheating.

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Lib Dems mark Passover and Easter

This weekend sees two important religious festivals. On Friday, jewish communities marked Passover, which marks the Israelites’ freedom from slavery and bondage and today Christians celebrate one of the most important days of the year for them, Easter Sunday.

On the Lib Dem website, Lib Dem Peer Monroe Palmer writes about the significance of Passover:

Across the world, Jewish families will sit around the Seder table to share food and recount the tale of how Moses led the Jewish people to their emancipation and deliverance. In retelling the story of the Exodus, we are reminded that the forces of oppression, hate and tyranny are not insurmountable. The traditions we observe are symbolic reminders of both the hardships endured by the Israelites as well as the triumph of faith.

let us all come together to choose unity over division, understanding over intolerance and faith over fear.

Across the world, we are witnessing worrying increases in acts of terror and hate targeted at religious communities. It’s hard to believe that even in 2019 anti-Semitism is still prevalent and growing- even in the UK. However, even in the face of intensifying anti-Semitic sentiment, Jewish communities continue to persevere in challenging bigotry and prejudice. In this growing anti-Semitic climate, festivals such as Passover are timely reminders of the strength of community and power of resistance.

The UK has long been a home for people of all backgrounds, and we are a shining example that different faiths, identities and ethnicities can thrive and co-exist. The history of Jewish people in the UK goes back centuries and British Jewish communities are undoubtedly an integral part of our society. At moments like this, we ought to take the opportunity to recognise the tremendous and invaluable contributions of these communities to our great country.

And Lizzie Jewkes, whose idea to raise the tax threshold was one of the flagship policies during the coalition years, writes about what Easter means to her.

As a Christian, I find a great deal of overlap between my faith and Liberal Democracy. In both, we are encouraged to think of others, to value everyone equally and to work for the greater good of all. Likewise, in both, people are seen as individuals. Jesus came in for a great deal of criticism during his lifetime from those who objected to the way he challenged vested interests, societal norms, privilege and injustice where ever he found them. He treated everyone as equals – women, foreigners, Roman soldiers, the disabled, divorcees, those who collaborated with the occupying forces and children, despite the mores of the age. Following his resurrection, he appeared first to women and told them to tell the men, even though the testimony of women was not considered reliable in Roman society.

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Time to scrap disability assessments and bring them in house

With each month passing there is more and more evidence that now is the time to bring an end to the failed DWP disability assessments and private outsourcing by companies such as Maximus and Capita and bring all assessments in house.

Appeal success rates for those that go to tribunal  for both Personal Independence Payment and Employment and support allowance are at their highest rates ever, with success rates of 73% for Pip and 74% for ESA. This is an increase of 4% and 5 % respectively.

At the same time, waiting times for mandatory reconsiderations, which a claimant has to go through before appealing to a tribunal has increased by 86%. Average waiting times for a reconsideration have increased from 32 days to 54 days. This leaves many sick and disabled people in a severe financial hardship. This is totally unacceptable and is it any wonder that the use of food banks is at an all time high. The success rate of PIP Mandatory reconsiderations stands at a measly 19%. That is 2 opportunities that the DWP has had to get an assessment correct and fail and nearly three quarters of those people who go on to appeal are successful at tribunal. This is simply unsustainable, on top of the human suffering that this costs, there is the financial costs to the DWP and the justice department all because the private healthcare assessment providers and the DWP are failing to do their jobs. The system is broken.

There is also evidence of a canteen culture of contempt  at the DWP. In official tribunal papers for a woman’s appeal to Personal Independance Payments by a welfare official for the department of work and pensions, they wrote

In this lying bitches case she is receiving the mid-rate carers allowance component for providing day time supervision to another disabled person. The tribunal may wish to explore this further.

 

The mother of small children has a degenerative condition affecting her heart and lungs that leaves her prone to infection and in constant pain. 

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The best combination of names on a Lib Dem joint ticket ever?

Standing for the Bridge ward of Lewes Town Council, we have:

Just glorious.

Janet was the first BaME mayor of Lewes last year.

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19 April 2019 – today’s press releases

Lib Dems: We must reject violence in Northern Ireland

Responding to reports that journalist Lyra McKee has been killed during violence in Londonderry, Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

I never met Lyra McKee but by all accounts she was a young woman of great talent, courage and humanity. These are all talents that we need now more than ever so we should all mourn her passing.

My condolences go to all her family and friends who are having to come to terms with their loss today. Unlike Lyra, those who bring violence to the streets of Northern Ireland have nothing

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Towards a Lib Dem Landlords Association (LDLA?)

I admit it. I’m an ‘evil landlord’. Well not exactly ‘evil’ you understand but that sometimes how I am made to feel by the present government and Federal Conference when it passes some other motion or so which castigates me and many other Liberal Democrats who happen to be landlords in the private and commercial rental sector. Renting property is a business like any other. I provide a service for people who cannot afford to own their own home but need to be able to rent something decent. Don’t even start complaining that UK landlords are making it difficult to buy – the problem lies fairly and squarely with overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty. Canada’s British Columbia has recently imposed high taxes for overseas property investors and imposes an annual property tax on the same investors while they do not occupy their own property. We should follow suit.

Moving on, I would argue that I am actually a pretty good landlord and when I speak to other Lib Dems who run rental property ‘portfolios’ they seem to have a similar attitude and ethos to myself. As evidence of this, I rent to ‘professionals’ (more on that later) and have a basic directive for my rental agent when they are dealing with my tenants  – ‘when there is a problem fix it immediately (or sooner)’. Why? Because a content and happy tenant is a tenant who doesn’t give notice and you only need one month without rental income to completely negate any false economies of avoiding repairs. One of my tenants has been with me for nearly 15 years and I have even redecorated the house with them in situ and replaced one of the bathrooms. My reward is that they have been with me for a long time with no break in income! When the annual rent increase comes along I will often negotiate with them for a 12 month no-break agreement in exchange for keeping the rent the same. I would be happy for any of my tenants to be approached, with their permission, to provide a reference for how I and my agent operate as a ‘landlord’. Many Lib Dem landlords would say the same I am sure.

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Best wishes to Tom Arms

At this time on a Friday morning, you’d normally be expecting to see Tom Arms’ latest Observations of an Ex Pat.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw an email come in from him entitled Broken, and assumed it was his piece for this week.

But in fact, it was a message saying that he’s broken his arm and is in hospital.

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WATCH: Ed Davey talks about his life as a young carer and death of his parents

Yesterday Ed Davey gave a really open and moving interview to Radio 5 live about how he was a young carer to his mother for 3 years before she died when he was 15. His dad had died when he was 4. He talked about the key moment of his life, coming a few months after his Mum died, realising that he was doing things for himself and not her any more.

He said that it has affected his attitude to politics – caring for the most vulnerable is what politics should be about, he said.

He said it informed the way he thought about other people and about the health service and the importance of helping each other. Curries from the Indian family across the road gave him and his family practical help during that time. Watch here.

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Sheila Ritchie heads Scottish European list

As he launched the Scottish Liberal Democrats list of candidates or the European election, Willie Rennie stressed that every vote for a Lib Dem MEP will help stop the division and damage imposed by Brexit.

The list includes a partner in an Aberdeen law firm who has spent 20 years supporting start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the North East, the former head of the European Parliament’s office in Scotland, and an EU citizen who represents the hundreds of thousands of people who have made their home in Scotland but whose futures are put at risk by Brexit.

The list is as follows:

  1. Sheila Ritchie
  2. Fred Mackintosh
  3. Catriona Bhatia
  4. Vita Zaporozcenko
  5. John Edward
  6. Clive Sneddon

Willie said:

I am delighted to announce our list of candidates for the European elections. We have a strong group of people who are committed to protecting our place in Europe.

This election gives voters an opportunity to demand an end to the constitutional chaos we’ve endured for years. People are fed up with Brexit and listening to all the arguments. It has divided our country and damaged our economy for long enough.

A vote for Scottish Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit and will send a message to the SNP on their unwanted independence plans. Every MEP we gain in Scotland will help make the division and damage stop.

Sheila Ritchie said:

I am thrilled to be leading the fight to secure Lib Dem seats in Brussels and a chance to stop the chaos of Brexit dead in its tracks. This election provides us with a tremendous opportunity.

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Posters: Always be careful where you put yours…

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Extinction Rebellion isn’t funny or clever

Well, I suppose they might have been that day when they made their protest in the Commons chamber. It was a visible reminder that we are preoccupying ourselves with Brexit when the entire future of our planet is in doubt. And it was quite funny watching MPs trying to maintain their composure and keep their faces straight.

But the recent spate of protests by the climate change campaigners are doing their cause more harm than good. Ok, so they get attention, but what on earth is the point of gluing themselves to trains, for goodness sake?

I thought public transport was a good thing. Obstructing it, potentially making low paid people with not much power in their workplaces late, is neither big nor clever.

And holding up the traffic might grab headlines but it doesn’t do much for air quality in the vicinity.

The powerful message of children walking out of school to tell us to secure their future is so much more persuasive.

And I think Extinction Rebellion went a bit foo far yesterday by attaching themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s house. 

People’s homes are off limits for this kind of stuff, whether there are politicians or heads of companies. If you want to protest go to their public offices. Nobody’s family should have to feel like they are under siege.

Back in 2012, UK Uncut organised this mass protest of 400 people outside Nick Clegg’s house, a move I criticised at the time.  

The Clegg family was not home – but what if they had been? What about their neighbours? Whatever you might think about Government decisions, politicians’ partners and children should not have had their lives disrupted.

Imagine if they had been home when these 400 people descended? The children are 10, 8 and 3. To a 3 year old, people outside having a go at your daddy, however nice they think they’re being, could be really scary, the stuff of weeks of nightmares.

Now, note that I am not saying that such protests should be illegal, but with rights come responsibilities. UK Uncut have done their cause no good whatsoever this weekend – and that’s a shame because when it comes to some of the welfare reform cuts, as you know, I agree with them.

UK Uncut will have had to have distributed Nick Clegg’s private address to a fairly large number of people, for a start, the 400 there and anyone they tell. How can they guarantee the conduct of every single person who would turn up. It was ok this time, but at some point, if this continues, someone will turn up with malevolent intent.

And that was before an MP was murdered. In the current, febrile climate, when you have emboldened fascists taking to the streets, going to politicians’ homes is not a good look.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 88 Comments
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