Another chief constable makes a formal apology to the LGBT+ community #ApologiseNow

The Peter Tatchell Foundation, a registered charity, is running a campaign called “#ApologiseNow” which has this petition statement:

Demand all UK police services apologise for their past persecution of the LGBT+ community: raiding bars, clubs, saunas and even private birthday parties. Plus, officers arrested same-sex couples for mere kissing, cuddling and holding hands, and they abused LGBTs as ‘poofs’ & ‘queers’.

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Are we part of ‘the Deep State’?

If you have been reading reviews of Liz Truss’s self-justifying new book, you’ll know that she was defeated as Prime Minister by the sinister forces of the bureaucratic deep state. Michael Gove has for years called the same phenomenon ‘the blob’.  Others on the populist and irrational right call this ‘the liberal conspiracy.’  In the House of Lords some weeks ago, Peter Lilley began to attack the ‘liberal conspiracy’ that was preventing honest Conservatives from following ‘the will of the people’, and became almost incoherent when our benches began to laugh.  He clearly believes that these conspiratorial forces are real, and powerful.  How many of those in the Telegraph and Mail and on social media who write profusely about this actually believe in what they allege, as opposed to using it as a convenient way to attack ‘the Guardianistas’ and the reasoned consensus, is hard to tell.  But there’s no doubt that the message does convince some of its listeners that democratic institutions are biased against them, and that only their populist heroes can represent the pure people against the corrupt establishment – to which you and I all, according to them, belong.

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Health Podcast – The Elephant in the Room

In the latest of the Green Book podcasts we’ve looked at health, not from the usual angle of the NHS itself but at the health of the UK population.  If you missed it last month, you can still catch up

Why is it that we have one of the unhealthiest populations amongst developed countries? What might that mean in terms of demand and costs in the NHS, apart from all the wider social and economic consequences?  

It’s not as if this is news, as it has been covered in detail by people like Sir Michael Marmot, with his reports going back to 2010, and others before that.  Is it just about more money and resources for the NHS – or are we missing something in how and where we tackle the problems?

Norman Lamb chaired the session, having been a Lib Dem MP and health minister as well as the current chair of a health trust.  Joining him was Wendy Taylor who was a clinical oncologist as well as a current councillor in Newcastle with a particular interest in public health. Joining them we had two guests who are currently writing a book on the subject, which they have loosely titled ‘The Elephant in the Room’.  Roy Lilley and Ed Smith both have business backgrounds but have led and worked extensively with health trusts and both public and private health bodies.  Whilst being strong supporters of the NHS, they see the impossibility of dealing with the ever-escalating demands of an unhealthy population.  

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20-21 April 2024 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lord Cameron urged to answer questions in the House of Commons amid global conflicts
  • Long Covid may have reduced Scotland’s GDP by £120m and cost 11,000 jobs
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats attack Government over GP closures
  • Blackie: Abolish London’s bedtime

Lord Cameron urged to answer questions in the House of Commons amid global conflicts

  • Liberal Democrats call on “unelected and unaccountable Foreign Secretary” to take questions from MPs
  • Layla Moran MP writes directly to the Foreign Secretary demanding accountability

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Layla Moran MP, has written to the Foreign Secretary urging him to appear in the House of Commons this week.

The letter to Lord Cameron follows escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, a G7 Summit, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Last week, the government blocked a request by cross-party MPs which called on Lord Cameron to be accountable for the question.

In the letter, Layla Moran MP writes:

The public are demanding answers from you about the government’s response to these situations.

Every day thousands of people write to their MPs, wanting to know what the government is doing to ensure aid can reach the people of Gaza, why we haven’t proscribed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or wanting to know how we are combatting Russia’s expansionist exploits into our allies’ territory.

In the 21st century, it should not be the case that our Foreign Secretary is both unelected and unaccountable.

You speak on behalf of the United Kingdom as our most senior diplomat. Yet you refuse to speak to your own elected Members of Parliament.

Our constituents must have the ability to have their concerns put directly to the Foreign Secretary.

Long Covid may have reduced Scotland’s GDP by £120m and cost 11,000 jobs

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called on the Scottish Government to develop a long-term plan for tackling Long Covid after a new economic report indicated that the condition may have reduced Scotland’s GDP by a massive £120m.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

United States of America

Self-inflicted cracks are starting to appear in the MAGA edifice. The two Republicans wielding the sledgehammers are Alabama’s conspiracy theorist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and, of course, Donald Trump himself.

The former president, has time and again, demonstrated a total disregard for the rule of law, or at least its application to his affairs. Next week the judge in his New York trial, Juan Merchan, will decide whether Trump is guilty of contempt of court for repeatedly breaching a gag order against his making comments about witnesses, jurors, the judge, the judge’s family or any court officials.

It is a legal courtesy for opposing legal teams to give a day or two’s advance notice of witnesses to give the lawyers time to prepare. The prosecution has asked the judge that they be allowed to withhold the information on the grounds that Trump is likely to issue intimidatory comments on his Truth Social platform. The judge has agreed.

Marjorie Taylor Greene – who has been dubbed “Vladimir Putin’s Envoy Extraordinaire to the US Congress” by Democrats and moderate Republicans – appears determined to totally destroy Republican credibility. Her main target is the $60 billion aid package for Ukraine which has been held up for months by far-right MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The package is expected to be approved this weekend. But Ms Greene is determined to make a last ditch effort to kill the aid bill with a series of outrageous amendments, including: No humanitarian aid for Gaza, withdrawal from NATO, no support for a two-state solution, and – best of all – a demand that any member of Congress who votes in favour of aid for Ukraine be conscripted into the Ukrainian army.

Ms Greene and the other members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus have managed to alienate moderate Republican congressman who are expected to cross the floor to vote with Democrats to pass the aid bill. Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden said that he and his colleagues were “sick and tired” of being “bullied” and “blackmailed.”

Europe

America’s “cancel culture” came to Europe this week–and then cancelled itself.

Cancel culture, is a term used by mainly US conservatives to decry the efforts of liberals to block (or “cancel”) public appearances by right-wing speakers. The tactic has become especially popular American university campuses where left-wing student demonstrations have forced the cancellation of speeches by right-wingers.

Conservatives – quite rightly – see this as an attack on free speech.

This week the Edmund Burke Foundation, a conservative American think tank/pressure group, was hosting a conference of right-wing European luminaries in Brussels. Or at least, it was until it encountered the cancel culture of a series of Brussels mayors.

Trouble started the weekend before the event when one of the mayors of Brussels 19 districts decided that the Euro-sceptic foundation’s National Conservatism Conference would not be welcome in his district which included the EU institutions. He feared that the speakers’ anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-LGBT views would attract violent counter demonstrations. So the venue was shifted to a building near the European Parliament where another district mayor turfed out the organisers.

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Observations of an Expat: Poor Bibi

Spare a thought for Bibi Netanyahu. He is caught between a rock and several hard places. He is fighting external wars against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran; an internal war against his cabinet colleagues and a diplomatic one against the Biden Administration and most of the rest of the world, if not all of it.

The results of this complex picture could be Armageddon, stalemate or any one of the many in between scenarios.

While pondering the fate of the Israeli prime minister you may also want to consider all the other players who are dragging the world to the brink of a Middle Eastern abyss: President Joe Biden, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. They are locked in a dangerous escalating tit for tat dance of death.

Within the Israeli cabinet there is a four-way tug-of-war between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and War Cabinet Minister and Opposition Leader Benny Gantz. They all appear to hate and distrust each other.

According to sources, Gallant and Gantz have hardly spoken to each other since Benny Gantz beat out Yoav Gallant for the top military job ten years ago. Itamar Ben-Gvir is an ultra-Orthodox Jew who said Netanyahu should “go berserk” after Iran’s missile attack on Israel. He described Israel’s retaliatory attack on Iran’s third most populous city, Isfahan, as “lame.”

Gallant is not as extreme as Ben-Gvir, but not far off. Benny Gantz is the nearest thing to a dove that there is in the Israeli war cabinet. But even he is calling for the “total destruction” of Hamas. If elections were held today, Gantz would be prime minister.

All four men have conflicting views on a post-war Gaza. Netanyahu wants the army to take over. Gallant wants an ill-defined arrangement with the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority. Ben-Gvir is pushing for replacing the 2.2 million Gazan Palestinians with Israeli settlers and Benny Gantz is keeping his cards close to his chest, but hints at a politically slimmed down two-state solution.

Netanyahu, according to sources, deals with his rivals by ignoring them. All the major decisions since October 7 have been made by the prime minister without – or with the minimum – consultation.

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19 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • River Thames Tsar should be created to tackle sewage crisis
  • Menzies Scandal: Ethics adviser must investigate Conservative Chief Whip
  • Sick note speech: Sunak blaming British people for failures on NHS and economy
  • Lib Dems respond to SNP interview on ditched climate targets

River Thames Tsar should be created to tackle sewage crisis

  • Liberal Democrat Leader calls for new government appointed role to hold Thames Water to account for sewage pollution
  • New role could pave the way for wider reforms of water industry with increased environmental accountability and new representation on water company boards
  • Ed Davey will make the announcement during a local elections visit to the River Mole in Esher and Walton today

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a new River Thames Tsar to be appointed by the government, in a bid to hold the country’s biggest water firm to account.

Leader Ed Davey visits the River Mole in Esher and Walton, a marginal Surrey constituency, to announce the policy. The Esher and Walton constituency was in the top 100 worst for sewage dumping last year and saw a staggering 135% increase in spills.

This policy is part of the party’s plan for water industry reform, including transforming water companies into “Public Benefit Companies”, by ensuring environmental experts sit on water utility boards. The reforms aim to put an end to water companies putting profit before the environment. The Liberal Democrats have also called for Ofwat to be abolished, so a new tougher water regulator can be created.

The new River Thames Tsar proposed by the Liberal Democrats would have various roles, including:

  • Attending Thames Water board meetings
  • Hosting public meetings with river users and environmental groups
  • Ensuring the Environment Agency follows up on reports of sewage pollution into the Thames and its tributaries

The latest policy announcement follows the Government’s decision to appoint a River Wye Tsar last week, amid concerns of agricultural pollution. The Liberal Democrats are calling for the new River Thames Tsar to have a high public profile, with Feargal Sharkey and Steve Backshall suggested as possible candidates.

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ALDC by-election Report, 18th April

There were 3 principal council by-elections this week. Two on Thursday and a rare election on Tuesday. Just like last week our Lib Dem candidates secured an excellent win and an extremely close second place in the elections we contested on Thursday.

Our win came on East Cambridgeshire DC in Ely West ward. The was a Lib Dem defence. Congratulations to Councillor Ross Trent and the East Cambridgeshire team for not only holding the ward but doing so by increasing our vote share by over 10%!

East Cambridgeshire DC, Ely West
Liberal Democrats (Ross Trent): 1125 (47.9%, +10.6%)
Conservative: 760 (32.2%, +10.3%)
Labour: 466 (19.8%, -2.7%)

We also contested the seat of Farnham Castle on Waverley BC. Despite not standing here in the last election Lib Dem candidate Theresa Meredith-Hardy finished second and was only 28 votes off winning – securing 30% of the vote and pushing Labour into third. This is a truly exceptional result and reward for the hard work put in by Theresa and the Waverley Lib Dem team. You’ll get it next time!

Waverley BC, Farnham Castle
Farnham Residents: 307 (32.5%, -17.6%)
Liberal Democrats (Theresa Meredith-Hardy): 279 (29.6%, new)
Labour: 217 (23%, -11.7%)
Conservative: 141 (14.9%, -0.2%)

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Tell the young: look to the Lib Dems not Labour for progressive politics

The Labour Party appears now to be following a Tory-light policy. Keir Starmer has ditched the £28 bn pledge to follow Green policies, regardless of the needs of young people to be able to consider their many years to come of living with climate change with some hope. And of their immediate extreme needs, for decent and affordable housing, it is the Young Liberals who strengthened the Lib Dem housing policy passed at Bournemouth last September (F31, ‘Tackling the housing crisis’) with a demand for thousands more social dwellings to be built.

On taxation, the two main parties seem to be converging, despite the Tories’ greater inclination (not fulfilled) to cut taxes. Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, will keep to modest projected spending, obeying the same fiscal rules as the Government. The Tories have stolen the Labour proposed taxing of Non-Doms policy to help find funds for the NHS, and the Labour response is only to close the policy’s loopholes, such as not allowing a half-year pause before taxation begins. What other measures can Ms Reeves take? She plans to tackle tax avoidance, apparently, by greatly adding to the numbers of HMRC staff to investigate it. Since 56% of the tax avoidance is supposed to be from small businesses, the owners of such businesses must fear where her demands will light. Her aim is to cut the tax gap by £5bn by the end of the next parliament by that means. She has no policies for major gains from taxation despite the vast needs of our country today.

The one major objective to which both parties are adhering, to avoid adding to the National Debt through extra borrowing and increased taxation, is a questionable one. The required growth of GDP, set back by the limitations of Brexit, can only come from major investment, with government backing for example businesses utilising new technology, and greater promotion of industries increasing wind, tidal and solar power.

It is our party which is up to the job. In our councils up and down the country, Liberal Democrats are grappling with the problems caused by the deficiencies of funding for the hospitals, local government services, the pay of carers and of teachers, and for house building. The policies passed at our conferences demand better provision to meet the many national needs of our run-down country, and we are not afraid to demand the taxes necessary to pay for them.

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18 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Police taking up to 17 and a half hours to respond to anti-social behaviour calls
  • Thames Water: This corporate clown show must end
  • “Flushed away”- Welsh Lib Dems urge Welsh Government to support maintenance of public toilets
  • Scot Lib Dems respond to SNP and Greens ditching climate change targets
  • Khan manifesto launch
  • Cole-Hamilton speaks after more days of turmoil for Humza Yousaf

Police taking up to 17 and a half hours to respond to anti-social behaviour calls

Average police response times to anti-social behaviour incidents have increased by 37% since 2021, with some forces taking an average of 17 and a half hours to arrive at the scene, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The figures were obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests to all police forces in England. 27 forces provided full responses.

In 2023, it took an average of 3 hours and 40 minutes across police forces for an officer to turn up to the scene of anti-social behaviour incidents. This is an increase of 34% compared to average wait times across police forces in 2021, which stood at 2 hours and 44 minutes.

The figures revealed a disturbing postcode lottery, with huge differences in average response times between police forces.

Suffolk had the longest wait times in England last year, with police taking an average of 17 and a half hours to attend anti-social behaviour reports, followed closely behind by Norfolk where wait times were 17 hours and 29 minutes. Cambridgeshire also had extremely long wait times, which stood at 11 and a half hours.

Meanwhile, anti-social behaviour calls in Essex were attended to in less than 8 minutes on average.

In recent years, some forces also experienced huge deteriorations in wait times. In Surrey, where Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey will be making a campaigning visit today, wait times have increased by 281% since 2021, up to nearly 5 and a half hours.

London wait times have more than tripled in that same time period, up a staggering 353%.

The shocking figures come just months after the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that in the year ending September 2023, more than one third of people had experienced or witnessed some type of anti-social behaviour, with the police recording 1 million incidents.

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for these figures, arguing that years of ineffective resourcing have left local police forces overstretched, under-resourced and unable to effectively respond to local crime. This includes taking more than 4,500 community officers (PCSOs) off the streets since 2015.

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Biographical Directory of Parliamentary candidates

Following a reference in the Journal of Lib Dem History I recently came across the most extraordinary labour of love, a biographical directory  of   people who have been  Liberal, SDP and Lib Dem parliamentary candidates from 1945 – 2019.

This is a 20 year piece  of work by Lionel King who I find from the directory is 87 , fought  Kidderminster in  1964, Sutton Coldfield in  1970, and Walsall South 1987, is  former chair of Birmingham University Liberal Society, worked as a teacher and then TV/Media lecturer in FE and held many roles in the Birmingham and  West Midlands Party.

The directory is divided into 14 parts, by region  and gives a fascinating insight into the range of people attracted to become our Parliamentary candidates over the years. In my own constituency of Wimbledon for example I could read about Alick Kay who stood for us in 1945 and was a former independent member of the New South Wales Parliament, George  Scott who ran in 1964 who fought two parliament by election for us in Middlesborough East and West both in 1962 and who is decribed as “very tall and slim, he tended to be rather aloof in bearing, not a strong public speaker”, Alison Willott in 1992 and 1997 who was a professional concert singer and mother of Jenny Willott who became Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central and finally Paul Kohler candidate in 2019 (and current PPC ) and his campaign to  Save Wimbledon Police station.

The collator of all this Lionel King would love to hear from candidates with more up to date information (his email can be found in the directory). You can find the directory here:

https://liberalhistory.org.uk/resources-type/election-candidates-directory/

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We should be ashamed of our failure to oppose the Smoking Ban

The recent Tobacco and Vapes Bill, that passed its first reading in the Commons with an overwhelming majority, is decidedly anti-liberal and anti-freedom; and I’m extremely upset that the party leadership decided not to take a stand on this. When I first joined the Liberal Democrats, one of the primary reasons was that I believed us to be the last remaining party in this country to be fundamentally pro-Freedom, and to hold that as a core and imperative value. It seems that this is slipping through our fingertips.

The bill aims to do a number of things – my particular contention is with the idea of banning smoking for life for those who are turning 15 this year – thus making them a ‘smoke-free’ generation. It’s action on vapes is a separate matter, that I won’t address here. There are so many issues with this action, for anyone who cares about individual liberty.

Firstly, to smoke is an individual choice. Over recent decades, the wealth of scientific evidence has concretely proven the overwhelmingly devastating health impacts of tobacco – and I would argue almost no one legitimately disagrees with the idea that those who smoke know that its harmful. However, steps have been taken – such as the limiting of advertising and the proliferation of health advice – that have resulted in smoking rates also dropping significantly. In essence, people who smoke know what they’re doing. Restrictions on smoking in indoor places have also had an impact on second-hand smoking, again contributing to the idea that those who smoke are only harming themselves.

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17 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Lib Dem comment on Sadiq Khan’s latest pre-election pledge on women’s safety
  • McArthur welcomes assisted dying bill being assigned to health committee
  • “Cultural vandalism”- Welsh Lib Dems urge Welsh government to save National Museum
  • Cole-Hamilton urges SNP Government to deliver transparency on Russian land ownership
  • “Families are being cut off” -Welsh Lib Dems urge Welsh Gov to lift immigration status barriers on school grants

Lib Dem comment on Sadiq Khan’s latest pre-election pledge on women’s safety

Commenting on Sadiq Khan’s promise to fund a free, independent legal advice pilot service for survivors of rape and serious sexual offences, if re-elected, Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate Rob Blackie said:

Under Sadiq Khan, the police are catching rapists and sexual offenders half as often as they did when he became Mayor in 2016. This is a scandal. But in last night’s debate the Mayor would not even say that he is sorry for this.

The Mayor’s plan does not promise to catch significantly more sexual offenders. It even includes policies that were promised last year.

McArthur welcomes assisted dying bill being assigned to health committee

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed the news that the Scottish Parliament’s health committee has been assigned as the lead committee for scrutinising his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill.

The decision to assign a bill a lead committee is taken by the Scottish Parliament business bureau. The bill is also expected to be scrutinised by the Finance committee and Delegated Powers committee.

The committee will now decide how it wishes to proceed, which is likely to start with call for the submission of written evidence followed by oral evidence sessions with a wide range of witnesses and stakeholders, concluding with Mr McArthur, appearing before the committee.

The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill was published on 28th March, alongside polling from Dignity in Dying showing strong support for assisted dying in every constituency and region of Scotland.

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17 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

Back after a few days on grandparent duty…

  • Inflation figures: Nobody will notice this in their pockets
  • Three in four of worst hit constituencies for sewage dumping held by Conservative MPs
  • Mark Menzies scandal: Sunak must suspend the Whip

Inflation figures: Nobody will notice this in their pockets

Responding to the latest inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Nobody will notice this in their pockets, with mortgage bills still skyrocketing after Liz Truss crashed the economy, and prices still so much higher than last year. By patting themselves on the back for this record, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt have proved just how out of touch they are.

Conservative Chancellors have presided over the worst cost of living crisis in living memory. The blame lies squarely with their gross economic incompetence.

Three in four of worst hit constituencies for sewage dumping held by Conservative MPs

  • 75 of the the top 100 constituencies for the worst number of sewage spills last year held by Conservative MPs
  • Rishi Sunak’s constituency was the 10th worst hit in England, with the duration of sewage dumping doubling to 42,000 hours in 2023
  • Theresa May’s seat of Maidenhead saw a staggering forty fold increase in duration of sewage dumping
  • Lib Dems warn of a “reckoning at the ballot box” from former Conservative voters furious about the sewage scandal

96% of Conservative held seats in England saw an increase in sewage dumping last year, with the worst constituency for sewage dumping facing 100,000 hours worth of spills, Liberal Democrat analysis of House of Commons Library research has shown.

Geoffrey Cox’s seat of Torridge and West Devon was the worst affected last year by sewage dumping, facing 97,000 hours worth of sewage being pumped into the area’s waterways, a 65% increase on 2022’s figure This was followed by Central Devon, Skipton and Ripon, Penrith and The Border, and Totnes, all of which experienced over 50,000 hours worth of dumps by water companies.

450 of the 508 seats in England saw a rise in the duration of sewage dumping and 456 saw a rise in the number of spills in 2023 compared to the previous year. In a staggering 96% of Conservative held seats in England there was an increase in sewage spills last year.

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Four ways you can help Liberal Democrat Voice

The Voice is only a success because of the interest and support from our readers. For many people just lurking and reading the site is all they want to do – and that’s fine, we’re grateful for people taking the time to read the site.

You can though help us continue to produce interesting content for a growing audience. Here are four simple ways:

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Helen Morgan challenges PM on A and E waiting times in Shropshire

We reported earlier on Sarah Olney’s question to the Prime Minister today but she wasn’t the only Lib Dem called.

Helen Morgan has been pushing the Government to improve NHS services from ambulance waiting times to the time people spend in A and E.

Today, she questioned Rishi Sunak after learning that 10,000 pensioners had spent more than 24 hours waiting on trolleys and hard chairs, up from just 290 in 2019. That’s not to mention the 4200 adults who had the same fate.

She said:

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Sunak fails to back Sarah Olney’s call for free court transcripts for victims

Rishi Sunak today failed to back a call at Prime Minister’s Questions from our Sarah Olney, to change the law to give victims access to free court transcripts.

Sarah’s question was on behalf of her constituent, Juliana Terlizzi, who was drugged and raped by her then boyfriend in 2020. When Ms Terlizzi requested a copy of the court transcript to aid with her healing process, she was ordered to pay over £7,000 to access it. Ms Terlizzi, who was in the gallery for the question, branded Rishi Sunak’s response as yet more empty words, adding it was “a slap in the face” for victims.

This is not the only time this has happened One recent case involved a girl who was raped and sexually abused by her father, but whose family were then quoted £6,534 for the transcript of his trial.

Lib Dem peer Sal Brinton has proposed an amendment to the Victims’ and Prisoners’ Bill, scheduled for a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23rd April, which would tackle these costs being charged to victims. It would allow all crime victims to request a transcript of the court’s summing up and sentencing remarks, so long as the trial took place in a court where the proceedings are recorded. This would include all crown court cases where serious offences, including robbery, rape and murder, are tried.

Sarah Olney said:

No victim or bereaved family should be forced to pay thousands to access a court transcript that’s part of their own story. The Prime Minister could easily tackle this injustice, but his government’s continued refusal to do so speaks volumes.

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Rob Blackie holds Khan to account on crime in ITV London Mayor debate

Rob Blackie at ITV London debate. Credit: Andy Sillett

Last night, ITV London held a debate with the candidates for London Mayor. Our Rob Blackie took part and challenged incumbent Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan on his record on tackling crime. He also emphasised that the Conservatives could not win.

You can watch the whole debate here and an extra comment from Rob Blackie here.

At one point, Rob asked Sadiq Khan “Aren’t you ashamed?” at the collapse in the number of sexual offenders being caught.

Rob also called the Mayor out for undermining Transport for London’s finances with election gimmicks, benefitting tourists, pledging to halt bus cuts and get the tube back on track instead.

After the debate, Rob said:

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How our Lib Dem MPs voted on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill (2nd reading)

After a long and thorough debate, the Second Reading of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill has just been overwhelmingly passed by the House of Commons – the voting was 383 for and 67 against.

This is the Bill that will make it illegal for people born in or after 2009 to buy tobacco products in the UK.

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Daisy Cooper’s speech in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill debate

Here is the full speech from Daisy Cooper this afternoon, in the debate on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in the House of Commons. Daisy is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health and Social Care and our Deputy Leader:

First, I want to put on record my thanks to the public health Minister the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom) and the chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty, who spent time answering my questions and those of some of my colleagues. It was a very collegiate exercise and I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. It would be good to see more of that.

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Mark Pack’s April report – What does a successful Westminster general election campaign look like?

Seats… and capacity

We may not yet know when the date of the Westminster general election will be. But we do know what success will look like.

For older readers, please think of 1983. For younger readers, please think of 2019. Neither of these Westminster general elections are remembered as a triumph for us or our predecessors. In 1983 we got 25% of the vote… but only 23 seats. In 2019, our vote share went up by a chunky 4%… but our seat tally fell by 1.

Posted in Party Presidency | Tagged | 3 Comments

Ed Davey: I will vote for lifelong tobacco purchase ban and I hope it passes

There was a twelve minute interview with Ed Davey this morning on BBC Breakfast. Twelve minutes!

You can watch the interview here – move the slider to 01:30:15 (just under halfway through) to see the start.

The exchange started with the news, highlighted by the LibDems, that 72% of car thefts were not attended by the police last year. Ed said the Conservatives are “asleep at the wheel on crime” and that the LibDems would tackle the shortage of detectives.

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Why Lib Dems should support measures to limit smoking this week

I am writing in both a personal and professional capacity urging you to support the Tobacco and Vapes Bill due for second reading tomorrow. 

As a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Hull, I am the Portfolio Holder for Adult Services and Public Health and have responsibility for reducing smoking in a part of the country with some of the highest rates, with 500 people every year dying from smoking related illness. The impact is profound in a low-income community like Hull, and the cost to our local economy is around £390 million a year. 

I am an ex-smoker. I worked as a nurse for over 40 years; most of it in critical care in the operating theatres. There I witnessed over time the devastating effects smoking had on people’s lives. Often when going off duty I would pass patients all lined up outside, still smoking. Seeing this happening I made several attempts to quit smoking myself, but it was not easy.  My husband, Mike, did not give up smoking but supported me in my attempt.

I did not manage to quit before smoking permanently damaged my health and I now have COPD, a condition common among those of us who smoked for many years.

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ALDC by-election Report, 11th April

There were just 2 principal council by-elections last week. Both were Liberal Democrat defences fought in difficult or unusual circumstances. However in both elections the Lib Dem candidates and campaign teams did themselves proud and achieved superb results.

We start in North Yorkshire Council where we successfully held Stray, Woodlands and Hookstone ward following the resignation of an Independent councillor elected as a Lib Dem.

Congratulations to Councillor Andrew Timothy and the local Lib Dem team on winning and  retaining the ward so decisively with a majority of over 400 and 43% of the vote. An impressive feat to uphold our majority with a larger set of party candidates than before. A marvellous win for the Lib Dems in North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Council, Hookstone Woodland and Stray
Liberal Democrats (Andrew Timothy): 1094 (43%, -7.8%)
Conservative: 768 (30.8%, -4%)
Green Party: 376 (15.1%, new)
Reform UK: 141 (5.7%, new)
Labour: 116 (4.6%, -2.6%)

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Middle East

A quick round-up on Gaza, Israel, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, America and everywhere else that is affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden’s “outrage” following the killings of World Central Kitchen aid workers resulted in an apology and two new aid routes: The Erez Crossing and the port of Ashdod in southern Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that as a result 400 aid trucks went through to Gaza immediately after the presidential fury. UN officials said the figure was actually 223.

Disenchanted State Department officials – of which there are a growing number – say that …

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Observations of an Expat: Tyranny of the Majority

“Democracy,” Winston Churchill famously said, “is the worst form of government – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Then there is democracy unchained, or without the restraints of the rule of law and free speech.  Also known as “the tyranny of the majority” or the “will of the people” or, perhaps, “democracy flawed.”

These are elected governments with political leaders who have harnessed to their own pursuit of power a perceived threat to the majority, or a growing, vociferous and politically motivated minority.

There are far too many examples to choose from but let’s focus on Hungary, Russia, Israel, India and the US for starters.  In each of these countries, the leaders (or wannabe leader) have won the support of the majority of the population either through lies or by allying themselves with a social movement which promotes one section of society at the expense of another.

Technically speaking, Israel is a democracy with carefully monitored and oft-held elections. Its American supporters are keen to point out that it is the only democracy in the Middle East and this makes the Israelis their only rock-solid ally in the region.

Twenty percent of Israel’s voters are Arabs. As the occupying power, Israel is also responsible for two million Palestinians in Gaza and another two million on the West Bank – none of whom have a vote.  Their rights and concerns are totally ignored by Benjamin Netanyahu because his political base is conservative Orthodox Jews. The Israeli Supreme Court has attempted to protect Arab rights. As a result, Netanyahu is beavering away at dismantling the court and its powers.

Vladimir Putin was recently re-elected President of Russia with 87.5 percent of the vote. Such a large figure is of course suspect, but most observers accept that Putin would have won regardless. He has successfully portrayed himself as the only possible leader of a nation under attack from wicked, grasping Western enemies. His answer is that the best defense is a good offense which means the pursuit of Russian imperial ambitions.

Viktor Orban has cast himself in the role of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic saviour of ethnic Hungarians and European Judeo-Christian values. “We must state,” said Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, “that Hungarians do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed; we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with that of others.”

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12 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane
  • Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts
  • Energy Minister stands down: Drumbeat of Conservative resignations is becoming deafening
  • More than half of councils see rise in sewage dumps
  • Jardine Secures Commons Debate on Consular Assistance

GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane

Responding to the latest GDP figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This sluggish growth shows the UK economy is stuck in the slow lane under the Conservatives.

This government has no plan to fix the damage they’ve done to people’s living standards.

Instead we have a prime minister and Chancellor totally out of touch with families feeling the pinch. The only way to get the economy moving again is to kick this economically illiterate Conservative government out of office.

Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts

Responding to Labour and the Conservatives announcements on defence policy today, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to reversing the Conservatives’ irresponsible cuts to Army troop numbers. With Putin waging war in Europe and Trump threatening the future of NATO, cutting the British Army by 10,000 troops is a major threat to our long-term national security.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Labour only offer meaningless talk about vague aspirations for some unspecified time in the future.

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It can only get nastier until the election

It’s not surprising that polls suggest that many young people in the UK now despair about democratic politics. The partisan Westminster debate has become more and more negative. Prime Minister’s Questions have been getting worse week by week, throwing insults across the floor.  The Conservative Party has run out of positive themes to appeal to the public, and is falling back on attempts to discredit all of its opponents.  The right-wing media are in full hysterical mode, while conspiracy theories, culture wars and ideas about ‘Christian nationalism’ flow from across the Atlantic along with American finance to support Tory factions and think tanks.  And the Labour leadership is sufficiently intimidated by the right-wing media that it is responding cautiously and nervously – as are we.

I am as frustrated as other party members by the apparent timidity of both Labour and our own party leadership in the face of this right-wing onslaught.  But I’m also painfully aware of the ruthlessness and effectiveness of media monstering, and the closeness of the alliance between Conservative HQ and the right-wing media.  As soon as the Post Office scandal hit the headlines, CCHQ set out to pin the responsibility on others.  The Mail responded by going for Ed Davey, supported (of course) by the Telegraph and GB News – with the Standard giving him a frontpage monstering a few days later.  If he’d apologised immediately that would have fed the attacks and maintained the front-page coverage.  There’s nothing fair about tabloid press campaigns.

Conservative researchers have combed through cases Keir Starmer had any involvement with as Director of Public Prosecutions, hoping to find some dirt to throw – so far without much success.  So their press attack dogs are doing their best with Angela Rayner’s council house sale.   The Mail has given this front-page treatment several times in the past fortnight.  It’s an indication of what the Conservatives get away with that the allegations on Rayner taking advantage of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right-to-buy’ on her council house came from Lord Ashcroft, who has avoided paying infinitely larger sums in tax through offshore havens like Belize.

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11 April 2024 -today’s press releases

  • Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them
  • Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party
  • Donelan libel costs: Donelan must pay this money back now
  • Lib Dems to create London Housing Company – Blackie: “I will get London building again”

Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has said Rishi Sunak is living in a “parallel universe,” after today’s figures reveal NHS targets are being missed while waiting lists have grown by 330,000 since the Prime Minister pledged to cut them.

NHS targets missed include:

  • NHS waiting lists: NHS waiting lists stood at 7.54 million outstanding treatments in February 2024, up from 7.21 million in January 2023 when Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them. This is an increase of 330,000 (NHS England).
  • 65 week waits: There were 75,000 65-weeks for treatment in February, despite a target to eliminate them by March 2024 (NHS England).
  • A&E: 71.3% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E in February, against a target of 76% (NHS England).
  • Cancer: 63.9% of people treated began cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral in February 2024, against a target of 85% (NHS England).

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This week we uncovered that over 150,000 people waited over 24 hours in A&E last year. Now we find that waiting lists have gone up by 330,000 after Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them.

To add insult to injury, the Conservatives have cut NHS spending while millions of patients are suffering in pain on endless waiting lists.

Rishi Sunak is living in a parallel universe if he thinks our National Health Service is recovering. The Conservative Party and the Prime Minister are out of touch, out of ideas and deserve to be kicked out of office.

Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party

Responding to Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley, telling voters in Ashfield that Reform UK MP Lee Anderson is the area’s “greatest champion” and that he needs to be back in Westminster, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

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The Independent View: ‘Benefits on Trial’: DWP Injustice Exposed

‘Benefits on Trial’ is based on my work in Cornwall since 2012 as a volunteer advocate with adults who have a learning disability. In recent years, that work has increasingly concerned benefits cases: helping people with their PIP and ESA applications; accompanying them to assessments; requesting reconsideration of decisions; and taking cases to the tribunal stage. That experience – particularly of tribunals – triggered the writing of ‘Benefits on Trial’.

The book describes how six people – for all of whom names have been changed to protect their identities – have to battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whose system, with built-in hurdles, is loaded against them. Two of them – Danny who has ABI and Thomas who has Down’s syndrome – figured prominently in my previous book, ‘Austerity’s Victims’. The others are Ben, Jon, Tony and Denise: Ben has fibromyalgia and ME as well as being on the autism spectrum; Jon has Global Developmental Delay; and Tony and Denise both have an unspecified learning disability.

‘Benefits on Trial’ builds up a detailed picture of each of the six people, their current lives and events in their past which have helped to shape them. The experience of Denise described below – her early years and her application for benefits – serves as an example of the inhumane treatment suffered by all six at the hands of the DWP.

When she was eight, she had the first of what turned out to be many epileptic seizures. Because of the way in which they have affected her memory, she cannot remember either much of the detail of her life after the seizures started or what her life was like previously. A member of staff at her day centre, however, who went to the same secondary school recalls both appalling bullying there and later when she was nearly twenty a sexual assault that was taken to court.

Not the start in life that most of us enjoyed and one that cries out for compassion. Instead, from the state, the reverse was inflicted upon her. She, like all the others in this book turned down for PIP, was left with an income which no-one should be asked to survive on. Her £107.50 in 2018 was only 26.86% of the UK median per week, 28.27% of the equivalent median for the South West and 39.99% of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Minimum Income Standard.

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