Isolation diary: Supporting charity shops

The best way to support charity shops at the moment is to store your donations at home. Many of us have been using this time to sort out our cupboards and wardrobes, putting together bags of clothes and other items to go to a local charity shop.

I have been hearing that thoughtless people have been leaving lots of binbags outside charity shops during lockdown. The grim truth is that most of those ‘donations’ will end up in landfill, at the charities’ expense. The shop volunteers haven’t been able to handle, clean or store the items, which will now be contaminated by rats and other animals. The charities will have to pay to have the items removed.

There are over 11,000 charity shops in the UK and they make such an important contribution to the community and to the environment. Charity shops reduce the overall consumption of goods by giving them a longer life, they offer low-cost items to those who can’t afford much, and they raise funds for good causes. They are an important element in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chain – it’s a win-win-win situation.

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A sixth social “evil”?

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William Beveridge listed five ‘great evils’ (Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness) that he thought should be remedied by British society after World War Two, and they were addressed by the post-war government, in what has become known as a social contract between government and people.

In a February article, we suggested that the modern equivalents of the ‘great evils’ are poverty, poor health, lack of skills and training, homelessness and unemployment. These societal ills were in existence before the current health crisis, and should not be allowed to continue after it.  Just as after World War Two there was a national mood expecting change for the better, so a similar mood seems to be arising now. Must we stick to only five ills, because Beveridge did? Should there be a sixth and if so what should it be?

At their Spring Conference in 2018 the Welsh Liberal Democrats identified loneliness as a sixth evil stating “half a million people in Wales reporting feeling lonely”. In the UK there are over 9 million adults who are either always or often lonely (“Trapped in a Bubble” by the Loneliness Action Group led by the British Red Cross and the Co-op).  Loneliness can make a person feel tired, stressed and anxious so they have difficulties with daily routines, engaging socially with others and can make mental and physical problems worse.

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Post-C19 UK economic recovery; a new economic orthodoxy beckons?

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Economic crises, and the C19 pandemic certainly is one, have a habit of initiating a major change in economic orthodoxy.

Arguable examples include mercantilism after the collapse of the feudal system, Adam Smith after two long pan-European wars, end of the Gold Standard post-WW1, Keynes after the Great Depression and WW2, ‘market reforms’ after the 1973-5 recession & crash, and the ‘Washington Consensus’ after the collapse of communism 1989-91. Then came the 2008 financial crisis, which was still unresolved when C19 hit. To a great extent, each crisis arose from the ‘flaws’ in each new orthodoxy.

Each of these changes was highly controversial at the time, at first, and even subject to ridicule. But it is easy to forget that the emerging new ideas were aimed at particular problems perceived at the time, where the prevailing orthodoxy no longer had perceived relevance for the problems faced. The new ideas that endured above others did so in that context.

We appear to have reached that point now.  But it’s very messy.

In the UK the post-2008 orthodoxy we are probably leaving behind had already become something of a hybrid. Austerity in public spending aimed at partial debt reduction, was still there, but reductions in regulations had gone. Monetisation/Quantitative Easing had been introduced to purchase bank ‘assets’ (derivative securities). These bank assets had initially been the cause of the 2008 crash, as their value evaporated. However, the asset purchases still continued twelve years later, keeping interest rates artificially low, but leaving international markets awash with cash; evidenced by a rise in international share prices, to two to four times what they used to be, relative to company profits. Culprits’ reward.

Up until Brexit, this was the hybrid orthodoxy.

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Britain’s stick – The Hong Kong Bill (Part 2)

Regardless of political affiliations, we can agree that Britain must find its voice on Hong Kong. In the last article we looked at the Hong Kong Bill correcting historic irregularities on British Nationality. The Right of Abode for British Nationals (Overseas) British passport holders is UK’s crucial response to protect all her people. It is also a tangible action, since it provides passage to these Isles. Yet, our diplomatic approach should be proactive and capable to respond to future threats.

Therefore, we move on to the next provisions of the Hong Kong Bill.

A regular report on the safety of British nationals in Hong Kong is necessary and it will provide the guidance to enact sanctions on person(s) or institution(s) if necessary. The Chinese government have made it clear that the National Security Law forced upon Hong Kong will be conducted under Chinese concepts. Special courts will be set up and legal representatives must be Chinese nationals.

So what makes ‘Chinese legal concepts’ so worrying? Under Chinese Law as simple as reporting, suggesting or researching meteorological data, outbreak of diseases like the situation in Wuhan back in December 2019 and food safety without authorisation or adhering to official lines is considered as subverting national security. China also rules by law instead of applying the rule of law. Its courts are known to protect the Party first and foremost when cases are heard.

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Can we ignore government guidelines if they aren’t legally enforceable?

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Dominic Cummings’ reckless behaviour has opened a rats nest that could undermine the battle against the pandemic.

It we thought that all government rules were the same, we were mistaken. There are two kinds:

  • regulations where the police can fine us if we break them. For example restrictions on our movement (see regulation 6 here).
  • guidelines where the police can’t take action. For example, the guidelines to stay at home if you are infected.

Remember this when you read the following quibble from a Number 10 spokesperson: “The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.”

What the Durham police actually said was: “Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence… (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)”

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Daily View 2×2: 29 May 2020

2 big stories

Oh what a tangled web we weave… The problem with taking increasingly ludicrous positions in public is that, eventually, either you have to give up, or the contortions become so absurd that everybody knows that that’s what they are, at which point the game is up. Health ministers, and the Prime Minister, trashing their own policies in order to justify Dominic Cummings’ moonlight flit to Durham, Michael Gove attempting to suggest that he too would test his eyesight by going for a drive, the scientific advisors silenced. And it does begin to beg the question, what does …

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28 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt have “moral duty” to act given Beijing’s contempt for Joint Declaration
  • Govt must look closely at conflicting guidance on risks of schools reopening
  • Davey: Either PM and Ministers lied or have no understanding of lockdown rules
  • Govt must now give all Hong Kongers BNO Passport
  • Lib Dems: PM reaches new low in attempt to keep Cummings

Govt have “moral duty” to act given Beijing’s contempt for Joint Declaration

Responding to reports that China’s legislature has approved a new security law for Hong Kong, which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority in the territory, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

This vote demonstrates Beijing’s contempt for the Joint Declaration. It is an unforgivable move that threatens the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

The UK Government must take immediate action. We have a legal and moral duty.

It is time to urgently reopen the BNO Passport offer and extend it to give the people of Hong Kong the right to live in the UK.

Govt must look closely at conflicting guidance on risks of schools reopening

Responding to the Independent Sage Group report suggesting that reopening schools risks pushing the COVID-19 ‘R’ rate above one, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

We all want to see children back in schools as an urgent priority. But not if this risks a new COVID-19 spike. The Government must guarantee that public health will not be put at risk as a result of a premature or rushed effort to get children back into classrooms.

Boris Johnson’s Government has repeatedly claimed to be guided by science. Ministers must now look closely at this Independent report to ascertain why those involved have reached a dramatically different conclusion about the risk of reopening schools next week.

The Government is asking a lot of parents and teachers during this crisis, and parents and teachers deserve clear, honest answers in return. Ministers must provide real clarity around the reasons for their decision in order to ensure that parents and teachers alike can have confidence in their plans.

Any easing of the lockdown – including reopening schools – can only happen once the Government delivers a comprehensive strategy to test, trace and isolate to prevent a new surge.

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26 May 2020 – the day’s press releases

And that brings us back up to date…

  • All Tory MPs must reflect on Govt resignation and call for Cummings to go
  • Govt must invest now in mental health support given impact of COVID-19
  • Govt must scrap Vagrancy Act as part of plan to end rough sleeping for good
  • PM out of touch with public and his own party
  • Govt review into lockdown fines shows one rule for Cummings and one for everyone else
  • Increase in prison staff Covid-19 cases show Govt allowing prisons to become crucible for virus

All Tory MPs must reflect on Govt resignation and call for Cummings to go

Responding to the resignation of a Conservative Minister in protest at the row over Dominic Cummings, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Countless people have made heartbreaking sacrifices to keep to the Government’s rules, so people are understandably angry about Dominic Cummings’ behaviour.

Douglas Ross recognises it cannot be one rule for senior government officials and one rule for everyone else, so why doesn’t the Prime Minister? Boris Johnson is losing the trust of his own Ministers and his judgement is seriously in question. To tackle this pandemic and save lives, people deserve better.

All Conservative MPs must reflect on this resignation, stop defending the indefensible and put the public health of our country first by calling for the Prime Minister’s scandal-hit spin doctor-in-chief to go.

Govt must invest now in mental health support given impact of COVID-19

Statistics from the ONS show that across Great Britain from 3 April to 3 May 2020, some 80% of adults were worried about the effect that COVID-19 was having on their life. Responding to these figures, Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, said:

The majority of people right across the country have experienced a tangible, detrimental mental health impact as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Ministers must recognise that the mental health scars of COVID-19 will be deep. We need to see investment now to ensure that people – regardless of where they live – can access the support they need, when they need it.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to urgently increase funding for and provision of mental health support. We are calling for access to mental health support 24/7 for those working in health and care, many of whom are enduring daily trauma, and better funded, clearly signposted support for every single community.

Given the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in the UK, which has unfolded on his watch, the Prime Minister must act to ensure we provide a world-leading mental health response. The recovery of people across our family of nations requires it.

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25 May 2020 – the day’s press releases

Nearly up to date now…

  • Closure of Weston General Hospital shows critical need for test, trace, isolate system
  • PM must terminate Cummings’ contract
  • PM’s judgement now in question over Cummings

Closure of Weston General Hospital shows critical need for test, trace, isolate system

Responding to news that Weston General Hospital has been forced to close to new patients due to a high number of COVID-19 cases, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

This outbreak demonstrates the incredibly urgent need for a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system. That is the only way to keep people safe. Testing at scale and

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Our promise to the Palestinians

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Britain appointed itself the ruling power in Palestine after the First World War mainly because it suited British geopolitical ambitions, but our government solemnly acknowledged a “sacred duty” to safeguard the rights of all the people of Palestine when British rule ended.  However, in 1948, Britain, bankrupted by World War II and dealing with the collapse of its empire, forgot its promise to the  Palestinians, and left them to their own devices.  The Jewish state of Israel was created in roughly the part of Mandate Palestine designated by the United Nations, and the rest was ceded to Egypt and Jordan.

This all changed after the 1967 war, in which the Israeli army overran large parts of neighbouring countries.  The areas they occupied when the fighting stopped were effectively the parts of Mandate Palestine which Israel had been unable to claim when it was created in 1948.  Continued military occupation is allowed in the immediate aftermath of a war, but occupied territory must be handed back, and permanent settlement by people from the conquering power is illegal.

Despite that, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and part of southern Syria immediately in June 1967, and have remained as an occupying military power in the West Bank and Gaza until the present day, some 53 year later.  During that time the Palestinians have struggled to have their rights recognised, mostly through peaceful protest and negotiations sponsored by third parties.  Some have resorted to violence, and there have been acts of terrorism, particularly in the early days of the PLO.  The Israeli response is usually disproportionate retaliation, based on the idea that ‘collective punishment’ means violent protest rebounds on the local community.  Collective punishment is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was ratified by virtually every country in the world, including Israel, but like the illegal settlements, it has been tolerated by the world community for decades, and rarely generates more than mild rebukes.

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Isolation diary: Editing during lockdown

One of my colleagues here on Lib Dem Voice has suggested, somewhat tongue in cheek, that I should write about editing the blog in lockdown. That could be as self-referential as an Escher drawing, but I have risen to the challenge.

At one level, very little has changed. We are sent posts by email, we edit and publish them, sometimes after a correspondence with the contributor about length, or content, or style. Sometimes we turn posts down because they aren’t really relevant or of interest to our readers. Sometimes posts are simply badly written – we try to help if we think they could be polished up. We particularly try to encourage posts from young and/or new contributors.

At another level, everything has changed. It seems that lockdown has thrown people into two camps. In one group are those who are incredibly busy and rather stressed because they are trying to work from home in less than ideal circumstances, while simultaneously attempting to home educate restless children. In another group are those who have far more time on their hands than usual.

Our team on Lib Dem Voice is split in the same way. I fall into the latter camp so have taken on a larger editorial role at the moment, and am trying to support colleagues who are councillors, or working for MPs, or volunteering, who are all spending huge amounts of time dealing with the fallout from lockdown where they live.

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James O’Brien on Boris Johnson defending Dominic Cummings

James O’Brien was so incensed by Boris Johnson’s defence of the indefensible actions by Dominic Cummings that, on Tuesday, his day off, he broadcast his thoughts on LBC. It is extremely powerful. You should listen to it.


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The new complaints process – our first year

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When the Lib Dems’ new members’ complaints procedure went live on 1 July 2019, we committed to an independent, fair, member-led process. The Federal Board agreed to review how the system was working at the end of its first year and I’m pleased and proud to say that the first steps in that review has identified some clear positives.

The system is independent. The Federal Board has no role in – or knowledge of – individual complaints. Instead, the Senior Adjudicators’ Team (SAT) leads and advises our volunteers. This team of four specialists, lead by our Lead Adjudicator, Neil Christian, reflects the federal nature of our party and it means there are up to three people from outside the state party of the complaint to provide impartial advice to our volunteers.

It is well-staffed: since our volunteer call last year we’ve trained over 100 volunteers to act as adjudicators, mediators and investigators. That’s well in excess of the 55 volunteers Conference originally agreed we needed, and we are working to train more.

The rules are much more transparent and flexible than they have been in the past. We have spoken to members and party bodies across all the state parties since last July to ensure it works – and to make amendments where it doesn’t. These changes are drafted by the Disciplinary Sub-Group and agreed by Federal Board as needed. The procedure is published on the party website and we welcome input from all members on how we can improve it.

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A longer read for the lockdown: Reform of health and social care without further top-down re-organisation

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In the daily update on Friday 15th May, Matt Hancock said that the current crisis had demonstrated how closely health and social care need to work together and had acted as a catalyst to reform, referring to “integration”. Care homes are not, and were never intended to be, hospitals. The residents are just as entitled to hospital care, if that is what is needed, as are the rest of us. That so many have been left to die in Care Homes, rather than being admitted to hospital, and thereby denied the benefit of oxygen, ventilators and intensive care which might have saved their lives, is the real concern. The discharge of older people from hospital to care homes, without testing, in order to free up beds for coronavirus patients, may also have spread the virus.

However, that Baroness Ros Altmann also referred to “integration” on “Good Morning Britain”, and Matt Hancock reiterated it on the 21st May, would suggest the matter is under consideration.

Countless enquiries into “child abuse” and “adult abuse and neglect” have criticised agencies for not working together. And successive Governments have tried to get Health and Social Services, in particular, to work more closely together from “joint funding” in the 1970s to the “pooling of budgets”. But no Government has grasped the nettle of the lack of common geographical boundaries, different funding streams and different lines of accountability which have been the real impediments. This does not mean a merger of health and social services, as that would further marginalise Social Work and a different combination of agencies are required depending upon the problem and desired outcome. For example: Child Protection requires children’s services, health, education, the police and foster care to work together. Older People require Adult Services, Health, Housing, Leisure Services and Income Support to work together. – But not all of them all the time. It is quite a complex multi-dimensional organisational issue across countless scenarios.

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To rebuild our party, we must be unflinchingly bold

There are some moments when I’m unspeakably proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats.

Last year’s local elections. Marching side-by-side with tens of thousands at the People’s Vote rallies. Every time I crack open Roy Jenkins’ excellent Gladstone biography.

But there’s one rather more recent moment that sticks out as the proudest I’ve ever felt to be a member of this party, and that was reading the general election review. I can’t think of any other party that would have had such a frank conversation with itself about what went wrong.

It makes a tough read, but as important as the review was, it’s even more so to remember that that was the easy bit. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves for having the review, and it’s easy to say “well done” to those who were involved in its construction, before sweeping them under the rug. It’s going to be much, much harder to live up to what it asks of us.

It’s clear that we need to reach out beyond our own circles if we are ever to become a credible force for change again. That means recruiting and retaining voters of all colours, classes, faiths and ages by proving that liberalism is an innovative and bold ideology unafraid to take on the challenges that face these voters. That means dreaming big, but starting small; we need to speak to people’s everyday needs, not just their highest aspirations. Most of all, we need to engage young voters across the country so that we can renew liberalism for the challenges of the new decade.

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Daily View 2×2: 28 May 2020

2 big stories

Frankly, I’m bored with Dominic Cummings. I freely accept that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and will only quit when he feels like it – because his notional boss hasn’t got the backbone to do anything about him. But he has become a symbol of exactly what senior Conservatives think of the British public, for which we should be kind of grateful. That said, it appears that more and more Conservative MPs are beginning to realise how damaging his arrogance is becoming. Is it that they don’t like the grief they’re getting from constituents, …

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24 May 2020 – the day’s press releases

And here are Sunday’s press releases. You may be beginning to discern a pattern here…

  • Govt urged to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK
  • Tory MPs must back calls for Dominic Cummings to go, and put fight against Coronavirus first
  • PM’s own judgement now in question

Govt urged to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to reopen the British National Overseas Passport offer and extend it to give Hong Kong citizens the right to live in the UK following renewed police violence towards protestors in the Hong …

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23 May 2020 – the day’s press releases

Right, here’s the first tranche of “missed” press releases, and there’ll be Sunday’s in about half an hour…

  • Davey: When did the PM know about Cummings breaking lockdown rules?
  • Davey demands investigation into Cummings breaking lockdown
  • Second Cummings lockdown questions PM’s judgement and demands inquiry

Davey: When did the PM know about Cummings breaking lockdown rules?

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has called on the Prime Minister to confirm if and when he knew about Dominic Cummings breaking the government’s lockdown guidelines. He said:

Millions of people have been forced to cancel their normal lives, including important family gatherings like weddings and funerals.

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27 May 2020 – today’s press releases

Good evening, everyone. Please accept my apologies for the absence of this regular feature for a few days. To be honest, I’ve taken a few days off to attempt to regain my mojo and, whilst it hasn’t been wholly successful, I am at least back. Let’s pick up with today’s releases, and I’ll catch up the past five days as we go along…

  • High time for Govt to extend Brexit transition period
  • PM must instruct Home Sec to lift no recourse to public funds rule for coronavirus crisis
  • Govt strategy must also support people in isolation

High time for Govt to extend Brexit transition

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Britain’s stick – The Hong Kong Bill (Part 1)

Yesterday, we provided evidence that China’s salami crackdowns are as sinister as a Tiananmen massacre crackdown. ( Article: Fallacy of reasoning from ‘crackdown’ to actions – The new TianAnMen crackdown) Some have wondered what sticks on Peking can be employed by Britain. The Lib Dem Campaigners for Hong Kong campaign for the Hong Kong Bill in 2 parts – 1. Sanctions, and 2. BN(O) rights.

Let us first look at the lighter portion of the bill – #2 BN(O) rights.

British Nationals (Overseas) passport holders are holders of a British passport and a British National. Applicants took up the nationality to agree with the British identity. While no European countries, including multi-nationality pre-unified Germany, forbids right of abode to some of their nationals; Britain created a second-class nationality for Hong Kong. China looks at nationals lightly too. From the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen massacre, and from locking up Uyghurs in concentration camps to arresting Wuhan doctors who suggested the outbreak of Covid-19; Peking never shy away from human sacrifices in return for Party order. Is it Global Britain to suggest it too cannot protect all her nationals because of political considerations? Even till early this year, the government is anxious about offending China as if considering our immigration matters is sailing gunboats up the South China Sea. Peking must be laughing now. Even with its problems in the pandemic, Peking’s leadership follows Sun Tzu’s doctrine of warfare to the latter to seek attack when all others are in crisis, for this is to emphasise superiority (敵之害大,就勢取利,剛決柔也。). Simply put, “Loot a burning house”. Peking is invalidating a race – the Hongkongers, and British interests in Hong Kong as we battle the Coronavirus pandemic. The word ‘compassion’ was never in its vocabulary. Of course, we are a nation of ethical and moral values, perhaps, only with a short-sighted government. Whether it is a Rule Britannia pride, economic greed because of the average wealth of a potential migrant from Hong Kong or honouring social liberal values; it does rest upon our shoulders to show we stand up for Hong Kong.

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Isolation diary: Prescribing social activities

Social prescribing is a relatively new concept within health care. It means that health professionals can refer a patient towards non-clinical activities that will improve their health, in many cases for free.

I first came aware of social prescription in Kingston when our GP referred us both to the Get Active programme, which is a 12 week course under the supervision of a trainer in a local gym.  It was free when we did it, but they now charge a small amount per session.

GPs in my NHS area can also refer a patient to one of several local slimming clubs, entitling them to 12 weeks free membership. It makes so much sense – the patient has the benefit of expert advice and a support group, and the cost to the NHS is much less than through their own programmes. To qualify you have to live in the Borough, have a BMI greater than 28 and be over 16.

These activities, and very many others, were all pulled together about 6 months ago in Connected Kingston. This is a joint project run by Kingston Council, the NHS and Kingston Voluntary Action, our umbrella organisation for the voluntary sector. Local residents can search for advice and activities on just about anything that is provided by local voluntary or public services, and health providers can prescribe quite a number of them.

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Liberation inc. – a freedom incubator

This week, a new incubator for liberal startups has launched Liberation inc.  Liberation inc. will provide support for a new eco-system of think tanks, new media sites, campaign organisations and other groups that share the goal of defining and promoting liberalism as both a means and an end for the world’s crises and challenges.

If a liberal message is a breakthrough in the nation’s conversation, and even form a popular movement then, in this anti-establishment world, liberals start from a decent ‘outsider’ position. But it will not be enough to have truth and real-facts on the side. Liberals have always had those and yet rarely seen the government in a hundred years in the UK. It will also be necessary to promote that truth and those facts, in a way that engages and persuades the modern public.

In this day and age, after decades of scandals and crises in banks, newspapers and political parties, it’s not the age and grandiosity of the institution that is important but the number of voices and variety of messengers that builds trust in a message.

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New words, old prejudices

A friend shared a tweet with me from pink news yesterday; it highlighted Layla Moran’s coming out story for Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility day. The comments on this tweet were a veritable smorgasbord of unkindness and prejudice. There are various themes of hate, the party, the day, Layla herself, trans people. The one that I want to focus on though is the comments that object to the word pansexual. I think these are the comments that are quite likely to seem harmless or even valid to a wider audience. They are not.

“Virtue signalling nonsense” “Pansexual? What community what? People go deeper every day; we need to start talking straight again. This is crazy” “So a new name for bisexual then?” “For those unsure, a Pansexual is someone who will will have sex with anyone with a pulse. In the old days, we called them Squaddies”. These are a few of such comments, I could go on, but frankly, it’s exhausting and demoralising.

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Seething Wells

The Seething Wells Filter Beds is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and it’s one of many across the country that needs a change in the law to enable the Council to protect its biodiversity. So we have launched a petition asking Government to ‘Give Councils the power to protect nature reserves

Current legislation is a mess, involving the Council, Police, Environment Agency and English Heritage. We think the Council should be the single reasonability authority for all nature reserves, including those in private ownership.

The Seething Wells Filter Beds was a Thames Water facility that they stopped using back in 1992. Since then, nature has come back to the site in abundance. It has bats in the under road tunnels, flora and fauna, London grasslands, insects that need standing water and the birds that feed off them. It is also historically significant as it played an important role in proving cholera was waterborne in the mid-1800s.

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Penny power

Someone wrote an amazing article on LDV a few weeks ago, proposing a kind of national transaction tax (I can’t recall the precise term he used) levied on every electronic payment made in the country. We must make millions of these across the nation every day for business and personal purposes. Moreover, at the infinitesimally low rate of 0.005% – is that a halfpenny on £100? the decimals baffle me – the product would finance a Universal Basic Income of something like £800 per person per month. OK, it’s not enough to live on, the argument goes, but even at …

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Isolation diary: Listening to The Archers

So lockdown has reached Ambridge at last, just as the rest of the country is beginning to ease itself back to normality.

The Archers is the only soap I follow these days, and I only got sucked in properly during the Rob and Helen coercive control storyline over four years ago. Before that I had dropped in from time to time, often listening in the car as I was driving to evening meetings. In fact, “Dum di dum di dim di dum” had echoed throughout my adult life.

I can actually remember the shock that reverberated through the village when the unmarried Jennifer got pregnant and refused to say who the father was (although it was later revealed to be the result of a fling with the cowman).  Adam, her son, is now over 50. He is married to Ian, the chef at Grey Gables, and has recently become a father, through surrogacy, to young Xander – which demonstrates neatly how things have changed in 50 years.

Episodes of the soap are written and recorded in six week cycles, some time ahead of the broadcast date. The actual recordings take place over the course of one week, which is why, if an actor is unavailable for that week they have to be written out of the show for six weeks. Tamsin Grieg, who is much in demand for stage and TV work, still pops back occasionally, but her character Debbie now conveniently lives in Hungary (I can’t remember why).

When lockdown was imposed on the rest of the country on 23rd March there were still five weeks’ worth of broadcasts in the can. The producers decided to cut down from six episodes per week to five, which gave them an extra week’s grace. However, this had the odd effect of getting The Archers even more out of sync with the rest of the world, and they appeared to be celebrating Easter (with the church still open) on a Wednesday.

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Liberal Democrats must engage with ethnic minority communities

Why are Liberal Democrats, despite having the ultimate political ideology, unable to achieve targeted success in the General Elections?

Of course, there are many factors why we did not achieve desirable results – as we have seen recently in our 2019 Election Review.

But here I am going to pinpoint only one issue which, as a party, we have ignored repeatedly. And I learned this from successful candidates from the two big parties at the last three general elections in 2015, 2017 and 2019, when this was a strategy to reach ethnic minorities. As I am a multilingual person and can speak, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali and Urdu, it was easy for me to interact with the voters, from ethnic minority backgrounds. And what I noticed was that in a few places, when I was trying to campaign and introduce myself to the BAME voters, so many times I was told that they would have loved to vote for me, but that their votes were already committed to another party’s candidate, because the candidate had been a regular visitor to their community events. And sometimes, though this was not during election campaign, I myself noticed the presence of Conservative or Labour party candidates or well-known party members.

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It’s community, stupid

If there has been any positive from the last few weeks, it is the growth in community action. Support groups have been set up in many communities across the country, all focused on helping vulnerable people and supporting those that need it.

The Liberal Democrats have also been at it. Ed Davey launched the Coronavirus Taskforce in March, utilising the party’s army of volunteers to make thousands of calls to residents across the UK, checking whether vulnerable residents required help.

In Cheadle, there has been an incredible community movement. Helping Hands, a volunteer group, has assisted hundreds of residents collect prescriptions and groceries, whilst Cheadle FM has been started to keep those isolated residents without access to digital platforms updated and in touch with the outside world. Check it out at!

Posted in News | 8 Comments

The Hong Kong national security law is the wake up call for civil rights campaigners

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Since the anti-extradition protests began on May 2019, civil rights movement campaigners tried to achieve its means by 3 pillars: Within the legislation assembly, demonstrations, and social media (including overseas campaigns).

Throughout the protest movements, they achieved some successes: The government was forced to withdraw the extradition bill amendment, Hong Kong was the focus of the mass media, and the USA took a number of actions in order to prevent China suppressing the protests by violent means.

However, everything changed for the worse on 21st May 2020.

The Chinese government announced then that they will submit a resolution to the National People’s Congress, which will instruct the Hong Kong government to pass a ‘National Security Law’. It will be included in Annex 3 of the Basic Law, which implied the Chinese National Security Law will be applied in the territory through local legislation or promulgation by the Chief Executive. That means the law can bypass the scrutiny of the legislative assembly in Hong Kong and further erode the legislative and judiciary autonomy of the territory.

The new law will make any of the following activities illegal:

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

Further reflections on the English Party

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Recently, as a new member, I became flummoxed when trying to work out what the English Party is, does and who makes up its committees. I wrote up my frustrations here at Lib Dem Voice. Having started with no axe to grind, I have become near axe-wielding now that responses have come in from that article. Members of as long as thirty-five years have admitted not knowing anything about the English Party and others have pointed out how it resists change or even blocks progress. Yet, there is an alternative and one that may help kick-start the reform that our recent Election Review has called for.

My main gripe with the English Party had been that they didn’t appear to have a website (it turns out that they do but it says so little about what the English Party is and does that in Google rankings terms, it’s basically on the ‘dark web.’) And they didn’t have social media or the other indicators of transparency and openness one might expect from a liberal, political institution.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 23 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 29th May - 5:50pm
    Peter Martin, money is destroyed everyday - when banknotes are burned, when loans are repaid, when taxes are paid. It makes not an iota of...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 29th May - 5:40pm
    There are occasional differences in the Conservative Party. Please consider their first elected leader, Edward Heath, organ scholar and sailor ISBN 0 340 70582 2,...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 29th May - 5:29pm
    David Raw, this is the FT comment on the last Libdem manifesto "...the manifesto confirms the Lib Dems are now a borrow, tax and...
  • User AvatarJames Young 29th May - 5:03pm
    Re Cummings , I am sure you would not be bored if a member of your family had Covid ,like my sister. I desperately wanted...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 29th May - 4:50pm
    @Matt (Bristol) Thanks for the question. sometimes, I find discussion in threads below an article stimulate my thinking more than writing the article in the...
  • User AvatarMatt (Bristol) 29th May - 4:37pm
    Thanks George for your thoughtful reply. I should have been clear that I meant I was speaking as a self-identified social democrat, although I know...