President’s Report August 2022

The next general election

With a new Conservative Party leader nearly upon us, the range of plausible dates for the general election is wide open. As it now may well be much sooner than seemed likely at the time of our last conference, the Federal Board has been reviewing our general election plans.

Preparations are being stepped up across the party. The pre-manifesto document being debated at conference is an important part of that as is Ed Davey’s announcement of a major new package to help people with their fuel bills this winter – axing the planned increase in the fuel bill cap and providing extra help to those most in need.

This all makes now an even more important time for us all to be out on the doorsteps, recruiting new members and campaign helpers. There’s been a clear pattern in our recent electoral successes at all levels that building up campaign organisations well in advance of the formal election campaign is a central element to success.

A Membership Incentive Scheme is in place, with generous additional payments to local parties who recruit or renew party members locally, especially if it is done on direct debit.

Thanks in particular to our wonderful three Parliamentary by-election wins in the last year, when that general election comes, we’ll be a key part of the route to removing the Conservatives from government in Westminster.

That makes the Parliamentary seats in the (variously and flexibility defined) Blue Wall an increasingly important focus for us as the next general election polling day nears. But the majority of our councillors, our members and our voters are outside the Blue Wall.

So it’s not only the target seats for the next Westminster election we need to prosper at. We also need to be winning at other levels of election more broadly. We need to continue the sort of breadth in our recovery we saw in May’s local elections – amazing progress against the Conservatives in the Blue Wall and continuing recovery elsewhere, including up against Labour and the nationalists. Both of these tracks need to be successful for us to be a growing, national party.

That’s why the Board has continued to prioritise investment in the breadth of our campaigns officers network, supporting not only Parliamentary target seats but also progress in other areas too. Thank you to all the other parts of the party who have cooperated on this, giving us a much larger network of staff supporting grassroots campaigning than we had before.

Could you be a Returning Officer?

With Parliamentary selections picking up across the country, there has never been a better time to volunteer to be a Liberal Democrat Returning Officer.

Every Parliamentary selection is run by a trained Returning Officer – and although it is not a task for everyone, it’s a really valuable role that we need more volunteers for. Returning Officers need to be organised and methodical, to understand and interpret the rules, solve problems and work constructively with people whose perspectives on a situation may differ.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? If so, please contact / ask them to contact your Regional Candidates Chair in England or state Candidates Chair in Scotland and Wales to discuss the role and the availability of training. If you need putting in touch with the relevant person, just drop me a line.

There’s a training session being run on the Sunday morning at Conference, so now is a great time to get people thinking about this role.

Note that a Returning Officer cannot run selections for the local party of which they are a member, but they can help others so that others can help you.

Treating our staff well

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Bulls, ostriches and national housing targets

Would-be Prime Minister Liz Truss agrees with the Homes & Planning Working Group (HPWG) about scrapping the top-down national housing target! “Cakeism”? Could a Sunak Government spend more while cutting taxes?

It depends what taxes are cut – and how. Perhaps there is a way, which today’s politicians and their advisors have ignored. From John McDonald to Milton Friedman (with David Ricardo, Adam Smith and Vince Cable as classical Liberals) some have supported: the “Tax Shifting” way.

Our traditional taxes are almost all “welfare negative”: causing a huge “deadweight loss” of real growth. Taxes on earnings, dividends, profits and most transactions such as house sales (“Stamp Duty Land Tax”), fall on those parts of the economy that create wealth and prosperity.

However, it is those who simply hold title to the passive element in human activity – what economists used to call “Land”, i.e. everything not made – who are the main beneficiaries. Land exists in finite quantity and without it Labour and Capital cannot operate. The growth in national wealth since the 2008 financial crash has, according to ONS figures, gone almost entirely into inflating land values.

It is this deadweight loss that keeps the poor in poverty and causes inequality to grow unless governments act: corrective action including ‘progressive’ taxation which is unproductive. This is unintelligent and wholly unfair.

We Lib Dems have traditionally understood this. Hence our policy of Land Value Taxation (LVT).

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Water shortages are not just the fault of the weather or climate

Areas of southern England and parts of continental Europe are now in officially in drought. Taps ran dry in Northend in Oxfordshire. The source of the mighty River Thames shrank back to more than five miles from its source near for the first time in memory. Hosepipe bans are in force and people are advised to reduce water use.

Although there is now some rain in some areas, the water deficit in the soil is now so great a couple of days rain will do little more than revive those flagging garden plants and maybe perk up the lawns we seem to love so much.

This is not 1976 and we are unlikely to see standpipes in the streets at any point. But the current shortages do show how our water system is being pushed to the limits.

This article asks the question, why is England and its water companies so unprepared?

Climate change has made drought more likely but it is not the only factor behind the water shortages. A lot of the issues lie with the effectiveness of the water regulator Ofwat, the lack of a clear government strategy for new water resources and the lack of investment by water companies.

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Liberal Democrats should support trade unions and strike action

I was delighted that a policy motion written by myself, and the Young Liberals Social Mobility representative, Emily Baker, passed with an overwhelming majority at Young Liberals Summer Conference in Birmingham.

At our winter conference in Edinburgh in February, we passed a motion showing  solidarity with the University & Colleges Union.  Emily and I thought that in light of the Federal Party’s response to the RMT strikes, a similar motion ought to be brought to our Summer Conference in an expression of our support for the union.

To be completely candid, the Lib Dem response to these strikes made me hugely sceptical about my place in the Party. The protection of Trade Union and employment rights, including the right to strike, are absolute fundamental liberal values that I’m completely unwilling to compromise. I thought better of quitting. Instead, bringing this motion to our conference alongside Emily, was our way to ‘sticking it to the establishment’ in fairly characteristic YL style. We are both thrilled about the support of YL members in both their speeches and in the vote.

The motion calls for our express support for the industrial action taking by the RMT; our support for industrial action across other sectors where businesses fail to negotiate, and members are balloted in support of industrial action; and to reaffirm our support for the Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists.

 It’s become clearer that industrial action across sectors is increasingly likely: Royal Mail staff are heading for the picket, teachers are balloting for industrial action, Arriva bus drivers in the North West have been out on the picket line for 25 continuous days at the time of writing. Amendments to this motion submitted by James Green and Joe Norris, as well as English Young Liberals Chair, Oliver Jones-Lyons, have helpfully fleshed the motion out to include affirming our support for a variety of different Trade Unions and moved that Liberal Democrats should not oppose a General Strike if there are further restrictions on the right to strike.

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15 August 2022 – today’s press releases

  • 34 hospital buildings revealed to have dangerous roofs at risk of collapsing
  • Lib Dems call for “double bill freeze” this winter to save families £2,000

34 hospital buildings revealed to have dangerous roofs at risk of collapsing

  • The poor quality roofs described as “chocolate aero bars” by fearful hospital bosses
  • NHS chiefs are emergency planning for the roofs to collapse at 16 different hospitals
  • One of the hospitals affected is in Liz Truss’s Norfolk constituency

A new Parliamentary Question tabled by the Liberal Democrats has revealed 34 hospital buildings across 16 different NHS trusts are fitted with roofs which NHS chiefs have warned could collapse at any moment. Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey is demanding the Government action plan for emergency upgrades to the hospitals as patients and staff safety are put at risk.

The government revealed that 34 buildings at 16 NHS trust have been identified as being fitted with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which is said to be ‘structurally weaker’, ‘lightweight’ and ‘cheaper’ than a regular fitting.

NHS chief executive of Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn, Caroline Shaw, likened the material to a “chocolate Aero bar” with bubbles that could break and collapse at any point. It has been reported that some of the roofs are even being held up by steel props due to their structural weakness. This hospital is in Liz Truss’s constituency in Norfolk.

Hinchingbrooke in Cambridge, also impacted by these dangerous roof fittings, last year banned patients weighing more than 19 stone from having surgery in two of its operating theatres in case it put too much strain on the floor.

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Liberal Democracy must become the engine room of progressive ideas

With Boris Johnson finally ejected from office, the next task is to rid Britain of this appalling government altogether. First, it seems, we must endure two years of a Liz Truss administration: unthinking, uncaring, populist, and damaging. But then, there is a real opportunity for renewal, for rebuilding, for a progressive, liberal, decade.

We must not blow this opportunity.

Electoral success will only come through cooperation among progressive parties and that means facilitating a Kier Starmer led government. To win, Labour needs Liberal Democrat success but recent events suggest a much bigger mission. Starmer is a ‘safety first’ candidate who will offer voters stability and security. His leadership promises executive competence and integrity but his party lacks imagination and innovation. He has failed to articulate any meaningful vision or offered any real insight into the condition of our country or how to repair the damage of the past seven years.

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Public Spaces Protection Orders are out of control

On Monday 15th August, a new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) will come into force in Birmingham, banning all busking from two of the most profitable locations in the city. There are a number of councils around the country who have introduced restrictions on busking using PSPOs, but Birmingham City Council’s decision to introduce a blanket ban on busking in these areas, whether or not they are acting reasonably and considerately, is unusual.

Despite assurances from Shirley Williams during the introduction of the PSPO as a tool to clamp down on anti-social behaviour that “they (PSPOs) should not use the new powers to stop reasonable activities such as busking or other forms of street entertainment that are not causing anti-social behaviour”, these rules are being flouted up and down the country. Why? Because there are no mechanisms in place to stop them.

The case of the Birmingham Busking Ban is particularly egregious. A Freedom of Information Request released during the consultation period showed that, of the 81 complaints received by the council about busking in the two areas specified, 77 were from the same individual. He is well known in the area as someone who has a track record of verbal aggression towards the city’s street entertainers, particularly the young female ones.

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The Elections Act made easy

On 11 August, in celebration of ASEAN Day (8 August), the Libdems Overseas (LDO) group based in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia held a virtual meet-up with guest speaker, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. On the agenda was the very important topic of how to prepare Brits living abroad to register and vote in future general elections and national referendums.

The Act received the Royal Assent in April this year but is riddled with problems, and has yet to be brought into force by statutory instrument. It introduces amongst other things votes for life (including for those who have lived overseas for more than fifteen years) but also more stringent requirements for voting, such as photo-IDs for UK voters. This would disenfranchise about 9% of voters who currently do not possess one of the permissible forms of photo-ID. Student cards are apparently not acceptable, though pensioners Freedom passes are. The Act would also make it easier for political donations from abroad, though those over £500 would still have to be reported by the political party to the Electoral Commission.

It is therefore no surprise that Lord Wallace who led the Party in debates on the Bill has described it as a “nefarious piece of legislation”, “shabby and illiberal”. The Liberal Democrats had proposed two amendments to the Elections Bill in the House of Lords, neither of which were accepted by the UK Government:

  • A feasibility study leading to British citizens living abroad having their own overseas constituencies and Members of Parliament, as happens with France.
  • Overseas voters to be issued their ballots electronically either by email or downloaded to increase substantially the likelihood that their votes would arrive in time.
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Welcome to my day: 15 August 2022 – in Tufton Street we Trus(s)t?

The contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party and, thus, Prime Minister, took more turns for the worse this week. Whilst Rishi Sunak desperately tries to convince ageing members of his party that he can be as reactionary as the next (wo)man, Liz Truss is demonstrating that, at heart, she has the instincts of a robotic magpie programmed by the denizens of Tufton Street.

Having suggested last week that most of the Civil Service should be sacked and the rest moved out of London, whilst the rest of the public sector should expect pay cuts, it didn’t get any better this week. First, she suggested that support payments to help those facing fuel poverty were a low priority compared to tax cuts. It seemed that she had been misrepresented (again). And then, the Civil Service was described as “woke verging on anti-Semitic” – she really doesn’t like them, does she?

I look forward to her relationship with the Civil Service going forward…

Mind you, given that there’s very little evidence that we have a functioning government anyway, the idea that whichever one of them wins might do something (anything) might be progress of a sort. Of course, their first task will be to appoint a new Cabinet and ministers, which won’t be easy. And time is relentlessly pushing on, with the energy cap increase to be announced in just eleven days and due to come into effect on 1 October.

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14 August 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Government set to recover just a third of the £1 billion it pledged to claw back from Covid fraudsters
  • IPPR Analysis: Energy bills threaten to plunge millions into poverty this winter

Government set to recover just a third of the £1 billion it pledged to claw back from Covid fraudsters

  • The Government promised to recover £1bn between April 2021 and April 2023, but with just £226 million collected in 2021-22 it is all but certain to break its pledge.
  • Fraudsters are now on track to get away with £8 of every £10 they stole with £3.7bn of taxpayers’ money written off.
  • Liberal Democrats call on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to appoint a new fraud minister on day one to track down stolen taxpayers’ cash

The Government’s Covid fraud taskforce is on track to recover just a third of the £1 billion it pledged to claw back from fraudsters, new analysis of HMRC figures have revealed.

In 2021 Ministers set up the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce with the aim of recovering £1 billion of stolen funds related to its Covid support by the end of 2022-23. But new figures published by HMRC show the Government is lagging far behind this target.

They show the taskforce has recovered just £226 million so far in 2021-22, plus a mere £9 million in the first month of 2022-23. If it continues at this sluggish pace, the taskforce would bring back just £335 million by April 2023 – missing its target by two thirds, and allowing fraudsters to get away with another £665 million of stolen taxpayers’ money.

It means Covid scheme fraud is currently set to land taxpayers with a total £3.7 billion, with fraudsters keeping £8 of every £10 they stole. That money could fund the increase of nearly 2.3 million families’ energy bills as prices are set to rise again this October.

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Cole-Hamilton calls for action to stop spread of Monkeypox

Alex Cole-Hamilton has urged the Scottish Government to do more to deal with the Monkeypox outbreak which has so far infected 71 people in Scotland.

  • Whether the First Minister or Health Secretary has discussed Monkeypox with the JCVI;
  • What briefings ministers have had from health officials;
  • Whether it is intending to offer vaccination to all those most at risk of contracting monkeypox;
  • What conversations have been had with Health ministers and officials in other parts of the UK;
  • How many doses of the MVA smallpox vaccine it has access to and whether it will be ordering more.

Alex said:

During the Covid crisis we saw that government policy was better when precautions were explained to people, contingency plans laid out in public and scrutiny encouraged.

It was when the government chose to make decisions behind closed doors and failed to take the public with them that many of the worst decisions of the pandemic were made.

This is an opportunity to show that lessons have been learned from the Covid crisis. The WHO says that this is an emergency so while caseloads are still low, it’s important that ministers act.

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Carmichael accuses SNP of “criminal negligence” over ferries

In today’s Scotland On Sunday, Alistair Carmichael rips through the SNP for their failure to ensure basic ferry services to Scotland’s islands.

Alistair grew up on Islay and now represents Orkney and Shetland so he knows exactly how important this is.

“The fundamental rules of island life and island economics are if you get the transport right, then just about everything else falls into place because without decent transport links you don’t have the access to the full range of medical facilities that the community will need

“You cannot grow your economy because the people who are catching fish or farming fish or raising stock are not going to be able to get them off the island.

“This is absolutely criminal. This just should not be allowed to be happening.

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Young Liberals affirm support for trade unions

A motion passed at the Young Liberals Summer Conference yesterday criticises Lib Dem MPs for their comments over the RMT strike action. YL believe that the action was justified.

Their motion said:

(Conference notes)…

The recent industrial action taken by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) was aimed at, amongst other things:

Tackling fire and rehire;
Protecting against compulsory redundancies;
Seeking to protect the safe running of the railway by maintaining staffing
levels;

The industrial action was held with the support by 89% of members balloted.
There has been a recent controversial response to the RMT strikes by the Federal Party, including:

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Lib Dems uncover massive fall in permanent contracts for new teachers

Children in Scotland go back to school this week. You would think that after three hellish years of pandemic related disruption and a widening attainment gap, the SNP Government would want to make sure that there were as many permanent teachers in the classroom as possible.

Every year the Scottish Liberal Democrats at Holyrood look for the number of newly qualified teachers being offered permanent posts rather than fixed term or supply contracts. In the past 5 years, that has fallen from 56%, which was low enough, to just 23%.

On the back of those figures, STV News has spoken to three teachers about the impact that this uncertainty has had on them. Heaven knows we need more girls doing STEM subjects, and here is a woman teacher in those subjects who can’t get a permanent job:

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Exclusive: Contents of Donald Trump’s safe revealed by Macavity

Newsmoggie is excited to report news from feline colleagues in the United States of America relayed by Larry the Cat. Larry needs no introduction to British audiences, but for readers overseas Larry is the Top Cat in Downing Street and has survived longer than all but two or three prime ministers, and probably longer than the next, and the next, and…

The former President, known to himself as the current president, also known as Donald Trump, is alleged to be a fan of the musical Cats, perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest fan. Newsmoggie understands it was Macavity, a somewhat mysterious cat that stars in the Webber extravaganza, that gained entry to Donald Trump’s safe while the FBI were raiding Mar-a-Lago. It is written of Macavity’s more famous ancestor:

“Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.”

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Tom Arms’ World Review

A boost for the Ukrainians – and a problem

The successful missile attack on the Russian arms depot on the Crimean Peninsula was a major boost for the Ukrainians. It may also have created a major problem.

So far the Ukrainians have refrained from attacking Russian territory. This is a bit like fighting with one hand tied behind the back, but they have been told by their NATO quartermasters to restrain themselves due to a fear of provoking an escalation that would result in NATO and Russian troops facing each other in a possible World War Three scenario.

Donetsk and Luhansk are not Russian territory. They are—according to the Russians—independent sovereign republics which have seceded from Ukraine with Russian help. Crimea, however, is a different kettle of fish. The Russians annexed it in 2014. It matters not that only 14 countries have recognised the annexation. Russia regards Crimea as Russian and therefore the attack was on Russian territory.

Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian government is refusing to take credit for the attack. It is not denying responsibility either.

Meanwhile concern is growing for the safety of the Zapororizhzia nuclear power plant. The Russians continue to use the plant as a base from which to launch artillery and missile barrages and there are reports that technicians at the plant are being forced to work at gunpoint. The International Atomic Energy Agency is still trying—unsuccessfully–to gain access to conduct safety inspections and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a demilitarised zone around the plant.

How are sanctions affecting Russia?

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Alistair Carmichael in blistering form on Any Questions

Alistair Carmichael turned up in 37 degree London in a tweed jacket yesterday morning. He had needed it at the airport in Orkney.

He was on his way to Swindon to record Any Questions. He was on fine form.

I won’t spoil too much for you but he absolutely eviscerated the Tories on education, the environment, their pitiful efforts to help people with rising costs and dentistry.

He even managed to poke a wee bit of fun in Diane Abbott’s direction.

At one point, he talked about water companies getting away with so much while paying their managing directors millions in bonuses. He made the point that if you are going to privatise a natural monopoly, you need to regulate it within an inch of its life. He was speaking from the heart given that he is kicking the backsides of both energy companies and the regulator for their abject failure in installing electricity meters in new builds in the Northern Isles.

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Observations of an ex-pat – Law vs Politics

The United States is facing a major question: Does political support trump the rule of law?

There is no doubt that Donald Trump has political support from a large proportion of the American population. He is virtually a shoe-in for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Whether or not he is guilty of one of any number of crimes is immaterial to his base of supporters. Trump represents small government libertarian-minded conservative America. The values that he has come to embody are seen as more important than any number of words in any number of law books.

He has the support “of his people” and that lifts Trump to the far edge of the reach of the long arm of the law. Any attempt to argue otherwise, or to enforce the law, is jackboot Nazism and an establishment conspiracy to thwart the will of the people.

Given that many of Trump’s people are gun-toting Second Amendmenters, using the law against the former president risks the serious danger of violence.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is all too aware of the need to balance political reality with the rule of law. Donald Trump is a special case. No person is above the law, but realpolitik means that some people are on its edges. If the Department of Justice—or anyone else—is going to take any kind of legal action against the former president then it must be totally convinced of his guilt well beyond a reasonable doubt– and then some.

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Layla on Salman Rushdie’s “Beautiful pieces of literature”

The news of Salman Rushdie’s stabbing at an event in upstate New York is profoundly shocking.

My first thoughts were with those police officers and a doctor in the audience who put themselves in harm’s way to help the author and no doubt give him the chance of survival. At the time of writing he is still in surgery and I know that everyone reading this will hope that he pulls through and our thoughts will be very much with his loved ones.

We don’t know the motivations for this particular attack, but we are well aware that Salman Rushdie had to spend a decade in hiding after the Iranian Government issued a fatwa against him in 1988 after they decided that his book, The Satanic Verses, was blasphemous.

Rushdie has had to live with this threat for decades for doing nothing other than challenging orthodoxy. For using his considerable creative talent to make us think.

Tonight, Layla Moran described how the threat to Rushdie encouraged her to read his books:

She said:

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Young Liberals head to Birmingham for their Summer Conference

About a million years ago I travelled from Aberdeen to Birmingham to attend my first ever SDP Students Conference. It was held in the Birmingham University Guild of Students and we all slept on the floor in our sleeping bags.

It was a great learning experience. I remember it was the first time I had done public speaking training and it scared the life out of me. It really helped, though.

I really enjoyed the experience and it obviously dug me deeper in to the party. Not even the SDPS “Have you got the guts to vote SDP” campaign the following year could put me off.

I met some lifelong friends in those early days.

So it warmed my heart a bit to see Young Liberals heading to Birmingham for their Summer conference. And they even have beds to sleep in in the 2020s.

Got to love Callum’s suitcase:

And it’s great to see that there are loads of new people heading to Conference for the first time:

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Sarah Olney: GDP figures are proof that the Government is missing in action

Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney has demanded that the Government take action  to avoid a recession immediately after the announcement of the fall in GDP

She said:

The warning lights are flashing red but the government is missing in action.

There’s no time to waste, ministers must act now to boost confidence and avoid a recession.

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English Heritage plaque unveiled to Dadabhai Naoroji

A Blue Plaque has been installed on the house at  72 Anerley Park, Penge where Dadabhai Naoroji lived. Naoroji was the first  Indian elected as an MP ( by 5 votes!), one of the founders of the Indian National Congress and a leading member of the Zoroastrian community. A recent biography was reviewed by me on LDV here.

The unveiling included a Zoroastrian  prayer and a number of speeches about his life.  Representing the Lib Dems at the unveiling  were myself, Cllr Julie Ireland Leader of the Lib Dems on Bromley Council , Amna Ahmad the Party’s Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities and local Lib Dem and former Director of Policy at LD HQ , Neil Stockley.

Cllr Julie Ireland said:

 I frequently drive past this house and had no idea that it had been the home of such a distinguished Liberal. Dadabhai Naoroji was an extraordinary man – he wasn’t just interested in India, he was outspoken in his support for women’s rights and their right to education and a supporter of Home Rule for Ireland.  We are proud that  he was a former resident of Bromley

Amna Ahmad said :

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Ron Waddell’s funeral to take place on 16th August – livestream available

You may remember we brought you the sad news that much-loved former Scottish Lib Dem Chief Exec died suddenly on 17th July.

As I wrote at the time:

In every single conversation I have had with people about Ron in the past two days, the words kind and gentle have featured very highly. He was a lovely man, always wise and one of those people who could instantly calm a frazzled situation or, dare I say, bruised egos.

He was one of the best humans, gone way too soon.

Ron’s wife Sandra Grieve would like us to share details of his funeral, which will take place next Tuesday, 16th August, at 1pm at Holy Trinity Church in Mapperley.

Sandra is aware that not everybody who wants to be there will be able to travel so the service will be livestreamed. Sandra and Ron moved to Derbyshire to be closer to their family in 2016. They lived in Lanark for a long time before that and the service will be conducted by their minister from there, Rev Bryan Kerr, who has helped organise the streaming.  Details of how to join are at the end of this post.

Jim Wallace, former Scottish Lib Dem Leader, Lib Dem Lords Leader and Scottish FIrst Minister knew Ron for many years. He said to me:

On Tuesday, we shall gather in Mapperley and online to pay tribute to Ron, a great Liberal, and to offer to Sandra and the family our comfort and support.

I knew Ron from days of Scottish Young Liberal conferences in the late 1970s. He served both the Scottish Liberal Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats in many different roles and ways, but always with enthusiasm and commitment. What a number of his party acquaintances may not know, is just how well respected he was in his other career as a teacher and education administrator. Talking to people who were Ron’s colleagues in politics or in education, similar comments re-echo: “wonderfully kind”, “caring and compassionate”, “loyal”, “unflappable” and “a good sense of humour”.

Ron’s was a life cut short all too soon, but through his contributions to politics, education and in the communities where he lived, it was a life well lived.

The details of the live stream are as follows;

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North Shropshire Lib Dem election HQ saved from flames

Phew! What a scorcher! That’s a phrase we have rarely heard in the UK since 1976. Here in Shropshire, the Shropshire Star reported yesterday seven combine harvester fires over the last week. There have been a at least a couple of more fires since, including at Soulton Hall.

Soulton Hall has a particular place in the history of the Lib Dems and our current fightback against the Tories. After the enforced resignation of Owen Paterson amid a typical Tory scandal, Soulton Hall became the base for Helen Morgan’s successful campaign to replace him.

Two days ago, farmer and Lib Dem supporter Tim Ashton was combining a wheat field. The combine harvester developed problems. Tim quickly realised that quenching the subsequent fire was “like using a thimble to bale an ocean”. The fire was at risk of spreading to the nearby historic Soulton Hall. Working with a neighbouring farmer, a firebreak was created and Shropshire Fire & Rescue arrived to dowse down the wreckage. A small area of crop was lost along with the combine but Soulton Hall and part of Lib Dem history was saved.

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Truss looks to be the winning loser in Cheltenham races

Max Wilkinson, who wrote earlier today on LDV about the Cheltenham navel gazing, features in today’s Guardian. Political correspondent Peter Walker wrote:

“Sitting in a town centre pub converted from an imposing former courthouse, Max Wilkinson, a local Liberal Democrat councillor who competed against Chalk in 2019 and will also fight the next election, says the imminent change of leader has not overly changed voter sentiment…

In 2019, the incumbent Tory MP, the former solicitor general Alex Chalk, held off the Liberal Democrats by just 981 votes, and one local Conservative conceded they expect to lose the seat by 5,000-plus votes next time.”

That’s positive news but the tortuous leadership election must end first. (Please let it end soon!)

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Navel-gazing Tories arrive in Cheltenham (or was it Derbyshire?)

It was a night that confirmed what many people already thought.  For those of us on the outside, it’s now clear that the Conservative party leadership is out of ideas.  In fact, the boldest thinking we heard during the debate at Cheltenham Racecourse last night (Thurs) was when Liz Truss suggested Cheltenham was in Derbyshire.

You’d think that in this moment of national crisis, the two candidates would have something new to say.  Alas, there was very little to help those worried about the cost of living during the debate.  If only they had the foresight to pursue bold policy ideas to solve the looming energy bills crisis, like Ed Davey’s call for the October energy price rise to be cancelled earlier this week.  As for the NHS: Sunak wants to charge people for missing appointments. Truss wants to ‘get a grip’ of waiting times.  That won’t bring much comfort to people here, who report long ambulance waiting times and being sent to Malvern for NHS dentistry.

In Cheltenham, local Lib Dems are making a difference.  After our cost-of-living emergency declaration, we’ve put £60,000 aside to support food banks for the next few months.  We’re also investing £180 million in affordable homes and our first carbon neutral development is on the way – helping to drastically lower energy bills for residents.  Our Golden Valley project will help build on the success of our blossoming cyber security industry.  If only that sort of vision was matched in the Conservative Party’s thinking on the NHS and cost of living.

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Cheltenham Hustings: Truss and Sunak out of touch

The latest Conservative leadership hustings has been taking place tonight in Cheltenham, a seat our Max Wilkinson is in a very good position to take at the next election. At the local elections in May, the Lib Dems crushed the Tories 57% to 28% locally. It was previously held by Liberal Democrats Nigel Jones and Martin Horwood.

Max has been commenting on the event on Twitter:

After the event, Max said:

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The right-wing myth of Britain’s ‘liberal elite’

Warming up the audience at the Darlington hustings for the Conservative leadership on August 9th, Tom Newton Dunn as compere asked if Boris Johnson had been responsible for his own misfortune. Cries of ‘the media’ came back; and Liz Truss commented ‘Who am I to disagree with this excellent audience?’

Conservative activists thus showed their acceptance of the conspiratorial myth that enables Liz Truss to present herself as an insurgent against a dominant establishment. The idea of a dominant liberal elite, entrenched in the BBC, the civil service, universities and state schools, extending into the ‘lefty lawyers’ in the courts and the gatekeepers of cultural institutions and prizes, pops up regularly in Conservative speeches, Telegraph Op-Eds, and justifications for political reforms by Cabinet ministers. David Frost, now accepted by many on the hard right as an intellectual authority, has just published a paper for Policy Exchange (which describes itself as ‘Britain’s leading think tank) on ‘sustaining the Brexit Revolt’ which attributes the failure to make greater progress in breaking with collectivism and Europe since 2017 to the resistance of this entrenched elite – rather than the divisions within his adopted Conservative Party, or hard evidence of the irrationality of what they aimed to achieve.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Davey: Conservative candidates in parallel universe on cost of living crisis

Writing in the Express today, Ed Davey called for parliament to be recalled to pass legislation to halt the increase in energy prices that are driving much of the cost of living crisis. With food prices rising and set to rise further, the Lib Dems are calling for a broader package. Davey said we should double the Warm Homes Discount and extend it to more people. Double the Winter Fuel Allowance to give 11 million pensioners up to £600 off their bills. Raise Universal Credit by £20 a week. And thinking longer term, he says the government should begin an emergency home insulation programme, starting with homes in or at risk of fuel poverty.

Energy bills soaring, inflation soaring, interest rates soaring, and as the cost-of-living crisis turns into a cost-of-living catastrophe our government is that of a zombie, limping on – helping no one.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Shropshire Lib Dems welcome former Labour Mayor Jon Tandy

Our efforts in Shropshire have not gone unnoticed.

This week former Labour Mayor and parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury joined the Lib Dems and was welcomed by local councillor Alex Wagner.

From Shropshire Live:

Jon Tandy said: “I was a Labour Councillor for 16 years, and served Shrewsbury as Mayor. I even ran to be our Labour MP. Joining another party is not a decision I take lightly, and has played on my mind for some time.

“Ultimately, the Labour Party I joined 35 years ago is gone. The influence of Corbyn and Momentum is still present like a nasty hangover, especially in Shrewsbury and Atcham. I can’t sit by and stick with them when there are other strong alternatives locally.

I’m born and bred in Shrewsbury, I love this town. The Liberal Democrats are providing the community leadership that we need to keep making Shrewsbury a better place to live for everyone. They really care about our town, and I’m going to be backing the Lib Dems all the way to win votes and seats from both the Tories and Labour.”

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