19 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Wales Woefully Unprepared for No-Deal Brexit
  • Corbyn turns his back on manufacturing sector
  • Honda decision symbolic of Brexit Britain
  • Lib Dems: Begum should face justice for her crimes in the UK

Wales Woefully Unprepared for No-Deal Brexit

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised no-deal preparations in Wales as “woeful” following a report from the Wales Audit Office, which critcised the lack of preparations made in case Britain leaves the European Union without a deal or transition period.

The Wales Audit Office report stated, ‘Wales needs to do more to prepare for possible no-deal Brexit.’ despite the Welsh Government having begun “intensifying” their no-deal preparations as far …

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How do we respond to the Labour split?

The news yesterday morning that there is to be a new breakaway group inside the House of Commons, the ‘Independent Group,’ is an historic moment. That may seem hyperbolic, but the anger and resentment displayed by those seven who have left the Labour Party was as damning as it was dramatic. It showed once again why Jeremy Corbyn is, and always has been, the wrong person to lead the Labour Party, let alone be Prime Minister. 

Talks of electoral alliances have of course led to discussions about how the UK’s main centrist party reacts. Echoes of the days of the SDP seem a bit early as the movement has not yet morphed into a political party yet, but if more join the group it could become both a serious challenge for Corbyn to overcome and also a friendly group for the Lib Dems to cooperate with in the Commons, with similar positions on Brexit. 

So far, there seem to be few plans to create another alliance. I think this may well be sensible. The new group define themselves as heavily on the social democratic wing of the spectrum, potentially in opposition to many of the more centrist-leaning principles of the Lib Dems. There is of course the danger that an alliance could damage the independence of our party, as going further to the the left would alienate many potential voters looking for a centrist alternative. It may well be a risk to hard to take for many inside the party, and the failure of the SDP to really change the political landscape still hangs in the mind. 

Vince Cable tweeted yesterday that he was ‘open’ to working with the new group and announcing that there will be discussion between the two sides over how to stop Brexit, which both the Lib Dems and the Independents see as a national disaster. We should welcome discussion over Parliamentary cooperation, but whether there is a public appetite from members and the wider electorate to see a merge remains to be seen. But any moves should definitely be treated with caution at this stage, I think.

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A second Remain campaign must learn from its mistakes

If recent news reports are to be believed, a consensus on how best to achieve a second referendum is coming together. Vote through Theresa May’s deal on the proviso that it is put to the people first, with Remain an option on the ballot paper. There are many hurdles to jump over before then, not least convincing a reluctant Labour leadership to whip its MPs into voting for it. In preparation for the possibility, those campaigning on the Remain side should be gearing up for it, and we must learnt the lessons of the 2016 vote.

Firstly, it is vital to accept that a lot of people are going to be very angry about this. That is understandable. Their right to protest peacefully about a second referendum must be respected, upheld and admired.

Secondly, remainers should be careful about the way in which they speak about their opponents, and I refer here to both the politicians and the electorate as a whole. No patronising, no tarring leavers with the same brush as Nigel Farage and no condescension. It doesn’t help; it doesn’t address the valid concerns that people have about the EU; more importantly, it is a guaranteed vote-winner for the leave campaign.

Thirdly, it can’t be a negative campaign based on the horrors of the outcome of a leave vote. Facts and forecasts are important and should play a role, but there is a positive emotional case to be made and it must be heard. I want to hear more from the nurses from other EU countries, without whom the NHS wouldn’t function. I want to see more about UK citizens who have gone to live in other countries and made a success of it. I want to hear about small businesses that have made enduring partnerships with other businesses on the European mainland. I want to hear stories of friendships and relationships that have come about as a result of our ability to travel the EU with no restrictions. Positive stories that extol the virtues of freedom of movement and of free trade with our neighbours are going to have a far wider impact than graphs that predict economic doom if we were to leave. However accurate these may be, they should be used as evidence to back up the emotional arguments, rather than the main thrust of the campaign. If you’ve been trapped in low paid work (or indeed no work at all) for many years and you feel that the economic odds are stacked against you, then being told by someone who is clearly very well-off that you shouldn’t vote to leave the EU because it will damage the economy is not going to ring true. If a healthy economy is seen as only benefitting those at the top, then a campaign based on scare tactics will not work with the vast majority of the electorate.

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Political breakaways are no easy option – a reminder of how the last one played out…

In 1981 and 1982 the Alliance between the two parties, under the leadership of Roy Jenkins and David Steel, was seen to be the perfect answer to Mrs Thatcher’s highly controversial first government, then two years old. Polls suggested that the Alliance could win power ‘if there was an election tomorrow’ as the polls liked to say, but, as many will remember, there wasn’t an election tomorrow. Instead there was the Falklands War, which Mrs Thatcher led us all into and won, thereby turning round many public perceptions of her. The Tories won the 1983 election comfortably, in the …

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Young Liberals launch Young & Winning 2019 to support young candidates

It’s no secret that this year is going to be big for us Liberal Democrats, and the Young Liberals are no exception.

Last year, we provided thousands to young candidates across the country. We contributed to getting some fantastic young councillors elected, now serving their community.

In 2019 we’re doing the same with more support to elect young councillors. The aim is to give young people the community voice which they deserve and need.

This support can range from grants for literature to subsidised action days and more.

In 2018, we supported almost every candidate that applied. In almost every case, young candidates we supported saw increase in vote share. Many were successful in their bids, some came within less than 10 votes of taking their ward.

It’s clear to me that we need more young voices in local government. It’s clear that we can make that happen, and it’s imperative that we do.

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Political breakaways are no easy option

Whichever way any sensible person thinks about Brexit, a disaster looms at the end of March. Nearly three years on from the Referendum and the decision to trigger Article 50 Parliament and the country are no clearer as to what they want from leaving Europe, and why they want it, than they were in 2016. Division is everywhere. Unhappiness, uncertainty and disillusionment are as rife today among electors as they are across the political spectrum.

When asked by the pollsters, a significant majority of UK electors now say they favour not leaving at all. That does not necessarily mean they would …

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TIG’s not it

When you are an active member of a political party, the amount of the infrastructure of your life that is embedded in it is colossal. My husband knows that we have a bird of liberty as well as a spaniel determinedly pushing its way between us when we try to grab some time together.

Our lives revolve round election cycles and meetings and protest marches. And this blog.

Most of my best friends are in the Liberal Democrats. To be honest, I think they would still be my best friends wherever our lives took us, but, still, I share stuff with them that if we were in different parties I wouldn’t be able to any more.

Making the decision to leave is difficult and painful and not at all easily taken.

So when I see people leaving the Labour Party when they have finally reached the end of their rope with Jeremy Corbyn, I know how hard it must have been for them. I respect them for having the courage to do so.

I like some of them a lot on a personal level and I have no problem with working with them on the areas where we share common aims.

However, I am underwhelmed by their statement of values on their website. Some of them are fine – just a bit motherhood and apple pie.However, parts of it made me cringe:

…the first duty of government must be to defend its people and do whatever it takes to safeguard Britain’s national security.

It’s a bit hawkish. I get that they are trying to get away from the spectre of Corbyn, but the first thing above all else, when 3 million of our citizens are about to have their rights massively downgraded and people have trouble putting food on the table? Really?

There are also some real deserving/undeserving poor undertones to it – and an echo of that awful phrase “hard working families.”

I think the thing that bothered me most, though, was:

We believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people.

I get that they are restating the obvious that democracy is a good thing, but you can’t say that politics is broken and then say that our way of doing it is best. How much more powerful would it have been if they had said, as we do, that our political institutions need redesigning and rebuilding so that people get the Parliament that they ask for. If they did, the country would not be in its current disastrous pickle.

I lived through the birth of the SDP 40 years ago and it genuinely felt exciting. They used phrases like “breaking the mould” and talked about pursuing a reforming agenda in every area of life. This doesn’t have that coherent approach. It’s like TIG’s members can agree what they’re against – the various circles of Hell in Corbyn’s Labour – but writing a coherent vision statement has not come easy. In some ways their statement is more cry of pain than beacon lighting our path.

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18 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Amidst the conjecture caused by the launch of The Independent Group this morning, it might have been easy to forget that there’s plenty of other stuff going on…

  • Lib Dems: Rail reform proposals signals change needed
  • Govt consultations on plastic must be followed by action
  • On short prison sentences, Tories say one thing and do another
  • Cable: Honda decision another hammer blow to the UK economy
  • Lib Dems will work with like-minded MPs – Cable
  • Statement on the death of Paul Flynn

Lib Dems: Rail reform proposals signals change needed

Responding to the release of the report containing the Rail Delivery Group’s proposals to the Williams Rail Review, …

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Is being purist consistent with building majorities for change?

I’ve been vaguely following the debate triggered by today’s launch of The Independent Group, and I have to admit to a tinge of despair. The competing stances of “we look forward to working with them” and “they’re not proper liberals and we shouldn’t touch them with a bargepole” are hardly unexpected, and there are people that I respect on both sides.

But, of course, I’m a bureaucrat, inherently cautious, and I’m older and wiser than I once was. So I find myself wondering, what is it we want, and how can this help us to get it?

Think of it as being …

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Book review: The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman, the bomb and the four months that changed the world


While in Washington DC, I made a pilgrimage to the large “Prose and Politics” bookstore in Connecticut Avenue NW. As one would expect, it was bursting with political books. I would have quite happily walked away with an entire wheelbarrow load of books, if my airline baggage weight limit had allowed it. In the end, I bought one paperback, which was “The Accidental President” by A.J.Baime about Harry S. Truman’s first four months as President in 1945. I was not disappointed. It is a brilliant book – a real page turner. By coincidence, Harry Truman lived with his family from 1941 until 1945 (including for the first few days of his Presidency) at 4701 Connecticut Avenue, which I passed on my way to the bookshop.

Harry Truman took over as US President in the most extraordinary circumstances. A.J.Baime quotes a Boston Globe reporter who wrote that Truman’s elevation to Vice Presidential candidate in 1944 was “one of the most amazing stories in American democracy”, adding:

It is the story of an average man, swept to dizzy heights against his will, a little bewildered by it all and doubting whether it is really true.

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Victim or Terrorist? Thoughts on Shamima Begum

The situation with Shamima Begum has been one that I have been ruminating over for the last few days, whether it has been the racist headline of the Metro on Friday (“Jihadi Bride wants baby on NHS”) or the utterly appalling misogyny and unconscious racism displayed on this topic by politicians, friends and others on social media.

For those of you who may not remember, at 15, Shamima Begum left the U.K. with two friends to go to ISIS-controlled territories in the Middle East. There, shortly after arrival, she was married to someone she had been introduced to online who …

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++Seven MPs quit Labour and form “The Independent Group”

Embed from Getty Images

From the BBC:

Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism.

They are: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

Ms Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

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A detour into the history of the Party Presidency

It’s easy to forget how many Party members are of very recent vintage sometimes. Given that our membership at the time of the General Election was in the region of 45,000, and is now more than double that, many of our readers will have no reason to be aware of the history of the post.

So, here are some of the things that might be of interest…

Sal Brinton is the ninth person to hold the position of Party President, and the longest serving of them all – her second term is of three years, the first of such length. No-one may …

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AOC is right, we need unprecedented action to prevent climate catastrophe

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been US Representative for New York’s 14th District for less than two months, but she has already made waves in US politics so large that they have spread across the pond.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as she is popularly known) tabled House Resolution 109. The “Green New Deal” it outlines would transition the US to a carbon neutral economy and 100% renewable energy generation within ten years. These changes would be accompanied by massive investment in infrastructure, from improving the energy efficiency of buildings, to developing new …

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16-17 February 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

Lib Dems: Divert our flightpath away from Brexit mess

Responding to reports that the East Midlands airline FlyBMI has collapsed amid the uncertainty caused by Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

While the Government claim that Brexit provides the opportunity to create a Global Britain, the evidence is to the contrary; FlyBMI are naming Brexit as one of the reasons for their demise.

The truth is, any Brexit is bad for UK Plc, and puts jobs and livelihoods at risk. It is time to divert our flightpath away from this crisis, with a People’s Vote and a chance to exit

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #543

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 543rd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (10-16 February, 2019), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

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

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

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Lib Link: Shas Sheehan Government must defend DFID’s autonomy and expertise

Enshrining the 0.7% GDP for international aid provision in law was a brilliant Lib Dem achievement brought about by former Lib Dem Secretary of State Mike Moore.

Now it is coming under threat by Tories who have always opposed it. In an article for Politics Home, Lib Dem peer Shas Sheehan writes a blistering defence of it.

Enshrining in law the UK’s aid commitment was a hugely progressive step. But it has been haunted by years of attack from Conservative MPs such as former and current DFID Secretaries Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt. The latest person to take aim at this life-saving budget is Boris Johnson.

Boris’ backing of the paper Global Britain: A Blueprint for the 21st Century is shameful. The paper calls for a severe, multi-billion-pound cut to UK’s Overseas Aid budget and closure of DFID. It shrugs off the fact that this budget has played a major role in the fight to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development across the world. It dismisses the fact that it has helped to transform people’s lives and lift many out of inhumane conditions.

Far from positioning post-Brexit Britain as a global player regaining its place on the world stage, slashing the UK aid budget and threatening our place in the OECD’s forum of major international donors instead paints the UK as an inward-looking island no longer in step with the realities of the contemporary world. As Save the Children have said, the UK is an International Development superpower but these suggestions risk that. Brexit is already threatening our seat at the top table, we must not allow Conservative whims to threaten it further.

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Just in case you thought the ERG was acting on principle…

So Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris and the rest of the European Research Group of 100 or so Tory backbenchers have been making an almighty fuss about the backstop. They don’t like the part of the EU Withdrawal Agreement that would keep the UK in a temporary customs union in the (highly likely) event of a full trade deal not being agreed by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

It has alway been clear that the EU will, quite rightly, to be honest, not consider any watering down of that commitment. There is no solution to the Irish border problem that doesn’t involve some sort of customs union. It is obvious.

But an article in today’s Mirror suggests that the ERG might give in and vote for May’s deal just to get us out of the EU – on condition that Theresa May goes after the local elections on May 2nd so they have a chance of getting Boris as PM.

Political editor Nigel Nelson suggests:

As things stand at least 20 hardcore ERG backbenchers will not back Mrs May’s deal – either with or without changes to the backstop.

But if they think they can get Boris for PM, it is expected they will back down.

With the ERG on board, and 20 Labour rebels who Mrs May is trying to bribe with cash for their constituencies, the PM will have enough votes to get across the line.

In essence, this doesn’t really change anything because the idea of the ERG caving to get us out has always been a possibility.

But it does give us the chance to reflect on why the deal passing is far from the end of the issue.

As I said the other week, the Deal itself is bloody awful. It kicks so much down the road that we have no idea what sort of economy we will end up with.

Bad as it is, it is a million times worse with an ERG PM driving the trade negotiations. The chance of us welcoming in 2020 (or even before) by jumping off a no deal cliff is high.

But this lot have another agenda. Theresa May is going on about workers’ rights in a bid to appease Labour MPs. Jo Swinson called bullshit on those claims this week.

But the ERG are a whole world of right wing small-state extremism away from even May’s Conservatives. Jacob Rees-Mogg and co praise Singapore, a place where you get 12 weeks maternity leave rather than the 12 months shared parental leave (thanks, Jo), where you only get 2 weeks paid holiday a year and where redundancy protection is not mandatory.

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Roger Roberts writes…Massive changes needed at the Home Office

I quote from one not of my own party, David Lammy, who, in a speech last week in the House of Commons, stated:

“Your Department’s treatment of the Windrush generation has been nothing less than a national scandal. In November, we learned that at least 164 Windrush citizens were wrongly removed, detained or stopped at the border by our own Government. Eleven of those who were wrongly deported have died. You have announced three more today. Every single one of those cases is a shocking indictment of your Government’s pandering to far right racism, sham immigration targets and the dog whistle of the right-wing press”.—

In addition, I received a letter earlier this week from one who said:

“I am a Portuguese citizen from Lisbon, came here in 1993 on a full scholarship paid for by the Royal Academy of Music to study, when I was just 19 years old. I stayed and have been working as a performer and teacher ever since.

I came here legally, settled with no issues and have had a national insurance number since 1993. I have paid tax since 1997 … When I applied for settled status I wasn’t given a reason for being refused”.

Nor was she asked to provide evidence. She continues:

“It made me both frightened and angry. I’ve been here continuously for nearly 26 years and couldn’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t be immediately put through … I was promised and reassured by this government that the ridiculous process of having to apply for a status I already have (!) was simple, easy and that bar criminal conviction everyone would get through straight away.

I was lied to.

The app doesn’t work for the self-employed.

The app doesn’t come with a helpline number or email to write to, it also doesn’t tell you that if you’re self-employed you’re not likely to get through.

It doesn’t offer help in any way.

What I want to know is why on earth the Home Office cannot just look at my 25 continuous years of NI and understand it is me!

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ICYMI: Jo tears into Theresa May for claiming credit for shared parental leave

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave.

As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s claim.

And afterwards, with the help of some excellent gifs, she took to Twitter to rip the Tories to shreds on workers’ rights. She highlighted the times in the coalition when we fought against them. And there was a touch of humility as she said that we might not always have got it right, but we sure as hell battled every day. Here’s are the highlights:

This is my favourite:

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Changes to electoral law passed this week will help disabled candidates

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses.

The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords:

Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the transcription of campaign material into braille for visually impaired candidates and specialist equipment. This order will also exclude expenses funded from grants provided through the Government’s interim EnAble Fund for Elected Office from electoral spending limits. This £250,000 interim fund will support disabled candidates and help cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office, such as those I have listed

Our John Shipley welcomed the proposal:

I thank the Minister for explaining this order and I want to record that I agree with it. It is entirely appropriate that any disability-related expenses in elections should be exempt from spending limits, on principle. That is because it helps disabled candidates to stand for election on equal terms with others. I noted the Minister’s comments about some objections that may have been raised on some of the details—but none is more important than the overall principle of equality of opportunity.

This order is in force now for the May elections.

But it isn’t any use to disabled candidates unless we actually help them with the costs of getting elected. 

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15 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Lib Dems: Tories failing on air pollution

New figures released today by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority.

Responding to the figures, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said:

These figures show that this Tory Government is failing to tackle air pollution, which they described themselves as ‘the biggest environmental threat to public health.’

Long-term exposure to these emissions can cause heart and lung problems as well as potentially contribute to cancers, with the young and the

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Tony Greaves writes…”There really is no Planet B” Scenes from the Schools 4 Climate action demo

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed.

There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No stewards and precious few police, who were clearly taken unawares by the scale of the protest and were standing around looking a rather lost at how to cope with quite a big disruption with no organisers to talk to! People just turned up, often in school groups, and did their own thing as they felt fit.

Some just stood about with their placards. Some sat in a circle, chanted or sang or made impromptu speeches – at first on the grass, later on in the road. Some stood in the streets or marched off down Whitehall or towards Westminster Bridge. Parliament Square was completely blocked, partly by the young demonstrators but also – by a curious bit of serendipity – by the black cabs whose drivers were staging another protest against being kicked out of London bus lanes.

For once, the young people were being allowed to stand on the plinths of statues and hang placards on Mr Churchill and his friends. One glorious incident happened when a big red open-top tourist sightseeing bus, blocked on the corner of Bridge Street and the Square, was commandeered by a group of young people waving their placards and leading the chants. What any tourists thought about it, I know not!

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John Leech: Lib Dems will oppose Labour’s fines for homeless people till the end of time

Rough sleepers in Manchester are to be hit with fines of up to £1,000 as part of Labour’s latest social cleansing plans.

Former Lib Dem MP  John Leech who is now one of Manchester’s two Lib Dem councillors and the only opposition to Labour in City Hall, vowed that the party would ‘oppose it until the end of time’.

He said:

Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester Council, described Christmas as “peak begging season”, the council claimed soup kitchens organised by communities and outreach teams are a “bad idea” whilst fining and trying to sue the homeless, spending £10,000 on one-way tickets to get rid of rough sleepers, refusing to build affordable and social housing and claiming the only way to tackle “offenders” is to fine them.

Whilst this city experiences the worst homeless crisis in decades, rather than tackling the causes, Labour in Manchester is investing in fines, court orders and inane policies that are so broad and lacking in detail that it can only be seen as an attempt to clean up the streets.

If this isn’t social cleansing then I’ve got no idea what is and I want to make it absolutely crystal clear; Liberal Democrat councillors will oppose this until the end of time.

Manchester council has already taken out a number of injunctions against homeless people living in tents across the city. 

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Layla: I’m thinking of standing for leader..

We know that there is going to be a leadership election at some point in the not too distant future. Vince said as much last year when he launched his plans for a supporters scheme.

He said:

Once Brexit is resolved or stopped, that will be the time to conduct a leadership election under the new rules.

Those new rules will be voted upon by the York Conference next month.

We’re not going to get a leadership election imminently and of course nobody has yet announced their candidacy. But we can make an educated guess about likely front-runners.

In 2017, both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson decided against standing.  It’s interesting that they have joint billing with Vince at the Conference rally in York. Or maybe that’s down to Federal Conference Committee’s diplomatic skills.

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“Playing chicken with the country” – and the possibility of revoking Article 50

Lib Dem MPs have been out and about in the media this week.

Christine Jardine took Labour to task for their abject failure to oppose the Government properly.

Layla took to Twitter to give a Valentine’s Day message – and she mentioned the possibility of revoking article 50 if we get to March 29th and there is still no deal. Like Christine before her she talked about May’s game of chicken with the country. Definitely a theme here. .

On Bloomberg, Jo Swinson took a coach and horses through Theresa May’s Brexit policy from the beginning, saying that public opinion had changed and the best way forward was a People’s Vote.

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14 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • No deal Brexit causing panic for people with diabetes (see here)
  • Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say
  • Cable: Govt defeat shows rejection of May’s time wasting

Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say

The Liberal Democrats have today tabled an amendment calling for a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have ensured that there is a People’s Vote amendment for MPs to get behind on every single Brexit vote in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

In an attempt to force through this unpopular deal,

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Shamima Begum: The approval of the right wing press should not be part of what happens next

I read the interview with Shamima Begum in today’s Times (£) with mixed emotions. I have There is no doubt that she has made some utterly horrendous decisions in her young life which will take a lot to unravel. My instinctive reaction, though, is that rehabilitation must be at the heart of what happens next.

She is a British citizen. So is her soon-to-be-born baby. She cannot be denied access to this country. If she does make it back here, there will have to specialist intervention and risk assessment but the overarching aim should be to get her to a place where she can be re-integrated into society. That is not going to be easy for her, but nor should it be excessively punitive either.

She says some things in her interview that are undeniably hard to read. And even worse to listen to. But I guess you have to remember that in the last 3 months, she has lost two young children for want of decent health care. It’s early stages in the grieving process. You can maybe see where the denial and defiance comes from. We can only imagine the pain that lies beneath it.

As I write, her family’s lawyer is making the point on Channel 4 News that she is in a camp with 36000 others, some of whom remain ISIS supporters. If she were to speak out against ISIS to the press, she could find herself in even more danger.

We also have to remember that her own mother died a year before she left this country. How might that loss have rendered her more susceptible to targeted radicalisation? A huge amount of work needs to be done by her and others to combat the effects of that, but we should give her access to the programs can achieve that.

One thing that we shouldn’t do, though, is allow the approval of the right wing press to have any part in this. We should do what is right in terms of the law, human rights and due process. We have to take into account her age and vulnerability and circumstances at the time she made the extremely poor decision to travel to Syria.

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Check out the York Spring Conference agenda – and two important deadlines

My Conference agenda arrived this morning. I know I can see it all online, but I like that I can write all over the paper copy and highlight things. It’s old-fashioned but it’s kind of like sitting down with a cup of tea and the Radio Times at Christmas and ticking off what you want to watch.

The agenda has details of all the debates, speeches and almost all the fringe events and exhibitors so you can at least try and plan out your weekend.

You might also want to know that Alistair Carmichael is having a whisky tasting on the Saturday night from 9:30-11:00 pm which is not advertised in the Directory. These are amazing events. Not only do you get seriously good and tastefully chosen whisky, but you get Alistair’s inimitable and very funny commentary on each whisky’s origins and manufacture. If you fancy it, email me on [email protected] and I’ll tell you how to try to get a place – but you will have to be quick. Tickets are like gold dust.

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Being a PPC – managing demands

One common interview question, which we used when hiring our Organiser and is used in many jobs, is that of prioritisation: you have lots of demands on your time and are faced with a long list of tasks, which do you do first?

Prioritisation seems to be an ever-present task as PPC. There is only one of you but 1001 things that need doing. Help?!

Yesterday I went through three sets of my list – the first version which I had written the night before on how I would get things done the next day as the asks seemed insurmountable; the second version made at coffee time before rushing out the door to a meeting, of the things that still needed doing and ranking which was most important; and then a third version, a yet-again-revised list of things that had to be absolutely done that day, with a new list of what could be left for the next day.

There is never enough time. Prioritisation is key, with an emphasis on delegating what others can do. I am more and more saying to those around me,  “I am going to concentrate on what I am meant to be doing as PPC.” But in the real world, it never works out that way.

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