Floella Benjamin highlights dangers to British children’s TV programming

“Legendary” Lib Dem peer Floella Benjamin has always championed children’s issues and this one is dear to her heart. People still ask her what is through the round window (sorry – I know that reference will go over the head of millennials, but it brings back very happy memories for many people older than that).

She is worried that children’s programmes could disappear entirely. The Evening Standard quotes her:

Since the early closure of the Young Audience Content Fund, which offered up to 50% of programme budgets, the amount of newly-made UK commercial children’s content continues to decrease.

The children’s television production sector faces market failure and a huge challenge.

And without funding, television programmes which reflect British children’s lives could disappear from the nation’s screens, this would be a tragedy.

A proposal by the Producers’ Alliance for Television and Cinema (Pact) would help the sector with 40% tax relief. In the Lords she asked:

So how is the Government living up to its responsibility to ensure that the nation’s children are accessing high quality British children’s programming, and will the tax break proposed by Pact be supported to ensure we have more UK commercial public service broadcasting children’s content?

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2 February 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Shell Profits: Sunak has failed to take action with a proper Windfall Tax
  • Lib Dem Bill to ban prepayment meters seeks to protect vulnerable from exploitation
  • Interest rates: A hammer blow and the blame lies squarely with the Government

Shell Profits: Sunak has failed to take action with a proper Windfall Tax

Responding the energy giant Shell making record profits of over £68 billion in 2022, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

No company should be making these kind of outrageous profits out of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukra ine.

Rishi Sunak was warned as chancellor and now as Prime Minister that we need a

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Lib Dem success on sewage in Commons

Yesterday, the Conservatives caved into the Liberal Democrat campaign to end sewage discharges into rivers, by accepting the party’s amendment which stops taxpayers money going to water companies unless the discharges stop.

Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord tabled the amendment to the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill, which originally allowed water companies to benefit from loans from the bank, even though they are paying their executives huge bonuses and giving shareholders generous dividends while allowing sewerage to be discharged into rivers and coastal waters.

The change to the Bill means the UK Infrastructure Bank can only fund water companies if they produce a costed and timed plan for ending sewage discharges into rivers.

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Ed Davey on kinship care and his experience

Ed Davey spoke to Jason Farrell, Sky News’ home editor about his own experience of kinship caring. Ed explained his grandparent’s involvement in his own upbringing and how his maternal grandfather and mother were critical to looking after him after the death of this father when he was just four. Ed spoke movingly, at times tearfully, about his mother’s illness and how that created strain between his mother and grandmother. When his mother died 11 years later, his grandparents looked after him full-time while living with the loss of their only child. Kinship care, where grandparents are supported and encouraged in looking after grandchildren alongside foster or adoptive parents, is the best form of care he says.

 

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Rishi Sunak’s first 100 days have left typical family £1,200 poorer

A typical family has been left almost £1,200 poorer in the 100 days since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The party warned that families across the country are suffering from the “cost of Conservative chaos”, as housing costs, taxes and rising energy and food bills all eat into their incomes.

The research shows that a typical squeezed middle household with a mortgage will have seen extra costs of £1,170 in the 100 days since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister on 25th October. This is made up of £822 in extra mortgage interest payments, £132 …

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1 February 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems plan to block taxpayer money for water companies unless they commit to end sewage discharges
  • Raab: PM should publish Cabinet Office advice and give evidence to the inquiry
  • Raab denial: Prime Minister is taking the public for fools

Lib Dems plan to block taxpayer money for water companies unless they commit to end sewage discharges

Liberal Democrat MP slams “a blank cheque written with taxpayers’ money to fund polluting, profiteering firms”.

Today, the Liberal Democrats are seeking to ensure the Government’s new Infrastructure Bank does not invest in water companies unless they produce a costed and time-limited plan to end sewage discharges into local rivers.

MPs will vote on a new Bill which would enshrine into law the UK Infrastructure Bank. Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord has tabled an amendment to ensure strict sewage discharge conditions are placed on water companies before they can receive funds from the proposed Infrastructure Bank.

The Liberal Democrat MP slammed taxpayers’ funds going to water companies as “scandalous”, amid water companies paying their executives millions of pounds in bonuses, while permitting voluminous sewage discharges.

Analysis of Companies House records by the Liberal Democrats found that the twenty-two water bosses paid themselves £24.8 million, including £14.7 million in bonuses, benefits and incentives in 2021/2022. This is despite destructive sewage discharges in rivers and on seafronts, harming both wildlife and swimmers.

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton & Honiton Richard Foord said:

It would be a scandal if taxpayers’ money was given to the same firms that continue to poison our rivers and coastlines.

Without adding strict sewage conditions to the bill, it will be a blank cheque for taxpayers’ money to fund these polluting, profiteering firms.

These are the very same water companies that line their executives’ pockets with bonuses worth millions of pounds. Now they expect public money to bail out the companies and patch up the leaking pipes they’ve long neglected.

My own constituency has suffered from regular sewage gushing onto beaches and into our rivers. Until that stops, the Government shouldn’t be throwing taxpayers’ money at water companies.

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++ Breaking news ++ Commons backs Lib Dem amendment on sewage dumping

In a rare Lib Dem success, Richard Foord’s amendment to the Infrastructure Bank Bill has been passed by MPs. It’s actually about sewage, as he explains.

A more detailed analysis to follow tomorrow.

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How to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and the recession

The government is not providing the same level of support from April as they have this tax year. From April an average household and pensioners, not on pension credit, living in a band A to D Council Tax property will have £1050 less support for their energy bills than this year. Someone on benefits next year will only receive £900. If they live in a band A to D Council Tax property they will have £800 less support for their energy bills than this year.

To ensure people are not worse off next tax year than this year the government should restore the energy price cap back to £2500, restore the £400 for all households; increase the £300 for pensioners to £450; and increase the income tax personal allowance and the National Insurance threshold to £13,040, which will provide those earning above £13,040 with £150.40.

To help finance this measure and ensure that those on above average earnings do not benefit to the full extent from the support the government should introduce a temporary new Income Tax rate of 22% for those earning more than average earnings (£38,000) and increase temporarily by 2% the higher tax rate to 42% and the additional tax rate to 47%. When the energy support ends these temporary rates should be abolished.

Also to help finance this the government should adopt our party’s policy of closing the loopholes in the current windfall tax by ensuring it applies to super-profits accrued since October 2021; scrapping carve-outs that allow oil and gas giants to offset their tax liabilities against investments they were going to make anyway; and setting a target of raising no less than £10 billion over one year, in line with similar taxes implemented in other European countries.

The government should also extend the energy support for businesses for another 12 months until 31st March 2024.

The support for households is likely to reduce forecast inflation by 1% and extending the current energy support for businesses is likely to reduce forecast inflation by a further 2%.

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If I were a teacher would I strike?

I taught in schools and colleges for most of my professional life. At one stage I chaired our local union branch and joined in a couple of strikes. So you can guess where my sympathies lie with the current school strikes.

Now I don’t argue for pay parity between the public and private sectors of industry. In many areas of the economy the gap in pay between the top and the bottom of industry is eye-wateringly wide and contributes to inequality right across society. Simply copying what I see as immoral practices in the public sector would simply compound the problem. Instead the public sector, including education, should model a fair and equitable earnings distribution.

Teachers were put under huge strain during lockdown. Their teaching practices changed from day to day, many doing a combination of in-person and online teaching, they took on extra health risks, they had to keep adjusting their teaching plans to match the latest assessment/examination requirements – and doing all this while trying to home educate their own children.

As one teacher told The Guardian:

Teachers are on their knees. I absolutely love my job, I am still passionate after 25 years and have never considered leaving but every year a little more is asked and expected of us: we’re dealing with the creeping effects of growing class sizes, teaching assistants disappearing from the system, higher levels of poverty, inadequate school budgets. This week alone I have worked almost 11 hours’ overtime.

This is not just about pay, it’s about the workload and the impact this has on the students.

Ah yes, workload. Throughout my career I was generally treated as a professional, but not always. One boss would indulge in staff re-organisations every five years or so and that inevitably meant signing a new contract if you wanted a job in the new structure. And the new contracts always increased workload, whether measured in teaching hours or class size. I felt I was being treated as a functionary, hired to do a task. I loved my job, and loved teaching my students, and would normally put in 55 to 60 hours work per week, and far more than most people might think during the “holidays”.

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee punches above its weight

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently published its report Sustainability of local journalism.

A Select Committee established in 1997, it oversees the operations of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which replaced the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which also replaced the Department for National Heritage. The members are five Conservative MPs, three Labour MPs and one Scottish Nationalist MP. The Chair of the Select Committee is Julian Knight (Conservative MP Solihull) “who announced he was recusing himself from Parliament until a complaint made about him to the Metropolitan Police has been resolved”, with Rt Hon Damian Green (Conservative MP Ashford) currently the Acting Chair. Dr Rupa Huq MP is an Independent member, suspended by the Labour Party in September 2022 pending an investigation into her alleged racist comments made at a conference fringe event. Since 2015, no Liberal Democrat MP has served on the Committee, John Leech (MP Manchester Worthington) being the last Liberal Democrat MP appointed to it, replacing Adrian Sanders (Torbay) on 21 January 2013.

In the wake of most independent local newspapers vanishing, the report argues “much of the evidence we received was critical of the corporate publishers, arguing they have presided over a reduction in the quality of journalism from their titles to maximise profits“.

Singled out for special attention is Reach plc, “which publishes some 130 national and local news titles” – notably MEN, the mighty Manchester Evening News. Reach plc told the Committee it is “undergoing a transition towards a digital-based business model, though 75% of its revenues continue to come from print”. The company highlighted several examples of its own self-funded innovation and collaborations with partners, including the development of the “InYourArea local news aggregator platform“. This is email-harvesting to send free subscribers an artificial mix of local news locked into highly targeted local advertising. Trying to send regional Press Releases to the mighty MEN is now tricky, as messages are channelled to a hyperlocal satellite newspaper under the InYourArea brand, such as the hollowed out Stockport Express boasting “trusted news since 1822” at £1.80 an issue. Time will tell if the nationwide InYourArea brand will flourish, with over 300 InYourArea areas in Greater Manchester alone.

The Committee Report draws attention to how Reach plc has straddled its local news gathering and dissemination capabilities with the BBC local news gathering service. Mutual benefit sure; a Trojan Horse in waiting perhaps. A far cry from the successful emergence of a string of real grassroot independent community newspapers: Didsbury Post, Heatons Post, Cheadle Post and Bramhall Post, albeit printed by the printing services wing of Reach plc: “Every day, we manage the delivery of around 2.7 million products for hundreds of clients“.

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31 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Suspend Raab, say Lib Dems
  • IMF forecast “damning verdict on Conservative Government”
  • Conservative Record on Businesses ‘in tatters’ as dam bursts on insolvency rates
  • Jane Dodds to Vote to Protect Welsh Farmers
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats Call for Negotiated Solution on Teachers’ Strikes

Suspend Raab, say Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats have called on Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to be suspended, following reports which have emerged alleging that at least 24 civil servants have complained about his conduct.

In November 2022, Rishi Sunak opened a formal investigation into Dominic Raab after formal complaints were made by officials about his conduct in the workplace. Now, reports have alleged that the number of complainants is potentially as many as 30 individuals.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain has written to the Prime Minister, calling for Raab to be suspended for the duration of the investigation into his conduct, given the reported scale of complaints against him.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain commented:

The reported scale of the allegations against Dominic Raab raises real questions for Rishi Sunak. Why hasn’t the Prime Minister suspended Raab yet, for the duration of this inquiry?

Rishi Sunak promised to govern with integrity but I’m afraid his track record so far is the opposite. Scandal after scandal continues to emerge about various members of the Cabinet, yet Sunak is incapable of doing the right thing and taking decisive action.

From Zahawi to Raab, from Braverman to Williamson, the British public are fed up with Conservative sleaze which sadly appears to have taken root at the very heart of government.

IMF forecast “damning verdict on Conservative Government”

Commenting on the new IMF forecast which shows the UK as the only major economy to shrink, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP:

This is a damning verdict on the Conservative Government. High inflation, high-interest rates and high energy bills have left our country and hardworking families and pensioners suffering as a result.

While Number 10 lurches from one sleaze scandal to another people up and down the country are suffering from their incompetence and mismanagement. People deserve better than this Conservative shambles.

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Keeping prisoners safe – and discussing these matters responsibly

There has been screaming controversy in the media for days now about a Scottish transgender woman who has been convicted of rape. Many misleading media reports have suggested that she would have to be accommodated within a women’s prison. There was outrage when she was initially taken to Cornton Vale women’s prison where she was held away from other prisoners while initial risk assessments were carried out over a 72 hour period.

Once that risk assessment was completed, unsurprisingly, she was moved away from Cornton Vale to HMP Edinburgh. There are few clearer statements of the obvious  than that anyone convicted of sexual assault, violence or raping women should not be incarcerated alongside women.  It was never going to happen in this case or in any other with such a record. There are procedures in place to protect prisoners from other prisoners who might harm them.

The Scottish Prison Service did its job properly.

In all parts of the UK, every prisoner is risk assessed for all sorts of things when they enter prison. Do they have a history of violence? Is there anyone in custody who might be a danger to them? Are they a danger to anyone on the prison estate? Is it safe to allow them to share a cell? That assessment determines the safest place for them and everyone else.

Unfortunately, the media has not missed an opportunity to print scare stories about trans women and the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. As this has been unfairly blocked by the UK Government, it clearly has no relevance in this case. But even if the prisoner had a Gender Recognition Certificate under the current system, it would have absolutely no effect on where she will serve her sentence. Conflating the two issues, and suggesting that trans women are a danger to other women is wrong and irresponsible.

Scotland’s Equality Network has a very useful Twitter thread explaining the issues involved in this case.

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Spring Festival: What shall we call it?

The celebration of a New Year to welcome spring is practised by many people in East and Southeast Asia. The celebration is usually referred as the Spring Festival in China. Chinese people and the Chinese diaspora generally greet each other with Happy New Year or Prosperous New Year (in Mandarin, Cantonese and the many other Chinese dialects). In some other East and Southeast Asian countries, for example Vietnam, the celebration is called ‘Tet’ and the Vietnamese would greet each other in their language with Happy New Year. Similarly, the Koreans celebrate ‘Seollal’ and greet each other in Korean with Happy or Lucky New Year.

Japan used to have a similar celebration but adopted the Gregorian New Year in 1873. In Tibet, the celebration is known as ‘Losar’, which means New Year and the dates are based on the Tibetan calendar. It should also be noted that within East and Southeast Asia there are communities and countries that have their own New Year, such as the Islamic New Year or Hijri New Year. Buddhists, depending on the sect they belong to, will celebrate Mahayana New Year and Theravada New Year.

Nobody in the East and Southeast Asian countries that celebrates the coming of spring says Happy Chinese New Year, Happy Vietnamese New Year or Happy Korean New Year amongst themselves in their own languages. Neither do people say Happy Lunar New Year in their own languages. The problem of what to call the celebration of the coming of spring stems from attempts to differentiate a New Year celebrated by a vast number of people, based on the moon, with the solar Gregorian New Year on 1st January. By the way, the dates for the Spring Festival are not based on a lunar calendar but a lunisolar calendar, which combines both lunar and solar elements.

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How much does your constituency regret Brexit?

New data based on a survey by Focaldata for UnHerd maps current opinions on leaving the EU by constituency. Published on the third anniversary of the UK leaving the EU, it shows that opinion has shifted since the Brexit referendum. The survey estimates that half of in England, Scotland and Wales think it was wrong to leave the EU (54%) while only a quarter Brexit was the right move (28%).

Regretting leaving the EU is not the same as wanting to rejoin. But there is a growing swell of people who wish to rejoin as I discussed here on LDV on Sunday.

This MRP analysis is potentially very important as it gives a guide to where it is beneficial for Liberal Democrats to campaign on a pro-EU ticket. Whether that is campaigning to rejoin or to forge closer relations with the EU is a matter for campaign strategy, national and local policy.

In every constituency except three, more people think that Brexit was a mistake than think it was right. The three dissenters are in east Lincolnshire, and only Boston has more people thinking Brexit was nothing they regret.

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30 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Zahawi – Sunak must withdraw Conservative Whip
  • ONS winter survey: A damning verdict on the Government’s record

Zahawi – Sunak must withdraw Conservative Whip

The Liberal Democrats have written to Rishi Sunak calling on him to withdraw the Conservative whip from Nadhim Zahawi.

In a letter to Sunak sent today, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said that Zahawi has shown he is not fit to represent his constituents, and that if he refuses to resign as an MP then he should have the Conservative whip withdrawn.

It comes after Nadhim Zahawi refused to apologise for failing to come clean about his tax affairs and …

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Welcome to my day – 30 January 2023: tax still shouldn’t be taxing…

I spent a chunk of my weekend completing my 2021/22 Self Assessment tax return. Yes, I know, “left it a bit late, didn’t you, Mark?”. Luckily, my tax return isn’t terribly complicated once I’ve found the required bits of information online and elsewhere.

Nadhim Zahawi appears to have had a rather more complex task or, should I say, his tax advisors. That’s partly a problem of his own creation – offshore trust funds aren’t obligatory – and partly the increasingly complex web of tax law in this country.

There is little doubt that, the more complex the tax system is, the more need there is for professional tax advisors and the more scope there is for creative uncertainty. The more you try to create opportunities in an effort to encourage what the Government of the day believes is desirable behaviour, the more you invite terribly clever people to find ways of taking advantage of the unintended consequences of those changes. People tend, often, to reduce their personal tax burden if they can. Wealthier people can pay to find the more obscure means of doing so, and the British legal and accounting professions are very, very good at delivering the desired outcome.

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28-29 January 2023 – the weekend’s (other) press releases

  • Richard Sharp: Publish Boris Johnson’s hidden register of interests

    Richard Sharp: Publish Boris Johnson’s hidden register of interests

    The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to publish Boris Johnson’s internal register of ministerial interests including details of the personal loan he received.

    It comes as the Sunday Times reports that Boris Johnson was formally told by the Cabinet Office to stop asking Richard Sharp for “advice” about his “personal financial matters.

    It is reported that details about the loan were included in Johnson’s own declaration in the internal register of ministers’ interests, parts of which are not made public.

    Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy

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ULEZ victory for Lib Dem Assembly Members

It’s just seven months till London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone expands across all boroughs, making millions more of the capital’s residents liable for charges. For a small vehicle like a car, the daily charge is £12.50.

This week, London’s Liberal Democrat Assembly members passed an amendment to the scheme which aims to help residents with the impact, including providing more buses:

Our amendment would:

  •  double the scrappage scheme with an additional £100 million and to allow Blue Badge holders to apply
  •  invest £25 million in bus services in Outer London, including demand-responsive buses such as Go Sutton Bus

You can see Caroline Pidgeon’s speech proposing it here:

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What has Brexit done for us?

Next Tuesday will be the third birthday of the UK’s exit from the EU. I can see nothing to celebrate though we might expect champagne corks to pop in Jacob Rees Mogg Land.

With hindsight it was like a pantomime. Campaigns of lies, deceptions and bluster. An Olympic competition for the biggest lie.

The referendum on 23 June 2016 saw a high turnout of 72.2%, with 48.1% against and a winning 51.9% in favour, though Scotland voted against. The UK duly left the EU at 11pm Friday 31 January 2020.

In the fantasy land occupied by Boris Johnson (now raking in the cash), Jacob Rees Mogg (now of GB news) and some newspapers, everything since then has been glorious. But that is a political fiction.

People realise that. In a poll published by the i this weekend, 49% of those that expressed a view wanted to rejoin the EU and 51% were against. That’s the closest margin yet.

The tide is turning against the Brexiteers.

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Thoughts from Holocaust Memorial Day

I’d watched a TV programme, been to an event with asylum seekers, and they told me about a talk by a local historian on the Jews on Teesside.

Several things, apart from remembering the atrocities of the genocide of the Jews, struck me hard.

The role of “ordinary people” in the genocide.  I hadn’t realised before how those who had been friends and neighbours were going along to see the spectacle of Jews being shot and falling into the trench to be buried.  How harassed some of the children were by fellow countrymen were as they set off on the Kindertransport to safety.  When listening to Skimstone Radio | Skimstone Arts with the asylum seekers we heard also of more subtle ways of causing distress, adding to what people were already going through.

The gas chambers did not happen overnight, the climate for such builds up, and this link Holocaust Memorial Day Trust | The ten stages of genocide (hmd.org.uk) leads to a description of the ten stages of genocide.  I won’t go into the detail of those stages here, but reading them brings it home how many of those steps resonate with current attitudes fostered by Government and right wing media.  The whole country may view with horror what happened in the genocide, but can everyone look at those 10 steps and say that as “ordinary people” they are not part of it in any way?

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Zahawi sacking: Cooper calls for inquiry into what PM knew

As Nadhim Zahawi finally and inevitably gets the boot, Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper has called for an inquiry into what Rishi Sunak knew and when. She also said Zahawi should quit as an MP.

Rishi Sunak has finally acted after spending days defending the indefensible on Nadhim Zahawi. It should never have taken him this long to act. Sunak’s first 100 days in office have been tarnished by endless Conservative sleaze and scandals.

Serious questions remain about what Sunak knew about Zahawi’s tax affairs when he appointed him. We need a proper independent inquiry to establish the facts and hold the Prime Minister to account.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

France and Germany

The Franco-German alliance is wobbling. As if to emphasise the problem, this past weekend the entire German cabinet decamped to Versailles in an attempt to improve relations.

The relationship between Paris and Berlin is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. It has been held since 1960 when Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer ended a century of war and suspicion at Reims Cathedral.

Some of the current problems can be attributed to the egos of Macron and Scholz. President Macron makes no secret of his desire to lead Europe. Unfortunately the French economy does not match its president’s ambitions. At the same time the rather colourless Chancellor Olof Scholz is having difficulty filling the over-sized shoes of his predecessor Angela Merkel.

The personal relationship between the two leaders is complicated by important policy differences over China, Ukraine, Russia and energy. Scholz encourages trade with China. Macron is more diffident. The French president also wanted the German Chancellor’s recent visit to Beijing to be a joint Franco-German affair. Scholz refused.

On energy, the French are annoyed that the Germans failed to foresee the problems of dependence Russian oil and gas and remain reluctant to build nuclear power plants. About 70 percent of French energy is nuclear while in Germany it is only 12 percent.

Then there is Ukraine. The French – along with most of the rest of France and Germany’s allies – are annoyed that almost every scrap of German military and economic aid has to be dragged out of the Scholz government. When it comes the aid is often generous, but the “frank discussions” that precede it are causing friction.

India

Don’t mess with the BBC. That should have been the message that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heeded before trying to ban a documentary attacking him.  The BBC has 22,000 staff, 192 million radio listeners, 294 million television  viewers, the world’s most visited news website. Distribution deals with television networks around the world, and the most trusted brand in world journalism.

None of the above, however, stopped Modi from banning a two-part documentary entitled “India: the Modi Question” from being shown or distributed in India.

The documentary was not Modi friendly. In fact, it was extremely unfriendly The programme strongly implied that Modi climbed to power on the back of divisive Hindu nationalism. Also that while Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 he stood aside and allowed Hindu rioters to massacre 1,000 Muslims . That was part one. In Part two, the documentary accused Modi of trying to disenfranchise the Muslim minority; suppressing freedom of speech, assembly and the press, intimidating his political opponents and moving the world’s largest democracy towards an authoritarian Hindu state.

So, the programme was not re-broadcast on Indian television. But the ban was reported in the Indian press. The resultant publicity meant that  tens of millions viewed it on the internet and at special showings at Indian universities. And as they watched the viewers would have asked: If it isn’t true why has Modi banned it? Of what is he frightened? And finally they thought: the BBC is usually reliable.

The documentary ended with a diplomat saying that the Western world is turning a blind eye to Modi’s political excesses. He said that India was too important as an economy and a counterweight to Chinese influence in Asia.

Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock this week moved to 90 seconds to midnight. This is the closest it has ever been to nuclear Armageddon. The minute hand has been moved to its news dangerous position mainly because of the war in Ukraine.

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Observations of an expat: Ukraine tanks conundrum

Supplying tanks to Ukraine is not as simple a matter as it may appear at first glance.

It is an issue that is interwoven with competing and overlapping problems of military strategy, political pitfalls, German guilt, Russian nationalism and expansionist ambitions, Ukrainian self-determination, nuclear blackmail, the long-term prospects for peace in Eastern Europe and the age-old battle of good versus evil.

The solution to send perhaps a total of 200 tanks from various NATO countries to Zelensky’s army is insufficient to satisfy the Ukrainians and more than enough to fuel the Russian propaganda machine.

Ukraine is flat tank country. Ukraine wants NATO tanks – especially the German Leopards – to launch a counter-offensive to regain territory.

NATO initially rushed to Ukraine’s aid with defensive equipment; primarily anti-tank and anti-missile weaponry to stop the massive Russian tank attack from Belarus and to blunt Russian artillery barrages.

It worked. In fact, better than expected. So much so that Volodomyr Zelensky appears determined to build on his success to drive the Russians out of all the territory which Ukraine has lost since 2014 (and Russia has annexed) including Crimea.

This would seem quite reasonable as international law is quite-rightly wedded to the principle of self-determination and in 1994 Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders and its territorial integrity in return for Ukraine relinquishing its nuclear weapons and signing the nuclear non- proliferation treaty.

But Eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian-speaking. The majority of its inhabitants have traditionally looked east to Moscow. As for Crimea, it has been Russian since 1783 and one of Moscow’s most important naval centres.

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27 January 2023 – today’s press release

Hunt’s speech is cold comfort for families and pensioners

Responding to Jeremy Hunt’s speech this morning, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This Conservative party sounds like an unfaithful partner asking for yet another chance – but after crashing the economy and sending mortgages sky-high – why should we trust them again?

Jeremy Hunt’s speech is cold comfort for families and pensioners facing unbearable price rises.

This Government’s economic record is nothing less than a shambles and the British public will see right through this desperate attempt by yet another Conservative Chancellor to rewrite history.

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ALDC by-election report: 26th January 2023

Laying the groundwork in the north…

A solitary by-election occurred this week, in Rotherham Council. In 2021, Keppel ward returned 2 Labour and 1 localist councillor, of the Rotherham Democratic Party. Last night saw a surge of 12% in the Lib Dem vote, with Khoulod Ghanem achieving 445 votes, 300 behind Labour.

Also notable was the collapse in Conservative vote, going down by 25% compared to the previous election in this ward.

Rotherham is a region where we’re a growing presence, gaining 3 seats in 2021. This is a fantastic result for the party making in-roads to new areas of the city. Going from coming last out of 5 parties, in a ward where we didn’t stand a full slate of candidates for the all up elections, to coming second in less than 2 years is excellent. This is what we can achieve when we stand candidates and campaign! Really well done to everyone involved, a solid basis to win in the future! Full results below:

Keppel, Rotherham MBC

LAB: 745 (36.0%, -3.0%)

LDEM: 445 (21.5%, +12.6%)

IND: 381 (18.4%, +18.4%)

YP: 314 (15.2%, +0.2%)

CON: 119 (5.8%, -25.0%)

GRN: 59 (2.9%, +2.9%)

No RDP (Rotherham Democratic Party)

LAB GAIN from RDP.

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News out of Outer Mongolia

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Outer Mongolia is a very large independent truly democratic country, landlocked between a pair multi-ethnic giant empires: the sprawling Russian Federation and the multi-ethic Inner Mongolia within the realm of China.

Mongolia enjoyed a huge economic boom from investments by the Soviet Union and its Comecon satellites in eastern Europe notably East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslavakia and Poland. The Mongol workers and elite became fluent bilingual Russian-Mongolian, and a second huge construction boom in military construction ensued as a bulwark against China in the Soviet-China Cold War.  At the peak of booms, disintegration of the Soviet Block and Comecon triggered immediate collapse of Mongolia’s economy due to abrupt loss of all its export markets, spare parts and technicians. Peaceful revolution to democracy succeeded.

Today older Mongol elites speak fluent Russian, but the under 50’s have ditched Russian in favour of English as the second language in Ulaanbaatar: my 22-year old Mongol daughter Mandukhai (“Mandy”) teaches in the capital and is fluent in English. On Skype today she mentioned that the daytime temperature was in the minus 30°Cs and tonight may reach minus 40°C. Ulaanbaatar is the world’s coldest capital city in winter!

Into this harsh land, trickle escapees from the Russian Federation. Much can be gleaned in an article by Antonio Graceffo: Russians escaping Putin’s war face tough sanctuary in Mongolia.

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Holocaust Memorial Day: Review of “Jews don’t count” by David Baddiel

There are few books that I have read which have made me stop, think and completely re-evaluate my world view. “Jews don’t count” by David Baddiel was one of them and without a doubt the most important book I read last year.

The author’s argument is simple. There is a gap in the UK and much of the West for recognising Anti-Semitism and standing up against it. He directs his argument not against would be racists but quite deliberately at those who see themselves as progressives. The author frankly states that his personal belief as a British Jew that progressives treat Anti-Semitism as a lower-class concern compared to other forms of racism. The author believes this is the case for two main reasons, because Jews are seen by progressives as being privileged and not a true ethnic minority and therefore white. One is a shameful and misleading stereotype and the other is factually incorrect.

Much of the book consists of Twitter exchanges between the author and other commenters. These are chosen to illustrate the various ways that such people have sought to trivialise David Baddiel raising the spectre of Anti-Semitism. Many of these examples are really quite worrying. Baddiel seems to have quite a good grip on the characteristics and drawbacks for how such debates are held on social media. One thing has to trump another. It is about “owning” not discussing. In between nuance is lost. This has meant that when David Baddiel has called for Anti-Semitism to be given the same level of recognition as Black Lives Matter, sadly some supporters of the latter have seen this as a competition.

Sometimes it takes a good author to articulate what you have been thinking for a while. I thought that when he talked about those who seek to trivialise or downgrade the tragedy of the Holocaust (labelled as a genocide of “whites”), to allow for recognition of more “black” genocide’s such as King Leopold’s reign of the Belgian Congo. This is something that I have personally witnessed on internet debates and have found quite shocking. Is this world so full of suffering that we have to degrade ourselves further by having some kind of genocide Olympics to see which was the worst? Why can’t we just be united in acknowledging that all such chapters are shameful and should never have been allowed to happen? These are difficult things to talk about and confront, yet it is important that we do.

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Report of the FCC meeting – motions selection

The new Federal Conference Committee had its first motion selection meeting on Saturday, 21 January to run through the motions on the agenda for the Spring 2023 conference in York – the dates for conference at 17 to 19 March 2023.

If you haven’t had a chance to register yet for conference, you can do so here.

Going back a little further, at the end of 2022 the committee met shortly after the new federal elections and elected its officers, established its subcommittees, and started work on preparing objectives and a work plan for the term of office.

I am delighted to have been re-elected as Chair of the Federal Conference Committee. Cara Jenkinson and Jon Ball were elected as Vice Chairs of the committee.

The Federal Conference Committee has two standing subcommittees, each of which is chaired by one of the Vice Chairs. The General Purposes Sub-Committee (GPSC) is chaired by Jon Ball, The GPSC oversees many of the operational matters of conference, including finances, venues, rates, and party bodies. The Conference Communications Group (CCG) is chaired by Cara Jenkinson. The CCG has responsibility for communications, marketing, membership engagement and engagement.

Furthermore, at that meeting we established the Innovation Working Group, which will start work on developing new ideas and concepts for conference, I will be sharing more about this group over the next few months.

We also established a Constitutional and Standing Orders Working Group, chaired by Duncan Brack, which will be looking at how we keep Conference’s standing orders updated and assisting the Innovation Working Group with any changes that may need to be made to the standing orders.

At this meeting we also agreed provisional objectives for the Federal Conference Committee over the next three years, I will share more on our objectives soon.

Back to Saturday, it has been a while since we’ve had an in-person Spring conference, and we are all very much looking forward to returning to the Barbican and the Novotel in York.

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26 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Government Not Monitoring GP Waiting Times
  • HMRC and Zahawi investigation: Sunak must rule out a stitch up
  • £220,000 Johnson bailout fund for “cost-of-lying crisis”

Welsh Government Not Monitoring GP Waiting Times

  • Information obtained by the Welsh Liberal Democrats shows the Welsh Government has no idea how long waiting times for GPs are across Wales.
  • The Welsh Liberal Democrats claim this hinders the Welsh Government’s ability to see where resources should be directed to help local health boards.

The Welsh Government is not collecting data on how long GP waiting times are across Wales according to information uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats. This is despite …

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Richard Foord tables bill on wild camping in national parks

Dartmoor was the only area of England and Wales where under a local law there had been an assumed right to wild camp without the landowner’s permission. However a High Court judge ruled earlier this month that this was legally wrong and permission was needed. That affects not only casual wild campers but also schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme.

A limited agreement for camping access with some landowners on has been agreed. But concern remains that an already restricted right of access to camp is being restricted further. Following the decision, wild camping outside of a designated campsite without the landowner’s permission is no longer legal anywhere in England and Wales.

Yesterday, Richard Foord, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, tabled a bill in the House of Commons – the National Parks (Camping) Bill.

 

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