Why health is the theme for the Lib Dem local election launch

The Liberal Democrats have been analysing the latest data from the NHS. It shows that there are 547 fewer GP practices in England compared with 2019 – during a period when patient numbers have been rising. Now some of those could be due to mergers of practices, but not all, because we also know that GP numbers have fallen as well.

In fact, there are now 850 fewer NHS GPs than four years ago. Remember that in the last election (in 2019) the Tories promised to recruit 6000 more GPs.

Rural communities suffer most from losing their medical centres. There are 206 villages where patients have a journey of more than 5 miles to see a doctor – this figures is up on previous years as well.

We all know that the NHS is in crisis – appalling ambulance waiting times, long waits for transfer from A&E to hospital beds, unnecessary waits for discharge, unprecedented waiting lists for hospital appointments and for surgery.  On top of that there are huge pressures on GP practices, who are the first point of contact for anyone with a medical worry. It seems that over the last year 29% of UK adults have tried and failed to get a GP appointment.

There is clearly widespread anger and anxiety, although most people realise that none of this is the fault of the medical professionals.

Our simple policies of recruiting 8000 more GPs, and giving patients a legal right to see a GP within seven days, will go some way towards addressing the problems.

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Smashing the Blue Wall with a tractor

We promised you pictures from the launch of the party’s local election campaign today. Not content with a mallet, Ed Davey smashed the Blue Wall with a yellow tractor.

And this is what Ed said:

People are having to wait hours for an ambulance, weeks for a GP appointment or months for urgent cancer treatment as the NHS crisis spirals out of control. But the Conservatives have failed to deliver the new hospitals they promised and are breaking their pledge to recruit more GPs. It shows this Conservative government is out of touch, out of ideas and out of excuses.

The local elections in May are a chance to send a message that enough is enough: the British people are fed up with being taken for granted by the Conservative Party and want them out of government. From Stockport to Surrey, from Eastbourne to Esher, lifelong Conservative voters are saying ‘never again’ and backing Liberal Democrat candidates instead.

People are turning to the Liberal Democrats because they know we work hard for our communities, we hear your concerns, and we never take you for granted. It’s why we gained more seats than any other party at last year’s local elections – and why I know we’ll have more to celebrate across the country in May.

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Ed Davey to launch Lib Dem local election campaign

Ed Davey will today launch the Lib Dem campaign for this year’s local elections, which take place on 4th May.

And he’s already getting some good coverage. The theme for today is health, as that is what people are raising most with us on the doorstep. We are calling for an extra 8000 GPs to fill the massive gaps in coverage and service.

Here’s Ed talking to BBC Breakfast this morning:

From the BBC:

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey called on the government to create a legal right for patients to see a GP within seven days.

May’s council elections are the “final chance” to send a message to the government before a general election, Mr Davey will add.

On 4 May, 230 councils across England will hold an election.

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Volunteering Opportunity: Delegate to Liberal International Executive Committee

Location: Ottawa, Canada
Date: 2-6 May 2023

Liberal International will convene its 206th Executive Committee in Ottawa between 2-6 May 2023. For five days the global liberal family will come together at the seat of political decision-making in Canada – the federal capital – as LI returns to North America for its first statutory event in the region for 14 years.

Together with LI full member, the Canadian Group of Liberal International (CGLI), delegates will not only contribute to developing liberal policy and engaging throughout the ExCom between 2-4 May with new applicant parties but are cordially invited to fully participate in the Liberal Party of Canada (LI full member) convention which takes place (4-6 May) at the same venue directly following the conclusion of the 206th executive committee meeting.

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28 March 2023 – today’s press releases (Welsh Edition)

  • Welsh Liberal Democrats Launch Plan to Save NHS Dentistry in Wales
  • Interest Rate Rise Signals More Pain for Homeowners in Powys

Welsh Liberal Democrats Launch Plan to Save NHS Dentistry in Wales

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have launched their plans to save NHS dentistry in Wales, warning that unless the Welsh Labour Government takes action now NHS dentistry risks going extinct.

The Party have accused Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay of utterly failing to get to grips with the problem, allowing an appalling two-tier system of dentistry in Wales to flourish whereby if you can afford it you go private, but those who can’t are left waiting in agony for months and sometimes years.

Talking to her party Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds outlined that using her influence to fix NHS dentistry is one of her top priorities in the Senedd.

A previous FOI by the Welsh Liberal Democrats showed that over 800 children in Powys were waiting for an NHS dentist while in Cardiff the waiting list for children and adults is over 15,000 people. Other health boards do not operate centralised waiting lists which the Liberal Democrats state is a problem in itself.

Among the proposed actions laid out in the report, which was produced with industry professionals include:

  • Resolving outstanding contract issues as a priority
  • Integrating primary dental care more closely with other NHS primary care, especially to ensure that services are available in remote and rural areas
  • Increasing per-capita spending from the current £47 to match the levels of Scotland (£55) and Northern Ireland (£57)
  • Setting targets for Health Boards in terms of numbers of, and waiting times for, appointments, empowering them to use salaried staff to achieve those targets as well as entering into agreements with private sector providers
  • Setting up set up a national waiting list system to ensure that the process of getting an appointment is more efficient, and that fewer appointments are lost
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28 March 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Number of GP practices falls by over 500 since 2019
  • Lib Dems call for ban on strip searches in schools
  • Coffey attacks farming journalists

Number of GP practices falls by over 500 since 2019

  • Lib Dem Leader launches Local Election campaign calling for a return to “proper local health services” amid GP shortages and appointment delays
  • Rural areas “bearing the brunt of GP practice closures”, forcing people to drive long distances to see a doctor
  • Government on course to break Conservative manifesto pledge on doctor recruitment as GP numbers plummet by over 850 since the last election

New analysis of NHS data by the Liberal Democrats has found there are 547 fewer open and active GP practices in England compared to 2019 – despite rising patient numbers.

At the last election, the Conservative party promised to recruit 6,000 more GPs. However, today’s analysis reveals there are now 850 fewer GPs compared to 2019.

Rural communities are suffering most from GP practices closing. A recent study found 206 villages where patients must travel at least 5 miles to see a doctor – a 12% rise on 2017.

This new analysis of NHS figures follows a research poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats which reveals over a quarter (29%) of UK adults have tried and failed to get a face-to-face GP appointment in their local area over the past twelve months.

Embarrassingly for the Government, GP practices are even closing in the Heath Secretary’s own constituency, with a Cambridgeshire practice serving thousands of local people due to close its doors this month.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 29th March), Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will launch his party’s local election campaign in Hertfordshire, where he will call on the Government to invest in local health services. The South of England is the worst part of the country for GP appointment problems, where over 1 in 3 people tried and failed to secure a GP appointment last year.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to recruit 8,000 more GPs and have set out plans to give patients a legal right to see a GP within 7 days. It would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs, a programme to retain experienced doctors and staff, and launching a recruitment drive to encourage those who’ve left the NHS to return.

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OfSTED needs urgent reform now – and the Lib Dems should be leading calls for it

The tragic news that Primary headteacher Ruth Perry took her own life after the primary school she led was downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate after an inspection in November 2022 has shone a spotlight on the schools inspectorate, OfSTED. It has led to calls to review how these high stakes inspections take place and into the aftermath they wreak. It took over a week for the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman to publish a rather tin-eared statement outlining sympathy with Mrs Perry, her family and the school but making it very clear that inspections will continue unabated and unchanged. At least they responded – however Inadequately. This much – unless I’ve missed something – cannot be said for those that drive education policy in the major political parties, something I find perplexing. There is no way that the tragic death of someone should be used as a political football and this may lay at the heart of the relative silence of Gillian Keegan, Bridget Phillipson and Munira Wilson, but will it take another suicide or 2 more or 3 more before those in power stop, look and realise that putting their heads in the sand and hoping it goes away isn’t the right response?

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Why Putin’s arrest warrant matters

In May 2022 Putin issued a new decree to make it easier for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children. In addition, Russian officials announced it would extend government support to Russian families who adopt kidnapped Ukrainian children resulting in more than 16,000 being deported to Russia. The abducted children are forced to learn Russian, are denied contact with their families to “Russify” them by providing “patriotic education” and is considered an act of Genocide.

Although some children are being taken from orphanages, many have parents who were coerced into allowing their children to go and others were simply murdered. Daria Gerasimchuk, a Ukrainian government ombudswoman, told the Observer: “They kill the parents, for whatever reason, and kidnap the child. In other cases, they just grab the child directly from the family, perhaps to punish that family.” Such reports are similar to the Canadian Residential Schools and the Nazi Lebensborn program.

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27 March 2023 – today’s press release

“Inept Approach to Public Finances” – Welsh Lib Dems Respond to Welsh Gov Accounts Report

Responding to a Senedd report on Welsh Government accounts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:

This report highlights an inept approach to Wales’ public finances from the Labour Party which shows a failure to protect public services during the pandemic.

£155 million is an extortionate amount for Wales to have missed out on.

It is also clear that neither Labour nor the Conservatives can be trusted to tackle fraud and that Welsh Labour criticisms of the UK Government losses to fraud during the pandemic now ring hollow.


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Self-identification, a Returning Officer’s Perspective

There was a constitutional amendment on the agenda for the recent York conference (item F15 on the agenda) that sought to amend the rules for ensuring gender diversity on the party’s committees (clause 2.5 of the constitution). The part of the amendment that has attracted most attention was the removal of non-binary people from the text, but the other proposed change was much more concerning from a practical point of view as a returning officer. This was the removal of the words “self-identification” as the means of determining whether a candidate is a man or a woman.

I’ve conducted internal elections within the party for more than twenty years for a variety of bodies – affiliated organisations, state parties, local parties. I’ve never conducted federal elections, but the vast majority of bodies within the party incorporate the federal rules on diversity into their own elections so I’m very familiar with how these rules are operated in practice.

On the most basic practical level, each candidate submits a nomination form, either on paper or online, and there are tick boxes on the form for each of the four diversity criteria, that is sex/gender, ethnicity, disability and LGBT+. The way that the sex/gender rules are implemented in practice is that there are three boxes, “man”, “woman” and “non-binary”. If you tick one then you are treated as being in that category for the purposes of applying the rules in clause 2.5. If you don’t tick any or you tick more than one, then, rather than invalidating your nomination, you are treated as being of a fourth category (ie of unspecified gender), where you would always be disadvantaged by the application of the rules. That is: there must be 40% women/non-binary, and 40% men/non-binary; you would have to get into the other 20% if you didn’t validly designate yourself.

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Humza Yousaf narrowly elected as Scotland’s First Minister

When Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf entered the room at Murrayfield for the announcement of the SNP leadership election, Kate was smiling and looking like she had not a care in the world. Humza’s face was in his boots and he looked like he had the weight o the world on his shoulders.

I thought that Kate had won, but when the result came through, and Humza was proclaimed leader, you can maybe understand why he looked so miserable.

His margin of victory was that cursed ration of 52.1% to 47.9% over Kate Forbes, and we all know from Brexit how difficult it is to manage a situation where almost half of people are against you. On first preferences, he had 48% of the vote to Kate Forbes 40% and Ash Regan’s 11.1%, but Regan’s transfers broke overwhelmingly for Forbes.

There will be some relief in Scotland’s LGBT community that Yousaf, out of the three, has won. During the campaign, Kate Forbes expressed her opposition to same sex marriage and both she and Regan made clear their opposition to  the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The leadership campaign was at times absolutely vicious. Kate Forbes demolition of his record in office may well come back to haunt the soon to be First Minister. In the first major debate, she basically told him he was being moved from his Health portfolio if she won, and said:

“You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times – what makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?”

The thing I found most weird, having spent my Summer three years ago, along with many others, phone canvassing in our leadership election, that the SNP didn’t allow their candidates to have membership data in order to canvass. Maybe that explains the low turnout of 70% in such a fiercely fought election for, effectively, the leader of the country.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton congratulated Humza but did not hold back about the challenge ahead of him:

I would like to congratulate Humza Yousaf on becoming the first minority ethnic leader of his party.

“Scotland is crying out for a First Minister who will put the people’s priorities first and be a leader for the whole country.

“There are huge challenges facing our country but sadly Humza Yousaf has not proven equal to those challenges in his previous roles. That’s not just my verdict but that of his colleague Kate Forbes.

“On his watch, 1 in 7 Scots are on a waiting list and his NHS recovery plan has completely failed to tackle crises in A&E, cancer care, mental health and dentistry.

“Reasonable, fair-minded people are turning away from the SNP and looking for someone who will fight their corner. This country is ready for change and Scottish Liberal Democrats will be part of what’s next.”

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Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic – Now what?

The Baroness Casey Review into the Met Police makes for very grim reading for all Londoners. The contents outline some horrific attitudes and behaviours towards minorities, women and LGBTQ+ people across the city it polices as well as within its own ranks. Baroness Casey has simply held a mirror up to this organisation and stated very clearly this has to change.

What makes reading the report even more depressing is that these same issues within the Met were identified back in 1999 in another independent review – the MacPherson report. This report only arose from years of campaigning by the Lawrence family seeking justice for their son Stephen. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993. The Macpherson report concluded the investigation into Stephen’s murder was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”

I grew up in Lewisham in a ‘tough neighbourhood’ not far from Eltham within miles of the racist attitudes that prevailed at the time. My local pub, the Golden Lion, was the scene of the unsolved Daniel Morgan murder in 1987. Daniel’s family still wait for a justice that may never come and can only take some comfort the  Independent Panel enquiry they campaigned for established the Met was “institutionally corrupt” and  Britain’s biggest police force engaged in “the denial of the failings in investigation, including a failure to acknowledge professional incompetence, individual’s venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures”

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Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference – Calls for a New ‘Celtic Sea Powerhouse’

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for the creation of a “Celtic Sea Powerhouse” to serve as a new economic region for Wales harnessing green technology on the first day of their spring conference.

The policy comes on the back of the announcement of freeport status in Milford Haven and Port Talbot.

The policy calls for the cutting of red tape in Wales to establish floating offshore wind farms which can currently take up to 10 years for floating offshore wind to be given planning permission.

The Crown Estate Estimates the Celtic Sea has the economic potential to accommodate up to an additional …

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Tom Arms’ World Review


The appearance of ex-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the House of Commons Privileges Committee has echoes of the fate of Charles the First and James the Second.

Each of the above cases helped to establish the supremacy of parliament over the monarchy, or the executive.

The modern-day British Prime Minister straddles both institutions. They must be a member of parliament and command the support of a majority of the House of Commons. But at the same time they are officially appointed by the monarch to represent them in parliament. They are accountable to both institutions, but as the 1689 Bill of Rights makes clear, more accountable to parliament which is “supreme.”

But if parliament is expected to do its job properly, it must be able to rely on the information that is provided by the executive branch (i.e. government ministers, including the prime minister). For that reason it is vital that ministers – especially the prime minister – do not intentionally or recklessly mislead or lie to the House of Commons or House of Lords.

To do so, completely undermines the principle of the supremacy of parliament and rocks the foundations of the British constitution. That is why Boris Johnson is in deep political hot water. It is not that he broke Covid rules. It is that he appears to have lied to parliament about it.

Charles I lost his head for challenging the supremacy of parliament and James II was forced to abdicate and fled to France. Boris Johnson is unlikely to suffer either fate. The worst that could happen to him is be suspended from parliament which is the 21st century equivalent of decapitation.

Such a move could easily split the Conservative Party. Boris has a strong personal following and Conservatives and despite the current ascendancy of the extreme right, they are divided between anti-European libertarian ideologues and one-nation tax-cutting businessmen.


State visits are a big deal. They require months, sometimes years, of careful protocol-driven planning. That is why the last minute cancellation of a state visit is an even bigger deal.

Next week King Charles III was scheduled to make his first ever state visit. It was to be to France to restore the Entente Cordiale to its pre-Brexit cordiality. On Friday it was announced that the visit had been postponed

For a change, the dramatic shift in protocol had nothing to do with Britain’s post-Brexit positions on Northern Ireland, fishing, immigration, Australian submarines or a thousand other potential Anglo-French flashpoints. It had everything to do with violent demonstrations sweeping across France in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s decreed legislation to increase the French retirement age from 62 to 64.

The result of the presidential decree has been a wave of violence and strikes across France. Rubbish is piling up in the streets of Paris. The entrance to Bordeaux Town Hall was set alight. 903 fires were started in the capital on Thursday, 400 people were arrested and police used tear gas against the demonstrators.

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The speech Ed Davey should have given at Spring Conference – my version

Ed Davey gave a speech at the York Spring Conference that received two standing ovations: one, as you’d expect, at the end; the other when he spoke about the “elephant in the room” – how our entire political establishment continues to ignore Brexit. However, after briefly mentioning red tape and improving relations, the speech rushed away from the topic and into the safe hands of president Putin.

It was a missed opportunity, as the standing ovation made plain. A previous article argued that far from being a liability, the issue of Europe and Brexit could be our party’s election thunderbolt.

It’s all very well to say that, but how do you navigate a topic as toxic as Brexit? What would Ed’s speech have looked like if we decided on a bolder approach?

Brave New World

It’s worth watching the speech to get a feel for where it was going – you can see it on YouTube in its entirety. Europe kicks at the 40-minute mark. But if you want to get closer to the action, start at 37-38 mins, where Ed Davey talks about a bolder approach to our economy.

Wait for the ovation to die down and then imagine for a second.

Because here is the rest of the speech Ed Davey should have given at Spring Conference.

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Observations of an expat: Trump declines (hopefully)

Former President of the United States Donald Trump was on Tuesday expected to be arrested for one of his many alleged crimes.

He, of course, claimed that the arrest was another chapter in a long-running political witch hunt and called on his supporters to take to the streets and protest. And they did – all ten of them.

Ten is an exaggeration, but not by much. It was certainly true that there were more police officers and people demonstrating against Trump outside the Manhattan court house then there were those protesting his innocence.

The opinion polls show him leading challenger Ron DeSantis in the race for the Republican nomination. But if bodies on the street are an indication, Donald Trump’s pulling power is on the wane.

The Stormy Daniels case is only one of several legal challenges facing the former occupant of the White House. His business—the Trump Organisation—is accused of fraud. Any day now a Georgia Grand Jury is expected to indict him for solicitation of election fraud. The Justice Department is investigating his role in the January 6 Capitol Hill Riots and he is may still be charged under the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice for unlawful possession of top secret documents after he left the White House.

But the case that could do Donald Trump the most damage does not directly involve the ex-president as either defendant or plaintiff. But it cuts to the very heart of Trump’s political structure – his claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

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24 March 2023 – today’s press release

Truss Honours: Rishi Sunak must block immediately

Responding to the leaked names on Liz Truss’ Honours List, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Handing out more expensive gongs to Conservative allies is a truly remarkable way to reward the shortest tenure as Prime Minister in British political history.

Truss and her Conservative colleagues trashed our economy and left millions in misery.

Those selected for honours are the very people who helped plunge the country into chaos and crisis.

Rishi Sunak must block these Honours immediately as allowing Truss to dish out positions of influence shows a stunning lack of humility.

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Liberation from cars – at least in cities …

I came to the Spring Conference for free and was dropped off at a bus stop outside my hotel, returning home three days later from a stop across the road. The travelling was on two routes operated by Transdev, one of the most forward looking bus companies in the country. Changing in Leeds Bus Station from one stand to another was my longest distance pulling a case, with no need to cross Leeds or York City Centres.

Since gaining my all-England concessionary bus pass a decade and a half ago (thank you Gordon Brown) and as a rail card user, I had become increasingly multi-modal in my travelling habits. Shortly after the 2022 Autumn Conference which never happened, I gave up driving completely.

As a former member of a Transport Authority and a lifelong student of public transport, I felt that I was as best placed an anyone else I knew when it came to making the best of inadequate bus services, which is possible in northern cities. I’m not sure I could say the same about trains. Of course it ought not to be like that. Other European countries do it differently. In or out of the EU, the UK has been woefully negligent in learning from our closest neighbours in terms of best practice in punctuality, frequency, cleanliness, safety, costs and convenience.

Round our way, a number of bus services get cancelled, often at short notice, “due to shortage of drivers” which means that constant tracking of vehicles takes priority over using timetables. If we are in a crisis caused by an absence of qualified staff, most passengers would probably settle pro tem for fewer journeys that were guaranteed to happen. I’d like to think that settling for this relatively unpalatable solution was one of the functions of management but this doesn’t seem to be case. The only way in which the whole mess is the fault of users is that we have failed to elect politicians willing to opt for radically new ways of paying for public transport. This would be preferable to control ultimately resting at the other end of the country, or indeed in other countries, with bosses constrained by the priorities of private sector shareholders.

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Accessing Conference

I love conference.

My first Federal Conference was at Harrogate in Spring 2009 (a lovely venue that we’ve not been back to since) and the buzz I got from being around my fellow Lib Dems from around the country was great and inspired me to go to many more. In fact, it probably inspired me to be involved in the party in other ways as well. I’ve been to a number of conferences since from Bournemouth to Sheffield and each one is different and interesting in its own way. When I started work as a school teacher in 2014 though, my ability to find the time to go to Conference dropped off. With the exception of a special visit to Brighton in 2016 specifically to support my fantastic friend Hywel ap Dafydd and his motion to promote NHS funding for PrEP medication, I haven’t been to conference for quite a few years.

Fast forward to last summer and I gave up my job as a school teacher and returned to university to study a masters programme in Data Science, AI and the ethics and regulation of AI (or ‘Responsible Data Science’ for short). This has afforded me the time to be more involved with the party again. I was delighted to be elected to Federal Policy Committee last year – my first time elected to any federal role after nearly two decades as a member.

Giving up work and returning to full time studies does have one big drawback though: finances. This year has not been without it’s financial challenges for everyone, but adjusting to life without my teacher’s salary has been difficult. As much as I love conference, I really felt that I couldn’t justify the cost to go this year. That is, until I was advised to apply for the Conference Access Fund. The application process was so simple and Susie Murray at HQ was very friendly and helpful as well.

From the fund I was able to claim £45 a night towards accommodation costs, I could have claimed travel costs as well. As someone who has had mental health difficulties for years I also qualified for a claim as a disabled member in the access fund as well, which increased my accommodation claim by a further £45 per night, taking me to £90 per night for accommodation. The rates for Autumn 2023 have already been published and include an uplift to £55 for the basic accommodation cost.

Being granted an award under the access fund literally allowed me to attend conference this year for the first time since 2016. But the big question – was conference worth it after all this time?

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Let’s make deep poverty history with a Guaranteed Basic Income

Britain is one of the richest countries on Earth. And yet, millions of people live in food and fuel poverty. For the poorest families in our country, the cost of living crisis is nothing new. It has been a consistent reality for decades as they have struggled to afford the basic essentials in life.

In recent years, the poorest and most vulnerable members of society have been impacted by crisis after crisis. From the financial crisis of 2008, to the years of austerity, to the current cost of living crisis, not to mention the consequences of Brexit, the poorest and most vulnerable continue to suffer. Poverty deprives the individual of dignity, autonomy and personhood. It prevents them from developing as an individual and severely limits their life outcomes. There could be nothing more liberal than ensuring that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty”.

Last weekend, I found myself in the unusual position of being undecided on a conference vote as the party debated its Towards A Fairer Society motion in York. The debate centred around a choice between Universal Basic Income (UBI) and what the party called a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI). Having previously written for Lib Dem Voice on the merits of a Universal Basic Income, it may come as a surprise that I was not sure which policy option to support.

For me, the choice between UBI and GBI was a battle between heart and head. UBI on the face of it is the ideal policy, it is radical and egalitarian and is based upon the notion of universal shared citizenship. Everyone would be in receipt of it, regardless of background or wealth. The universality of the policy is essential for reducing the social stigma towards the poorest who would need it most. However, fellow UBI supporters need to better respond to the criticism of why the richest should also receive it (even though their UBI would probably be entirely taxed back by the state).

Universal Basic Income is a massive policy, not just in terms of public expenditure, but in terms of its potential to transform society and the economy. In order to do UBI justice, a complex and sophisticated political argument is required. One that would require us to re-examine the nature of work, citizenship, universality, the tax system and the welfare state.

It was clear that the party would currently struggle to advance such a complicated political argument. If party activists cannot easily explain a policy in a Focus leaflet or on the doorstep, it is doomed to fail. Since the party first supported UBI in autumn 2020, the party leadership has been reluctant to advocate for it. This factor was further underlined during the debate when several MPs stood up to argue in favour of GBI and against UBI.

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The speech Ed Davey should have given at Spring Conference

It’s been three years since we’ve met up in person, so Spring Conference was a joyous event. It was also a chance to get fired up about the future: something the party’s leadership was keen to make the most of.

And so for the closing speech, Ed Davey’s team pulled out all the stops. There were not one but two emails from top brass in the hours before, one from CEO Mike Dixon offering an “exclusive preview” of the text and another from national campaign chief Dave McCobb telling us how much a draft of the speech had inspired him. Both encouraged us to spread a live video link far and wide. It was clear this was a big push.

And it worked. Those of us in York packed the hall to hear the party leader speak and we were ready to be inspired. Ed Davey came out to rapturous applause, and we were off.

It was a carefully crafted and moving speech – especially when Ed spoke to the struggles he has faced from the loss of his father and mother when young and the challenges he continues to experience with his son. He spelt out clearly what it is to be a Liberal, and was unflinching in his criticism of the current government and their policies.

But it was another member of the party’s top team, president Mark Pack, that highlighted the speech’s most unusual aspect: it peaked in the middle.

The standing ovation was indeed remarkable. Coming after a long series of complaints about the Tories, Ed Davey paused and seized on an issue most dear to Liberals’ hearts…

There’s another historic, longstanding difference between the Liberal Democrat economic vision – and those of others. More relevant today than ever. I call it the elephant in the room of British politics. An elephant we always point to, even though other parties daren’t even whisper its name.

And then the kicker, that ended with Ed in full power stance:

So let me shout it, yet again: if you want to boost our economy, you have to repair our broken relationship with Europe.


The room uprooted itself in approval. Rafters swayed and seats shook as the audience leapt to its feet and roared. Our leader was finally calling out the disaster that has been Brexit. After years of excuses and gaslighting from the political establishment and the press, there was no way out of it.

We as Lib Dems had warned and bellowed and fought and been proven right. Only we had a clean record on Europe and finally we were going to acknowledge that reality and, better, use it to blow away shameless political rivals.

The decision to called out this “elephant in the room” was rewarded with a minute-long standing ovation given with such conviction that even the man that delivered it was surprised. And as it began to die down, we waited with bated breath to hear how the party’s best and smartest had figured out how to navigate the difficult realities of Brexit with what we know to be true. We waited to be given our marching orders, receive our rallying cry…

…And then it became clear that the sentence that had forced us to our feet was not a headline but just part of a paragraph.

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23 March 2023 – today’s press release

Interest rates rise: Sunak’s pledge to halve inflation in tatters

Responding to the Bank of England raising interest rates, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury Sarah Olney MP said:

This news will come as a hammer blow to countless hardworking families.

People seeing their mortgage bills go up by hundreds of pounds a month have been left high and dry by this Government, which sent interest rates soaring with their catastrophic mini budget.

Rishi Sunak’s pledge to halve inflation is in tatters.

The Government could be cutting household energy bills and extending energy support for businesses to help keep prices down. Instead,

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Iraq – 20 years on. A personal story.

In early 2003 I was in Sierra Leone working on post-war reforms and rebel disarmament. I was running past the run-down Russian UN helicopters on Lumley beach when I received the call. 

It was already known that British Forces had attempted to find a way to appoint the first regional government; in Basra, one of the four UK-controlled Iraqi governorates. By agreement with the US, the UK had been tasked with finding a model. They were looking for someone ‘reckless’ with relevant experience. Folks knew I was against the war, but the final make-or-break question from the official was ‘you’re not a bloomin’ tree hugger are you?’.

Following bio-weapons training, my first interaction was my car being attacked by stone-throwing teenagers after I crossed the border from Kuwait. There was a lot of audible gunfire, and on the main roads there were still uncollected bodies littering the way.

Saddam’s gaudy riverside palace had been looted and all the marble floors were deep in broken glass. There was no power at first. It was 51 degrees, down to 42 by 3am. Water was scarce. Catching a breeze on the roof at nighttimes was noisy, with explosive flashes and gunfire sweeping across the city below.

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Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference

We’ve just realised we hadn’t posted Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference on 10th March. It’s a wee bit out of date because it was before the Budget.

Although it’s a bit later than usual, we do like to post speeches to maintain the historical record.

The speech came the day after that historic by-election gain from the SNP in Edinburgh.

Ed was introduced by Aberdeenshire Councillor Yi-Pei Chou Turvey who was elected last year.

So here we go:

Good afternoon Conference!

And thank you Yi-Pei for your kind introduction.

It’s great to be back with you all here in Dundee.

And it was wonderful to be in East Dunbartonshire yesterday, with the fantastic Susan Murray.

Susan is already working tirelessly for her constituents as a Councillor, and I know she’ll be a brilliant champion for them in Parliament too! I can’t wait to welcome her to Westminster.

This morning I had great fun with my good friend and Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain, across the Tay in Saint Andrews.

We got to watch robot golfers swinging their clubs with perfect power and precision.

Wendy agreed that having one of those in the whips office could go a long way to improving discipline among the parliamentary party!

And then it was a joy to meet the newest Liberal Democrat Councillor in Scotland, Fiona Bennett –

Who is quite rightly still celebrating her stunning victory in Edinburgh last night.

Another great by-election success for our party.

Another brilliant Councillor elected to work hard for her community –

Adding to strong gains we made across Scotland last year.

And by the way, I can bear witness to the popularity of Liberal Democrats in Murrayfield.

Not long ago, I was canvassing there with Alex and Christine.

I knocked on one door, and the man who answered said “You’re Ed Davey! I think you’re great!”

Then he saw Alex and said “Oh Alex Cole-Hamilton – we love him!”

And when Christine came down the street he almost burst with affection.

“Christine Jardine! We LOVE Christine!”

I put him down as a “probable Lib Dem”.

Conference, victories like Fiona’s are a testament to the hard work and tireless campaigning of everyone here – 

But particularly to the Leader of our Scottish Party, Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Just a few months ago, Alex launched the ambitious One-Fifty Rising strategy 

To start campaigning now for the next council elections in twenty-twenty-seven –

Right across Scotland. In places where we’re already strong, and places that have never elected a Liberal Democrat before.

To talk to people in the streets and on the doorsteps –

To hear their concerns and show them we care –

To win first their trust and then ultimately their votes.

In other words: community politics.

Conference, community politics is something our party is built on.

It’s what sets us apart from the other parties.

It’s how we’ve won in the past – whether in elections for councils, for Holyrood or for Westminster.

It’s how we’re winning today, from Tiverton and Honiton to Corstorphine and Murrayfield.

And it’s how we’ll win in the future.

Fiona’s triumph shows that Alex’s strategy is already bearing fruit.

But the great thing about Alex is he’s not the sort of general who gives the orders but then lets others do the fighting.

Alex leads from the front.

Criss-crossing the country, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets,

Working hard for every single candidate and every last vote.

I’m sure all of you have seen him out on the doorsteps. He is a force to be reckoned with.

A true campaigner’s campaigner.


Now, someone was asking me earlier: what’s the difference between my job and Alex’s job?

And I tried to explain:

You see, my job is all about holding to account an out-of-touch Government,

That is too embroiled in party infighting to take on the big challenges facing ordinary people,

That is presiding over a cost-of-living crisis and an NHS crisis,

But focusing instead on its own ideological obsession.

That is taking people for granted, stirring up division, and threatening the very future of our great United Kingdom.

Whereas Alex’s job is taking on the SNP.

OK, so maybe it isn’t all that different after all!

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Soaring teaching vacancies show Conservatives failing children

Responding to a new report by the National Foundation for Educational Research showing that the number of teaching vacancies has risen by 93% since 2019, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

The soaring number of unfilled teaching posts is yet more proof that the Conservatives are failing our children badly.

Millions of children are being taught by someone who isn’t an expert in their subject, all because the Conservatives are missing their own recruitment targets and driving thousands of teachers out of the profession. It’s just not good enough.

Investing in schools and teachers is vital for giving every child the

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Ramadan Mubarak to all who are observing the month of fasting

The Holy Month of Ramadan is underway, and we would like to wish everyone who is observing it Ramadan Mubarak.

Senior Lib Dems have expressed their good wishes:

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22 March 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Inflation rises: Proof the Chancellor should have cut energy bills in the budget
  • Windsor Framework: Conservative MPs are mutinous pirates who no longer care what their captain says

Inflation rises: Proof the Chancellor should have cut energy bills in the budget

Responding to this morning’s inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

This rise is just more proof why the Chancellor should have cut energy bills in the budget. Instead he sat on his hands and we are left with rising inflation once more.

People across the country are struggling and the Government has failed totemically to support hardworking families and pensioners.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Disagree well

I have always felt very comfortable to be a member of a party that is able to disagree well. Sometimes Liberal Democrats have been so bloody reasonable we have taken the side of our opponents in a debate!

However, I have been increasingly concerned that this almost unique characteristic has at times been at risk of being lost in the recent debate on gender identity and the recent call for members who disagree to leave the party has compelled me to speak out.

I voted for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the Scottish Parliament. Several party members opposed the bill on perfectly understandable grounds. Many have been members for decades and are dedicated to the party and its beliefs. Now they are being told they are no longer welcome because they just can’t agree with the official position of the party.

Some seem to believe that to question the implications of self-identification, even in a nuanced way, is to question the very rights of trans people.  However, I believe it is possible to disagree but still defend the rights of trans people. I know these members; they are generous and kind liberals, and I would never describe them as transphobes.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 93 Comments

21 March 2023 – today’s press releases

High borrowing: Govt blew a hole in our public finances

Responding to the latest ONS statistics which show public sector net borrowing at the highest February total since records began, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This Conservative Government blew a hole in our public finances and made hard-working families pay for it through unfair tax rises, higher mortgage bills and soaring inflation.

The Chancellor could have taken action in last week’s Budget to put our economy on the right track, but instead we saw a total lack of ambition and no economic plan.

Instead of

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

How not to write Standing Orders?

Having been called to speak in over half of the Lib Dem conferences I have attended since my first in 2015, I can’t complain about missing out at Spring Conference 2023, especially as the one item I submitted a Speaker’s Card for – F7: Selection of policy motions for debate – was resolved satisfactorily and with a clear majority vote. However, I wanted to approach the problems of F7 from a particular angle and to prompt members to consider something when putting their mind to future amendments to the Constitution or Standing Orders.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 6 Comments

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