17 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Ed Davey on King’s Speech: Liberal Democrats will make the voice of carers heard
  • Child Poverty: Right that Government looks at how to tackle child poverty after economic damage by Conservatives
  • Chamberlain tables WASPI Parliamentary motion
  • London Lib Dems – King’s Speech – Extra Powers for Metro Mayors Welcome, but Need the Financial Powers to Back Them Up
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to King’s Speech
  • Renew Europe: End Orbán’s Council Presidency

Ed Davey on King’s Speech: Liberal Democrats will make the voice of carers heard

Responding to the King’s Speech, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

After years of crisis and chaos under the Conservative Party, it is clear our country faces enormous challenges. The Liberal Democrats will carefully scrutinise the Government’s plans, striving hard to stand up for our constituents.

We will continue campaigning to fix the NHS, boosting GP numbers, tackling delays to cancer treatment and improving access to dentists and pharmacists.

We will make sure the voice of carers is heard, from increasing the Carer’s Allowance to the big challenge of fixing social care – so that our loved ones can get the support they need.

Child Poverty: Right that Government looks at how to tackle child poverty after economic damage by Conservatives

Responding to news that the government has created a ministerial taskforce to tackle child poverty, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

It is right that the government is looking at how best to tackle the scourge of child poverty. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in poverty after years of chaos and economic damage by the Conservatives.

Scrapping the two child cap would be the quickest and most cost-effective way to lift children out of poverty and bring long-term benefits to our society and economy. We hope that ministers listen to the evidence and the many charities that their task force will meet and act accordingly.

Chamberlain tables WASPI Parliamentary motion

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, has today tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for the new Government to honour the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s report first came out in July 2021 and stated that women born in the 1950s had suffered significant financial loss due to maladministration by the Department of Work and Pensions. The final report was published in May 2024 and recommended 1950s women are owed compensation.

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Data-based analysis on the LibDem performance in the general election

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The Week in Polls* has an interesting analysis on the LibDem performance in the general election, entitled “7 things we know about the LibDems and 2 things we don’t“.

Some headlines: We won because of health, bar charts and local candidates pointing at things. Our targetting was strong and there was large tactical voting, particularly in the last few days before voting.

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Legalising cannabis: Correcting historical wrongs and embracing diverse production

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The Liberal Democrats have always championed progressive and pragmatic approaches to drug policy, and their stance on cannabis is no exception. It’s time to acknowledge that the criminalisation of cannabis—a natural herb—was a historical misstep. The Liberal Democrats advocate for legalisation, emphasizing that this approach is not only more sensible but also just.

Ending Criminalisation

Cannabis should never have been criminalised. The Shaffer report in 1972 advised against criminalisation, but Nixon banned it anyway, along with psychedelics, which also have ancient healing properties. This ban was never about public safety; it was a politically motivated attempt to attack Nixon’s enemies in the Black, immigrant, and liberal populations. For over 50 years, people have been trying to defend themselves from a position of criminality. Decriminalisation corrects this historical wrong, ensuring that individuals are no longer penalised for cultivating or consuming a plant that has been used for thousands of years for medicine and spiritual purposes.

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16 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • King’s Speech: Fixing NHS and care must be a priority
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for First Minister to go
  • Rennie: Scotland needs good governance, not SNP chaos
  • Rennie comments on ferry contract decision

King’s Speech: Fixing NHS and care must be a priority

Commenting ahead of the King’s Speech tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Years of chaos under the Conservatives have left us with a stagnant economy and health services in a state of crisis. Millions of people are stuck on NHS waiting lists and struggling to get the care they need to return to work.

Fixing the NHS and care would put rocket boosters under economic growth in our country.

The Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning for our policies to tackle the health and care crisis and get our economy back on track. That is what millions of people voted for at the General Election, we will not let them down.

Welsh Lib Dems call for First Minister to go

Responding to the recent resignations from Vaughan Gethings cabinet, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

Vaughan Gething has now lost both the confidence of the Senedd and several members of his own Government; he must resign from his position as First Minister.

We cannot afford to allow internal fighting in Welsh labour to distract us any longer from the range of serious issues facing our country.

The Welsh people are sick and tired of constant political scandals and broken promises, they want to see a political system that works for them.

We as the Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver that change.

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Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Jo Swinson to face Horizon inquiry

The Guardian reports that Ed Davey will appear before the Post Office Horizon inquiry this Thursday, with Vince Cable and Jo Swinson appearing later this month:

Ed Davey hit the headlines for falling off a paddleboard, bungee jumping and Zumba dancing as part of his unconventional election campaign. But the Liberal Democrat leader’s attention-grabbing stunts paid off when his newly resurgent party won 72 seats, its highest total since 1923.

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LibLink – Jess Brown-Fuller on her first week as MP for Chichester

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Over on the Guardian, our new MP for Chichester, Jess Brown-Fuller, provides diary of her first week as an MP:

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to “swear in” – taking my oath of allegiance to the crown – and officially take my seat in parliament, which was a particularly special moment in the day. I then hit the ground running by writing a letter to the environment secretary on pressing matters affecting Chichester, organising meetings for the weekend to discuss sewage and water quality, dealing with media inquiries, supporting residents and, last but not least, trying to remember where I’d last spotted a ladies loo.

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We need to be ambitious on planning and housing – while telling uncomfortable truths

Now that the election is over, and we have successfully made inroads into the Conservative Blue Wall, it’s time to reflect and learn from our past. Moving forward, it’s crucial that we balance our national progressive platform with the needs of our Blue Wall constituents. We must navigate this balance with confidence, avoiding the pitfalls of timidity that have hindered us in the past. In a landscape marked by fragmented politics and widespread distrust, we can’t afford to be complacent.

Our victories in this election were not isolated as an endorsement alone but were also influenced by a split on the right. It poses a threat for us. People have an appetite to “shake-up” the system feeling that, for years, Governments have neglected issues like housing, development and infrastructure. We need to be mindful of the rising threat of far-right politics, which often scapegoats marginal groups instead of addressing the real issues. The performances of parties like Reform and the lukewarm vote share for Labour highlight the concerns of many communities. These communities feel “threatened,” suffer from managed decline, and lack regeneration. It’s our duty to ensure that the gains we’ve made in the Blue Wall, while substantiated, also remains meaningful and sometimes brave.

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15 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Cancer polling: New govt’s number one priority should be to get NHS back on its feet
  • Lib Dems call for new laws on GP appointments and cancer care in King’s Speech
  • Far North MP to lead debate on access to rural healthcare

Cancer polling: New govt’s number one priority should be to get NHS back on its feet

Responding to Cambridge University polling, conducted by Public First, showing that cancer is the biggest health concern among the UK public, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP said:

On the doorsteps throughout the campaign, we heard countless harrowing stories of people enduring unacceptably long waits to start cancer treatment.

The Conservative party has brought our health service to its knees and getting the NHS back on its feet needs to be the number one priority of the Labour government.

Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right for all patients to start cancer treatment within two months and for a boost in cancer nurses to help deliver this.

It is patients who are bearing the brunt of this neglect and they cannot wait any longer.

Lib Dems call for new laws on GP appointments and cancer care in King’s Speech

The Liberal Democrats have said that new laws to end the crisis in health and care need to be at the heart of the King’s Speech on Wednesday.

The party said this should include giving patients new legal rights to see a GP within a week and to start cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent diagnosis, with new laws putting a statutory duty on the Government to deliver them. The Liberal Democrats are also calling for the introduction of free personal care to tackle the crisis in social care.

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I AM because YOU ARE – Remembering Srebrenica

Living in the UK gives me incredible opportunities to work and meet people from every corner of the world. Although some disagree, this is in my opinion one of the British greatest assets and advantages; the mixture of talents, skills and ethnicities. I think that I was lucky enough to be well prepared for my life in a very multicultural British society, especially during my studies in Croatia. My stay in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, made a huge impact on my personal development. This is where, for the first time, I actually experienced living among a diverse community and encountered many people, who were displaced by the recent war. I’ve learnt the language, which also helped me to integrate better and understand the complex elements of Croatian history and heritage. It is still one of my favourite parts of Europe.

Since coming to Hertfordshire and Welwyn Garden City, almost 20 years ago, I was blessed and privileged to get to know a wonderful Bosnian community and members of the Bosnian Saturday School in Borehamwood, many of whom are my friends.

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17-19 July 2024 – this week in the Lords (and some demographic data)

Yes, they’re back, and so, with a new Parliament to look forward to, let’s try again with this column…

A King’s Speech means only one thing, huge amounts of pomp and ceremony whilst seventy-two Liberal Democrat MPs (and Jennie) try to work out where best to get a vantage point for “His Majesty’s Gracious Speech”. Meanwhile, the Lords Chamber will be packed with Peers and their spouses in all of their finery – unfortunately, my tiara is in for cleaning, so I won’t be present. But, after lunch, the robes will be back in storage as the debate on the content of the Speech as well as consideration of “An Address in Reply to His Majesty’s Gracious Speech” begins.

That debate will run over six days, including a Friday session this week, each day focussing on the following:

  • Thursday 18 July: energy, the environment and housing
  • Friday 19 July: education, early years and health care
  • Monday 22 July: economic growth, infrastructure and employment
  • Tuesday 23 July: constitution and devolution
  • Wednesday 24 July: justice and home affairs
  • Thursday 25 July: foreign affairs and defence

One of the proposals expected to appear in the King’s Speech is a mandatory retirement age of eighty for Peers, and the House of Lords Library has produced some data on the likely impact of such a rule which is fascinating.

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Our MPs swear an oath to the Monarch – that’s wrong

This article was inspired by a clip I came across on Instagram of Labour MP Clive Lewis being sworn in, where he noted that he made the oath under protest, in the hope that one day people would live in a Republic. This reinforced to me the idea that our Members of Parliament swear an oath not to their constituents or the people who elected them, but instead to the Monarch and his heirs. My distaste for the Monarchy as an institution is well known to those around me, but I think that regardless of your opinion of the institution as a whole, you can concur that our MPs’ oath should focus more on their role as representatives of the people, as opposed to their status as servants of the King.

Our Constitutional settlement is messy and complicated, but in the modern day we accept our Monarch as a figurehead, and the actions of the State are conducted almost entirely through HM Government – who must command the support of the House of Commons. I don’t like it, but it does work.

What many people don’t realise however is that our Ministers don’t rule in conjunction with the Monarch, but rather through their authority. Each law must gain Royal Assent, each Secretary of State derives their authority from the King. Indeed, in the brief window between Rishi Sunak resigning and Sir Keir Starmer arriving at Buckingham Palace; all executive power rested with King Charles III. Our Monarchy is fundamental to our political system, engrained into every element of our governance.

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Showing who we are in our HR practices

A few years ago, I wrote for Lib Dem Voice arguing that Lib Dem politicians who employed people should up there game when it came to HR practices.

I argued that the best way of explaining liberalism is to show what in means in all that we do – especially in how we treated our staff colleagues. With Westminster now paying for the staff for 72 (yay!) fine Lib Dem MPs (and Short Money hopefully adding to the central staff we can afford), this is a good time to be reminded of this.

However, that’s not why I’m writing today.

The other day, the Federal Party issued a job advert for a senior communications role. The advert asked applications to prepare a CV (no more than two pages) and a covering letter explaining why they would be a good fit in the role. I am sure that a serious applicant will spend quite some time and effort getting this right.

This role looks important and I’d hope that the Party will attract serious and experienced applicants.

So what does the Party say to those serious and experienced applicants who we want to spend time and effort on an application?

We will not notify applicants if their application has not been successful at the shortlisting stage

As I tweeted to the Federal Party President, this essentially says “please put a lot of work into the application but we won’t show you the courtesy of even acknowledging that application because we don’t respect you”.

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The liberal view from Suella Braverman’s constituency

After a campaign where she promised commitment to the interests of local residents, the MP for Fareham & Waterlooville, (re-elected with a  majority reduced from 26086 to 6079) flew immediately to Washington to continue her cultural campaign in a speech to the National Conservatism Conference (NATCON) and subsequently repeated her remarks via a transatlantic link to a Westminster conference of Popular Conservatism where she spoke of the need to insulate government bodies from what she called the lunatic woke virus”.

The immediacy of her attention-switch from apparent local concerns to distant and divisive hate-filled ideology is a sharp reminder of why Conservative ranks in the UK are now much diminished.  Even Conservative voices (with the unelected exception of Rees-Mogg) were united in condemnation of her views.  The extremists argue that the Conservative cause was lost because they were insufficiently extreme – whereas the overwhelming common judgement was a preference for competent delivery rather than divisive dogma. 

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I went to a Reform UK rally. This is what I learned.

Bored in Oxford, three weeks after the end of term and with everyone else having gone home, I decided to take an impulsive day trip to see the Reform UK rally in Birmingham on the last Sunday before election day. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, as a committed Liberal Democrat and a son of immigrants, I was most certainly apprehensive. I was viewing it essentially as a learning experience, a chance to discover what had driven these people towards Nigel Farage’s newest political entity. 

After an extremely pleasant National Express bus trip and getting slightly lost in the NEC- I found myself in a huge hall, which I later learnt houses around 5000 people. There was an unmistakeable buzz in the room. I got the feeling that the people there felt like they were witnessing something really important. I doubt many of them had been to a political event before, and they’d been uniquely drawn in by Reform. I saw lots of England football shirts, and even a couple of Make America Great Again hats. It was a notably old audience, it seemed like the vast majority were 50+ with an assortment of young men too. I saw very few young women, and very few people from ethnic minorities.

The event was extremely well run, with food and drink stalls, and they even managed to drive their election bus in somehow. The speaker line up consisted of Chief Exec Paul Oakden, Ann Widdecombe, major donor Zia Yusuf (I recommend that you watch this speech in particular), Richard Tice and of course Nigel Farage. When my friends realised where I was off to, I was surprised at the number of messages I got saying ‘stay safe.’ I had never considered that I might be at risk at this event, but apparently a number of my friends (all students) thought that I would be utterly unwelcome. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Everyone was exceedingly polite, and while I didn’t make any effort to engage in any political conversation, I’m sure they would have been more than willing. 

The speeches centred on a few central political themes- the Tories have failed, the state is too big, we should be patriotic, immigration is too high, there are only two genders. ‘Put British people first’ was uttered repeatedly. Each speaker got a rapturous reception from the audience. 

I think they were translating anger into messaging in a way that other parties failed to do in this election. These are people who haven’t seen palpable economic growth in years, seen the culture of their cities changing, and their public services creaking. Reform have managed to direct that anger, to give them a sense that the ‘British’ people had been ignored, and that they present the answer. 

I share very little politically with Reform UK. The way that they’ve continuously demonised immigrants has been a significant contributor to the horrible nature of our public discourse on the issue. Their attempts to erase trans people are deeply damaging. Some of their candidates demonstrated the very worst of what British politics has to offer. Their rhetoric is dangerous, and we need to ensure that we challenge it at every turn. I’m sure many of our nation’s bigots and racists showed up to vote for them on the 4th July; but I also think that many of their voters are just normal people, completely disillusioned with our politics. 

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Tom Arms’ World Review

European Parliament

Patriots for Europe is a political oxymoron designed to confuse the public about its true intentions. It stands alongside other political oxymorons such as The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aka North Korea, which is neither democratic, a republic or run for the benefit of the North Korean people.

Patriots for Europe is a new political grouping in the European Parliament. And the political reality is that none of the national political parties that belong to this group feel the least patriotic leanings towards the European concept.

In fact, they are all Euro-sceptics whose main mission in life is to undermine the concept of a united Europe and drag their countries back to the 19th century when Europe was a patchwork of feuding nationalistic states.

The intellectual driving force behind Patriots for Europe is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. His Fidesz Party was booted out of the centre-right European People’s Party in 2022 for being too right-wing and has been politically homeless ever since.

Soon after the announcement of the results for the recent European Parliament elections – a victory for the far-right – Orban flew to Vienna to launch Patriots for Europe alongside Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. Their stated manifesto was: weaken the EU, focus on European cultural identity, introduce stronger anti-immigration measures and oppose the EU’s climate change policy which aims to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050.

The core trio quickly attracted far-right groups from across the EU. By the end of this week it had grown to 84 seats drawn from 12 member states. This places it in third place behind the centre-right European People’s Party (176 seats) and the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (139 seats). There are a total of 720 seats in the European Parliament.

Conspicuous by its absence from the new party is Germany’s AfD (Alternative for Deutschland). Recent Nazi-related scandals have put the far-right Germans beyond the pale even for the likes of Viktor Orban.

A catch was France’s National Rally (RN). It achieved a major victory in the European Parliamentary elections with 30 of France’s 79 MEPs. National Rally then went on to place a disappointing—and surprising—third in French parliamentary elections.

RN’s Jordan Bardella had expected to be French Prime Minister. He has had to settle for the job of President of Patriots for Europe. He secures the job as leader of the national party with the largest number of MEPs in the new political group.  He will be using the parliamentary building at Strasbourg as a platform from which to attack France’s left and centre in preparation for the French presidential elections in 2027.

Iran

“I am a reformist principlist”, declares Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran’s newly-elected president.

But what is a “reformist principlist”? According to Pezeshkian it is someone who is loyal to the principles of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, but wants to liberalise/reform the principles of that revolution.

That means, for a start, swearing allegiance to Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khameini, which he did throughout his campaign. In fact, in his victory speech Pezeshkian praised the “guidance” of Khameini which he described as a major factor in his electoral success.

Khameini, for his part, made a rare post-election speech in which he acknowledged that some Iranians dislike his regime. He then added: “We listen to them and we know what they are saying.”

The question is: What is Khameini hearing and what will he allow Pezeshkian to do about it?

The new president campaigned on a pledge to rein in the morality police who had been arresting women who refused to wear head scarves. He also wanted to improve relations with the West and resume talks on Iran’s nuclear development.

The headscarves issue is likely to be a win for the protesters. The government is unlikely to make a song and dance about it, but they will probably inform the morality police to turn a blind eye to the absence of scarves.

An Iranian initiative to resume talks on nuclear development may also be on the cards. This is because, according to US intelligence, the Iranians have recently slowed down their race to develop nuclear weapons. Thus there is more scope for talks on time limits and associated issues.

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Political violence and intimidation is not new, and it needs to end

I was about to go to bed last night when news started to filter through about shots being fired at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania. The initial pictures showing a bleeding Donald Trump being taken from the stage by the Secret Service agents who had courageously got between him and the bullets that were being sent his way were incredibly disturbing.

Thankfully, he was ok, though he is bound to be shocked but two people died and two people are, at the time of writing, critically ill.

I was incredibly impressed by how calmly and articulately BBC reporter Gary O’Donaghue described what was going on while lying on the ground taking cover behind a car outside the rally.

It should go without saying that candidates and people should be able to conduct and participate in democracy in safety. Too often, we are seeing the opposite. In this country we have seen two MPs killed while carrying out their surgeries in the past 8 years.

In the recent election, Jess Phillips described in her victory speech the intimidation and harassment she and her campaigners had experienced. It’s a tough listen. Nobody should have to go through this.

She should have been accompanied by Jo Cox’s family on polling day, but she asked them not to come out of worry that it would be too traumatic for them to see what she was going through.

She went into more detail about the emotional impact on her on the Electoral Dysfunction podcast the day after the election.

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SNP must repair relations with councils and unions as more than 210,000 days lost

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has today said that the Education Secretary must rebuild relations with trade unions and local authorities as he revealed that more than 210,000 staff days were lost to strikes in just 18 months.

Freedom of information requests submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats have revealed:

  • In 2022/23, at least 170,049 school and council staff days were lost due to strikes, while a further 46,197 were lost between April and October 2023;
  • Children missing out on up to a dozen days of education;
  • Among the local authorities which responded, Glasgow lost the most days of staff time with 29,295

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A special request to Federal Conference Committee

My goodness, Conference is going to be an absolute blast this year. Our annual jaunt to the seaside takes place from 14-17 September in Brighton will be so much sweeter after our spectacular General Election result.

I wasn’t going to go because of caring responsibilities, but I’ve managed to book a flying visit for 24 hours as I can’t bear the thought of not being with the Lib Dem family in such a special year. I mean who wouldn’t want to be around to congratulate 72 MPs and maybe get  a cuddle with Jennie if she’s off duty? And I can vouch for the fact that she does love a cuddle. If you think I am talking about Jennie Rigg, well, her too.

Before I say anything else, I should make the point very strongly that Federal Conference Committee have even more of a challenge than usual this year because someone decided to go outside on a wet Wednesday and call an election round about the time we’d normally have our motion submission deadlines.  Whether you agree with every decision FCC makes or not, I think it is important to acknowledge the huge amount of work that they do.

So, this request to them comes from a place of love. Registration for Conference opened earlier this week. The Early Bird discount is only available for around two weeks. Until 23 July, a members’ pass to the Conference costs £90. After that, until 13th August, it goes up to £130.

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Observations of an Expat: Special Relationship

It’s time for the Special Relationship to be extracted from the diplomatic cupboard and dusted off.

Britain needs it. Europe needs it. And, although they are less keen to admit that they need help from any quarter, the US needs it to become the cornerstone of a new Transatlantic Alliance.

For years the UK shared the “Special Relationship” tag with France and Germany. In fact, after Brexit, Britain probably slipped into third place in Washington’s relationship arrangements.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has politically castrated himself with the recent political elections and the dull and dreary German Chancellor Olaf Scholz fails to inspire either the Germans or the wider world community

Britain may no longer be an EU power, but Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide victory gives him latitude at home and kudos abroad.

He is helped by a foreign secretary who has the potential to go down in history as one of the best in modern times. David Lammy wasted no time in stamping his image on British foreign policy. Almost before Sir Keir had finished his acceptance speech, Lammy was on the plane for Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Kyiv. This week he was at the prime minister’s elbow for the NATO summit in Washington where Sir Keir was the only NATO leader awarded a tete a tete with President Joe Biden.

Lammy also has extensive American connections. The new foreign secretary has worked, studied and lived in the US. He has family in America and his father is buried in Texas.

But what if Donald Trump returns to the White House? A prospect which appears increasingly likely as Joe Biden ages with every passing day. Lammy is on record as labelling Trump a “woman-hating neo-Nazi sympathising sociopath” and a “profound threat to international order” as well as a racist and a fascist.

But both Sir Keir and Lammy have said that the transAtlantic relationship remains the “bedrock” of British foreign policy. And in a recent speech at the conservative US think tank the Hudson Institute, Lammy said that Trump’s comments on European security had been “misunderstood.” He has also gone out of his way recently to meet senior Trump foreign policy advisers.

Unfortunately, Trump’s negative policy towards Europe is based on good, sound politics. It is a reflection of a growing US isolationism which in turn is a reaction to series of foreign policy reversals. That feeling of being hard done by the rest of the world (especially its European allies) will continue regardless of whomever win the November election.

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12 July 2024 – today’s press release

I’d rather let this feature slip during the General Election – the flood of press releases, and the fact that they generally got rather better coverage than usual made it seem slightly less necessary to cover them here. But, perhaps now that the news cycle has settled a bit, and given that we have a vastly larger Parliamentary Party in the Commons, this feature may offer some insight into what our new MPs are up to.

That said, there’s only one today…

SEPA need to show plan for cleaning up Portobello

Responding to comments from SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, saying that paddling or bathing in the water at Edinburgh’s Portobello beach could pose a risk to health, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West Christine Jardine said:

This is an iconic location in our capital but once again people are being asked to stay out of the water because of threats to health. As Edinburgh gears up for its busiest season, this sends a terrible message.

Residents and visitors need more information out of SEPA as to what is leading to these closures and what action is being taken to deliver a long-term solution.

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Is the Criminal Justice system broken?

Concerns about knife crime amongst young people, unacceptable delays in the court system, prisons bursting at the seams and yet most reported crime goes unresolved.

The UK has areas of deprivation the likes of which have not been seen since the second world war. There are children and young people with little to do and very little hope or aspiration. How can we punish children for behaviour which is a direct result of the society into which they have been born?

There are now 3.9 million children being brought up in poverty – 2/3rds of whom have a parent in work. Children brought up in poverty are less likely to do well at school, more likely to have health problems, making a demand upon the NHS, and have a shorter life expectancy.

Many children who offend, commit their first offence whilst truanting from school. The educational system has failed them. Children should want to go to school and not have to be made to do so. Schools should encourage children to get involved in organised out of school activity.

Community Policing should be exactly that by re-instating neighbourhood police officers who can be around so that the children know him/her and (s)he knows most of the children by sight.

Many children go on offending sprees between apprehension for an offence and disposal through the courts which is why this period needs to be kept as short as possible and to a matter of days.

Group residential intervention, be it Young Offender Institutions or residential care (secure or otherwise) for young people has been shown to reinforce offending and establish a pattern of offending for life. “Creating Criminals”.

During my social work training my residential placement was in a Remand Home. When boys arrived the others would ask what they had done. Which would usually be greeted by “Oh, is that all”. The story would get progressively serious with each telling and most conversation be about crime. Even if children were rehabilitated the local community would expect them to behave as before and they would soon revert to past behaviour.

Stigma and labelling is responsible for a great deal of anti-social behaviour.

Policies of diversion and alternatives to custody need to be adequately resourced because of the risks involved and capable of fully occupying the child who has offended throughout their waking hours on activities which interest and motivate him/her, so (s)he grows out of his/her offending.

Community-based activities are very visible and, as such, can lead to criticism of rewarding bad behaviour. Society is quite happy to spend £130,000 per child per year on Young Offenders Institutions which is seen as punishment even though it does not work than a fraction of that cost on constructive intervention.

This is why it is important that some of the activity should involve face to face contact with people in need (such as the CSV Children in Care Programme of the 70s and 80s) to change the perception from delinquent to helper in both the young person’s own eyes and in those around them.

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BBC celebrates new MPs

The BBC has been profiling some of our new MPs, with great photos. (You will have to click through to see some of them).

Mike Martin: Tunbridge Wells

Mike told the BBC:

I am absolutely humbled being here and elected. It’s a total privilege.

I just can’t wait to get stuck in now, to help with all of the issues people have told me about over the past two years.

David Chadwick: Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe

Twelve years ago David was in a serious car crash and was put in an induced coma. On top of that he developed a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome – I have huge sympathy for David as my husband has had it as well.   He said:

The experience made me realise how important a functioning health care system is, because we never know when we’re going to need it.

When I was totally paralysed I had a lot of time to think about my life and I decided I want to use my body and the rest of my life to do good.

I’ve met a lot of people over the past couple of weeks who really need support and it’s an honour to be in a place where I can hopefully help them as much as I can.

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Rt Hon Jennie

The other day Caron mentioned that Jennie, the guide dog for Steve Darling, MP for Torbay, now has her own account on X at @rthonjennie.

You can see the two of them swearing in here:

Steve was subjected to some appalling abuse during the campaign, with Tory canvassers claiming that he was pretending to be blind and using his guide dog for “political purposes”. Any such nonsense is, of course, counter-productive and many local voters jumped in to defend him. He won with a respectable majority of over 5,000, overturning a Conservative majority of 17,000.

And Jennie has had a tough time too. Last year she was viciously attacked by an XL Bully dog, but fortunately she has made a full recovery.

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Tactical voting works both ways

I want to thank all those Labour supporters who voted Lib Dem to ensure that a Conservative was not elected in their constituency.

I also want to thank all those Lib Dem supporters who voted Labour for the same reason.

The first time I ever voted it was for Labour. I had been a Liberal supporter from my teens, but my preferred candidate had no chance in my area in South West London. Labour selected a doctor who was black as their candidate, and he came in for all sorts of nasty racist dog-whistle and overt attacks during the election campaign. He seemed a decent man to me so I voted for him. Sadly he did not win, although I was pleased to see him take his seat in the Lords some time later.

The next time I voted I was living in Kingston where I have never had a reason to vote tactically.

Voters have become increasingly sophisticated in their understanding of First Past the Post and tactical voting. We have to thank all the vote switchers for holding their noses, in some cases, and backing the person most likely to defeat the Tory candidate. It worked.

So I was rather taken aback to see comments on social media from some party members moaning about the low Lib Dem figures in some non-target constituencies and complaining that the candidates didn’t do enough campaigning. They assume that the single figure percentages reflect our true base vote. This, of course, flies in the face of our clearly enunciated election strategy, and also the underlying assumption that Lib Dem voters should vote Labour where it would have the desired effect.

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Max Atkinson

Some of you may remember a World in Action TV programme back in 1984 called ‘Claptrap’ in which a first time speaker at the SDP Conference, Ann Brennan, was given an amazing standing ovation. Her success was the result of a social experiment, and the programme tracked the coaching she received from Max Atkinson.

Max was an academic who had studied political speechmaking.  Earlier that year he had published a book titled Our Masters’ Voices: The Language and Body Language of Politics in which he described various public speaking techniques that are almost guaranteed to get applause (ie claptraps). He worked with Ann, who had never given a political speech before, and taught her all the tricks he had observed.  The resulting speech that Ann gave to conference was highly praised at the time and enjoyed more than its 15 minutes of fame.

A few years ago Mark Pack uploaded a very fuzzy copy of the programme to YouTube, so you can watch it here. (If anyone can find a clearer version do let me know).

When he became Leader, Paddy Ashdown took Max Atkinson on as his speechwriter and adviser and they worked as a team for a dozen years.

Max Atkinson and Paddy Ashdown

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

First day at work!

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Our elections are broken. Let’s fix them!

I’ve always detested First Past the Post. As a child getting into politics, one of the first things I did was learn about all the voting systems out there, and each one I learnt about seemed better than FPTP. 

This election has brought home to me just how flawed this system is, and how rigged it is in favour of the political establishment. I’ve spent much of the last couple of the days reminding people that Labour got just 34% of the votes in this election. Just over a third of voters endorsed Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, but he’ll spend much of the next five years behaving as if he has the full confidence of the entirety of the British public, and an unlimited mandate to behave as he wishes. We must remember that he simply doesn’t have the confidence of the majority of the British people, and to hold Labour to account as such. 

The biggest losers to our electoral system this time around were Reform UK and the Greens. Both those parties’ seat counts don’t accurately reflect their national support in the slightest. Our system is deliberately exclusive, shutting out parties who aren’t able to geographically concentrate their support, and keeping the two main parties in power. In my opinion, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. 

While FPTP suited us excellently this time around, we need to ensure this doesn’t make us forget our core beliefs. Constitutional Reform has long been at the centre of the Liberal Democrat agenda, and it needs to continue to be. We’re a large block in parliament now, and that gives us a platform. We need to work with whoever might be willing, to ensure our elections are truly representative. 

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The dangers of country before party

It’s just as well that Labour reduced the election slogans on the placards to one word. I hope that Keir Starmer’s verbal repetition of the “country before party” slogan is quickly forgotten. It comes with its own dangers. Patriotism is fine, provided you and your hearers understand what you mean by that word. Unfortunately it is easily confused with nationalism.

The sleaze, cronyism and breaking of rules by government ministers and MPs over the past decade were offences committed by people, elected as Conservatives who put themselves before the country and indeed before their party. If only these miscreants could have been reprimanded in the style of an old-style school head by someone saying “You have let Parliament down, you have let your constituents down, you have let your country down and you have let yourself down.”

We should add “You have let politics down.” Sometimes as political activists we are tempted to despair when we hear a growing number of residents in some areas proclaiming that they are not going to vote because “they are all the same”. Some of those who tarred everyone else with the same Tory brush voted for Farage and his nativist/populists, which is one reason why Starmer’s vacuous slogan should trigger flashing warning lights. Vote switching Conservatives worked wonders for the Lib Dems but I have a certain grudging respect for those lifelong Tories who really did despair, understood that they had no party to vote for and therefore stayed at home.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

2024 Parliament: Lib Dem MPs get to work

This is what the last four years’ hard work has all been about.

Today, 72 Lib Dem MPs and Jennie, the gorgeous guide dog of Torbay MP Steve Darling posed for the 2024 team photo.

How many can you name? If you are not sure, have a look at our posts on our new MPs

Earlier, our MPs had filled up row upon row in the House of Commons, with Ed taking up the place traditionally occupied by the leader of the third party, last occupied by Nick Clegg up until the 2010 election.

Our Parliament really has some incredible pomp and ritual that some might argue reinforces its remoteness from the people. Black Rod is despatched from the Lords to summon senior MPs to read a proclamation from the King that is written in centuries old English.

Back in the Commons, they elect a Speaker who is dragged to the chair as a throwback to the days when being the Speaker was a dangerous occupation so the unfortunate victor was never enthusiastic about taking on the job.

With Lindsay Hoyle duly re-elected unoposed, each party leader was given a chance to say a few words of congratulation and intent:

Here’s Ed:

The text is below:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

A triumph on tenuous ground

The Liberal Democrats pulled off a historic feat in the 2024 general election, clinching a record number of seats and catapulting themselves back into the limelight. Becoming the third party once more and achieving the highest liberal seat tally in a century is nothing to be scoffed at.

Yet, beneath the surface of this triumph lies an uncomfortable truth: the newly minted caucus is both artificially bloated and alarmingly fragile. Whilst the party will no doubt aim to make hay while the sun shines, the shimmering successes of last week could quickly turn sour if the party misreads what’s to come.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 52 Comments
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