Wendy Chamberlain highlights under-representation of women in key areas of Police Scotland

Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain has today unveiled new analysis showing that women are under-represented in many areas of Police Scotland and warned that lack of proper funding could reverse progress in increasing diversity.

Analysis by the party ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March, reveals that:

  • There are almost twice as many male police officers (11,064) as there are female police officers (5,549).
  • Among those ranked Inspector or above, the disparity is even larger, with 900 male officers and 350 female officers.
  • The number of female PCs has actually fallen by 54 since 2021.
  • Despite women outnumbering men by 3,621 to 2,247 among Police Scotland’s civilian staff roles, the top roles remain male-dominated with 58 men reaching Grade 11 and above compared to 34 women.

In 2022 a report by Dame Louise Casey warned that an “anything goes” culture had been allowed to develop in the Met with racists, misogynists and criminals allowed to stay in the force.

On Friday a review was published into how off-duty Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens was able to abduct, rape and murder Sarah Everard, which recommended improving vetting and examined the extent to which any issues relating to his behaviour, particularly in relation to women, were known and raised by colleagues.

Wendy, a former Police Officer herself, said:

This is an area where Police Scotland need to do more. It was an area that the 2018 Angiolini Review highlighted and the outgoing Chief Constable agreed.

As Police Scotland goes forward under Jo Farrell’s new leadership, it must reflect on these numbers, closely and carefully, and take meaningful steps to ensure that the police service is as diverse as the public it serves.

Within the service, staff surveys should be regularly on offer so that issues can be identified early on and discriminatory practices and behaviours rooted out.

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Welsh Conference Round-up – Saturday

Today Welsh Liberal Democrats debated local government funding and set out their stall for the General Election.

More funding for Councils

According to estimates from the Welsh Local Government Association, councils in Wales are facing funding pressures of £720m in 2024-25, with real term funding for Local government’s being 12% lower in 2023-24 than it was in 2009-10.

The Welsh Lib Dems are now calling on the Welsh Government to to work towards restoring real terms local government funding to 2009-10 levels.

Jane Dodds said:

Our local authorities here in Wales have been left to deal on their own with a severe funding gap, created by the financial mismanagement of the UK Conservative government.

I know many councils have had to make some difficult decisions when it comes to their budgets for this coming financial year, which is why we have passed this motion today.

We as a party are calling for extra funding for our struggling local authorities here in Wales, to stem the tide of public service cuts and increases in council tax.

The Welsh Government must finally get their act together and put in place a long-term manageable plan to help restore local government funding back to where it was in 2009/10.

Welsh Lib Dem PPC for Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney Jackie Charlton said:

I am extremely proud that we have passed this motion today calling for extra funding for local authorities across Wales.

It is no secret that councils across Wales have been presented with the difficult task of setting their budgets for the upcoming financial year in the shadow of an economic crisis that has gripped this country.

Difficult decisions around cutting public services and raising costs have sadly become the reality for many councillors in Wales facing an astronomical funding gap.

The UK Conservative government, through blatant disregard, have completely crashed our economy. And have forced ordinary working people to pick up the pieces and tidy up a mess created by years of Tory government

A fair deal for Wales

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Welsh Lib Dems hold Conference in Cardiff

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are holding their Spring Conference in Cardiff this weekend.

They’ll be debating what makes a fair deal for Wales, childcare, support for farmers, businesses and tourism, local government funding and attracting graduate to Wales. They’ll also debate whether to remove the controversial 2o mph limit on restricted roads across Wales.

Ahead of the Conference, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds said:

“We currently find ourselves in difficult circumstances, surrounded by economic uncertainty and global instability that has clouded our future.

Our economic woes and current deprivation of public services have been fuelled by an indifferent UK Conservative government intent on running our country into the ground.

Never before or since have we been faced with a government so out of touch with the needs of its people.

Meanwhile, Labour have been too busy moving the goalposts and changing their promises to offer anything substantial for the people of Wales.

If you want to get rid of the conservatives, don’t vote Labour.

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Observations of an Expat: Middle East Movement

Finally, there appears to be a glimmer of progress on the Gaza front.

In the unlikely venue of a New York ice cream parlour, President Joe Biden, revealed this week that he is hopeful for a ceasefire by Monday.

And almost simultaneously, Muhammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, resigned to make way for a reorganised government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip which could provide an outside chance of leading to recognition of a State of Palestine.

The departure of Shtayyeh comes amidst a flurry of diplomatic meetings involving American, British, EU, and Arab state officials in Riyadh, Paris and Doha.

What appears to be emerging is an agreement for a “temporary” ceasefire of “some weeks” which would involve the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages; the freeing of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and a massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

That appears to be the bones of a short-term agreement. The long-term is more problematic because it involves a revival of the two-state solution and recognition of a reconstituted Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state.

The idea was mooted back in January by British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron as part of a carrot and stick approach that involved British support for Israel as the flip side of the diplomatic coin.

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Facing the facts: a reality check for the Prime Minister

In his recent address the Prime Minister expressed concerns about internal forces threatening our nation’s unity.

This led me to ponder whether these forces include those that fuelled the divisive Brexit atmosphere, spearheaded by figures like Nigel Farage and the 21st-century version of Enoch Powell.

Our country has grappled with division since the Conservative Party’s risky move in Europe, fostering deep-seated animosity. It’s crucial to recognize that this hatred isn’t isolated to a particular group, Palestinian or Israeli; it has festered for over a decade.

Austerity measures, police force cuts, and reductions in vital social services initiated this discord. The poor grew poorer, while the affluent one percent thrived, with media playing a pivotal role in alienating the most marginalized in our society.

Does Mr. Sunak genuinely believe the British people have forgotten his former Home Secretary’s statement. Suella Braverman asserted:

The British people are compassionate. We will always support those genuinely homeless. But our streets cannot be overrun by rows of tents, housing people—many from abroad—living on the streets as a lifestyle choice.

So, I find myself questioning the Prime Minister: Who chooses to be homeless, and who chooses to be born poor? The reality is, no one does.

Under this Conservative government, marginalised society faces relentless attacks. As the party falters, we find ourselves in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, bringing ordinary folks to their knees. Our most vulnerable can’t afford to heat their homes, facing exorbitant electricity and gas bills. For many, it became a choice between heating or eating.

In a nation like Great Britain, such desperate measures should not be necessary.

The real problem, Mr. Sunak, lies in your party’s jingoism and love for populism. In Great Britain, we celebrate our diversity. When the Prime Minister urges us to face down extremists, will he start with his own party?

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1 March 2024 – today’s (other) press releases

  • Urgent theft from vehicle reports in London up 31%
  • Welsh Lib Dems look ahead towards Cardiff Spring conference

Urgent theft from vehicle reports in London up 31%

London is facing an epidemic of thefts from vehicles, new figures show.

Data obtained by Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), show that there has been a 31% increase in 999 calls relating to theft from vehicles since 2015 – the year before Sadiq Khan took office.

There were 27,584 theft from vehicle emergency reports in the capital in 2023 – up from 21,009 in 2015.

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate, Rob Blackie, said:

This is yet another damning indictment of Sadiq Khan’s record as Mayor over the last eight years. Londoners tell me they are worried about cars being broken into on their street. They want the police to act because the problem is getting so much worse.

We need every officer out there investigating crime and focusing on what’s important to Londoners. That’s why I will be ensuring that the Met spends less time wasting effort on stop and searches for cannabis and more time on tackling serious crime.

Fixing the Met will be my top priority and the Liberal Democrats will give it the funding and focus it needs.

Welsh Lib Dems look ahead towards Cardiff Spring conference

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will be hosting their annual Spring conference this weekend in Cardiff.

Over a two-day period (Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of March), party members are expected to be debating motions on Childcare, Local Government funding and providing a Fair Deal for Wales amongst others.

The conference will be opened by the Rt.Hon. The Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Bablin Molik, the first woman of colour to be appointed as the Lord Mayor of the Welsh capital.

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Ed Davey responds to Rishi Sunak’s speech today

Ed Davey has just responded to the Prime Minister’s speech:

The British people will take no lessons from a Prime Minister and Conservative party who have sowed the seeds of division for years.

This is the same Prime Minister who made Suella Braverman his Home Secretary and Lee Anderson his party’s Deputy Chairman.

If the Prime Minister is serious about bringing people together, he would call a General Election now, so that the British public can decide the future of our country.

 

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ALDC by-election report 29th February

It has been rare leap year by-election week. Thursday’s 5 council by-elections were the first to be held on February 29th since 1996 and though they were a mixed set of results we can still celebrate 2 excellent Lib Dem wins – and the fact that we stood in every single contest.

There were 2 by-elections on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council in Minster & Woodmansey and Tranby wards, both of which were Lib Dem defences. We recorded stonking victories in both of them thanks to a brilliant effort from the local team.

Councillor Tony Henderson held Minster & Woodmansey ward with over 50% of the vote and a majority of over 700, moving the Lib Dem share of the vote forwards by 9% too.

In Tranby ward Councillor Ross Harrison received 55% of the vote and a majority of 550. The Lib Dem vote share increased by 4%.

Congratulations to Tony, Ross and the Lib Dem team in the East Riding of Yorkshire on two brilliant wins!

East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Minster and Woodmansey
Liberal Democrats (Tony Henderson): 1438 (51%, +9%)
Conservative: 706 (25%, -4%)
Labour: 495 (17%, -12%)
Green Party: 198 (7%, new)

East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Tranby
Liberal Democrats (Ross Harrison): 958 (55%, +4.1%)
Labour: 408 (24%, +3.1%)
Conservative: 268 (15%, +3.7%)
Green Party: 97 (6%, -2.5%)

There were also 2 by-elections on Horsham District Council on Thursday.

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How can we find peace?

A couple of week ago, I responded to a post in a Facebook Group trying to create a grassroots movement for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The post challenged us to outline our vision for peace, this was my response:

My vision for Peace isn’t a detailed plan. Simply, it is that Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs, Christians, Jews and Muslims learn to accept each other, learn that to live in that small sliver of land between the River and the Sea they must share it with people with a different background, different history, different beliefs but with a shared hope that their children can grow & thrive without the threat of war.

If we can achieve that, the details of the political solution will be easy to decide; unless we can achieve that, no solution will succeed.

There are two other pieces of writing I want to share here.  The first is an (long) article written by an acquaintance in Notts Friends of Standing Together titled There is no Magic Peace Fairy.   It tries to examine how people on both sides have become blind to the suffering of those on the other side, why good people are trapped by their own history to ignore the fact that most people on the opposite side also trapped in their history.  It is a hard read and made think about my own preconceptions and how open was I to having them challenged.

The other is a novel written by Haviva Ner-David called Hope Valley.  Set in 2000, after the failure of the Clinton/Arafat/Brak Camp David Summit, mostly around a Moshav in the Galilee that was built on the ruins of a Palestinian village cleared by the Hagenah during the 1948 war and the neighbouring Palestinian village where some of the refugees from the ruined village now live.  It looks at the intertwined lives of two artists, both with a serious illness, both with deep links to the land both who need to overcome their own misunderstandings & preconceptions.

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Rochdale by-election – Lib Dem Iain Donaldson only mainstream party candidate to maintain vote

Waking up to the news that the divisive George Galloway has yet again been elected to Parliament is not what any liberal minded person ever wants to do.

Galloway topped the poll in Rochdale by over 6000 votes on a turnout of 39.7%. However, he is unlikely to be there for long given that there is a General Election coming very soon.

He won in a bitter campaign where both Labour and the Greens had disowned their candidates.

Here’s the result in full:

George Galloway (Workers Party of Britain) – 12,335 – 39.7% (+39.7%)
David Anthony Tully (Independent) – 6,638 – 21.3% (+21.3%)
Paul Ellison (Conservative) – 3,731 – 12% (-22%)
Azhar Ali (Labour’s disowned candidate) – 2,402 7.7% (-48.4%)
Iain Donaldson (Liberal Democrats) – 2,164 7% (0.0%)
Simon Danczuk (Reform UK) – 1,968 6.3% (Brexit Party got 8.2% in 2019)
William Howarth (Independent) – 523
Mark Coleman (Independent) – 455
Guy Otten (Green’s disowned candidate) – 436
Michael Howarth (Independent) – 246
Ravin Rodent Subortna (Monster Raving Loony Party) – 209

Massive thanks go to our Iain Donaldson and his agent, a veteran of many campaigns, Paul Trollope. If we are looking for positives, we are the only mainstream party to hold on to our General Election vote share which is no mean feat in a by-election like this.

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Everard Report: Khan still failing on women’s safety

Following the publication of the first report by The Angiolini Inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard, Lib Dem Mayoral candidate, Rob Blackie, has criticised the Mayor for his continued failures on London’s women’s safety.

Three years after the murder of Sarah Everard by a rogue Metropolitan Police officer, Blackie cites how sex offences have surged, recruitment of officers focused on sexual crime is failing, and public trust in the police has collapsed during Sadiq Khan’s time in office.

Sexual offences reported to the police in London rose from 16,147 in 2015 to 24,958 in 2023 – a rise of 54%. …

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Ed Davey: I have just returned from the Middle East

Ed Davey has been on a visit to Israel and Palestine. He has sent out this email:

I’ve just returned from a visit to Israel and Palestine.

The 7 October attacks and the ongoing conflict and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza have affected so many lives. They have also had a profound impact on many communities here in the UK.

I felt that it was vital to travel to the region and meet with those whose lives have been turned upside down these past few months, and speak to politicians and civil society leaders about how we get to an immediate bilateral ceasefire and a two state solution.

In the past few days I’ve heard the stories of people whose lives have been changed by this conflict: Itzik Horn, whose two sons are right now being held hostage by Hamas; Palestinians whose lives in the West Bank are now a misery, thanks to settler violence and huge restrictions on their ability to work and travel.

I also met the United Nations Humanitarian Agency, UNOCHA, hearing about how vital it is that the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza is ramped up immediately.

You can read all about my visit to the region, as well as what we’ve done as a party since 7 October, here:

Read more  ➜

Since my return, I’ve called on the UK Government to sanction two far-right, extremist Israeli ministers who are figureheads for the illegal settler movement, a movement that wants to ensure that a two-state solution is impossible, in breach of international law.

Read more  ➜

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Polly, the Liberal Democrats are on the case already

In the Guardian on Tuesday (February 27) Polly Toynbee wrote a powerful Opinion piece entitled (in the print version), ‘The Tories have miscalculated: Britons do care about poverty’. Quoting the Institute for Public Policy Research’s figures, that despite the increase in the local housing allowance from April, more than 800,000 renting households receiving housing benefit will still have to fund the gap between their rent and their benefit, Polly also cites a new Action for Children report finding that many families are falling below the breadline, even when both parents work full-time on the minimum wage.

‘The gap between what universal credit provides and what a family needs to survive is growing by the month’, she reports, with Citizens Advice apparently counting 5 million people trapped ‘on a negative budget’, with incomes that will never cover their bills, and 2.35 million going hungry. This ‘national emergency’, so named by the Child Poverty Action Group, has escalated sharply in the last two years.

It was in the York Spring Conference last year that our party passed motion F12, ‘Towards a Fairer Society’. This was based on the policy paper 150 of the same name, drawn up by a party policy working group in the previous winter. The motion states that Conference welcomes the paper’s proposals to ‘End deep poverty, including a radical overhaul of the welfare system, so no family ever has to use a food bank in Britain, by

  1. Taking immediate steps to repair the safety net, including restoring the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, introducing emergency grants (not loans) and stopping deducting debt repayments at unaffordable rates and
  2. Following this up in the longer term with fundamental reforms to the welfare system’.

Conference then decided to introduce a Guaranteed Basic Income by increasing Universal Credit to the level required to end deep poverty within a decade and removing sanctions. It was already party policy to remove the benefit cap.

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Three top tier Lib Dem candidates to speak at the Social Liberal Forum pre-conference lunch in York 

By the end of the year and after the next general election and the prospects are that we could have 30 or more Lib Dem MPs. In fact, if Nigel Farage decides to lead the Reform party and split the right wing vote even more we could easily win more seats from the Conservatives and have over 50 MPs.

So what would our new Parliamentary party look like?

Lib Dem conference in York officially starts at 4.30pm on the Friday 15th March. So we in the Social Liberal Forum have decided to organise our “pre-conference lunch” event earlier in the day with 3 top tier candidates; Bobby Dean (Carsharlton and Wallington), Victoria Collins (Harpenden and Berkhamsted) and Josh Babarinde (Eastbourne) as speakers.

They will talk about their personal journey from deciding to join the party to becoming candidates in these very marginal seats. They will discuss the challenges ahead, winning over Leave voters (both Carshalton and Eastbourne voted to leave the EU which explains why we lost those seats in 2019) and how MPs representing the prosperous “Blue Wall” seats may be able to work to benefit people living in the deprived communities in the “Red Wall” seats. They will also share their vision of what it means to be a Lib Dem MP in 2024 and beyond.

Tickets for this event are limited and must be bought in advance. So if you want to come along then book now and take advantage of the early bird rate. Book here: 2024 Pre-conference lunch – Social Liberal Forum

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On a Virtual Ward

Last week my husband, Ian, was bluelighted into Kingston Hospital. He was very unwell, and eventually – not immediately – they diagnosed Covid. He is clinically vulnerable because of a number of medical conditions, and we shielded carefully through full and partial lockdowns. Neither of us has had Covid up until now. Given the way it attacked him this time we could see why shielding had been essential for him before vaccines became available.

The A&E staff at the hospital were brilliant and he was kept for 48 hours in the Resus unit, but what I want to tell you about is what happened next. Ian was sent home on Saturday, with an oxygen supply and lots of pills, to a Virtual Ward. He was given a kit consisting of an internet Home Hub, a tablet, a wearable monitoring device that sits on his arm, a blood pressure device (to be used 4 times a day), a bespoke charger and an oximeter.

We were left on our own to set it up – even though I am tech savvy I did find that a bit daunting at the end of a tiring and stressful day. However the instructions were crystal clear and it all worked perfectly. His kit was made by Current Health but there are other brands in use.

Ian’s health data is being followed for 24 hours a day at the Monitoring Hub, which covers several hospitals. We have a phone number that we can call at any time for advice or help. They also call us when, for example, his monitoring device fell off and they weren’t getting readings. They asked me to have my mobile by the bed so they can wake me if any readings are a cause for concern during the night.

The Virtual Ward team at Kingston Hospital is on duty between 8am and 6pm each day. Every day they have a case conference on each of the patients in the Virtual Ward. Someone from the team – usually a nurse, but sometimes a doctor – phones each day to discuss Ian’s progress. Usually we switch to a video call on the tablet for that.

The pharmacist phoned one day to explain a change in medication, and the new prescription was delivered to the door by the team physiotherapist. She is the only medical practitioner we have met in person throughout the whole process and she seemed pleased to meet one of her patients face-to-face.

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28 February 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Lib Dems call for national net zero framework
  • Welsh Lib Dems demand fairer deal for farmers

Welsh Lib Dems call for national net zero framework

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to build a national framework to strengthen local authorities’ climate action plans.

Currently, the Welsh Local Government Association receives Welsh Government funding to help local Authorities develop a climate action plan.

19 of Wales’ 22 local authorities have declared a climate emergency, with 14 of these having a climate action plan.

However, according to the Climate Emergency UK’s 2021 scorecard, Welsh local government plans received an average score of 31% compared to a national average of 50%.

Commenting, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

The Welsh Government’s net zero approach, whilst well-intended, lacks a clear framework for area-based climate action in Wales.

According to the Climate Emergency UK’s 2021 scorecard exercise, Welsh local authorities’ climate action plans received an average score of 31%, well below the UK national average of 50%.

With local authorities having influence over roughly a third of emissions in their local area, there is a clear need for a coordinated territorial approach.

We need a unified approach if we want to reach net zero within the set time zone.

By working together and establishing a coordinated national framework that can help guide local authority plans, we can take the first step in delivering a better tomorrow for us all.

Welsh Lib Dems demand fairer deal for farmers

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to deliver a straightforward and simple farming scheme that works for both food producers and the natural environment.

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If Liberal Democrats are serious about Housing, we will fix ‘Right to Buy’

Right to Buy is back in the news after it emerged Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner made a £48,500 profit on her ex-council house using the scheme. Whatever you think about this, I do agree with Angela that housing aspiration isn’t the issue – it’s failing to replace homes that are sold off. Liberal Democrats need to lead the charge to reform Right to Buy.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced the Right to Buy scheme in the United Kingdom, allowing council tenants to purchase their homes at discounted prices. At the time, it was hailed as revolutionary, promising social mobility and homeownership for the masses.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly evident that Right to Buy has failed to live up to its lofty aspirations, exacerbating rather than alleviating the housing crisis in the UK.

By allowing tenants to buy their council homes at discounted rates, the government inadvertently depleted the stock of affordable housing available for those in need. This has created a vicious cycle where the demand for social housing far exceeds the supply, leading to skyrocketing rents and homelessness. The cost of building new homes is simply not covered by the receipts from Right to Buy.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton on Scottish Budget: SNP and Greens out of ideas

It was a depressing day in Holyrood yesterday as the SNP/Green budget passed. An unfunded Council Tax freeze crippling Scottish Councils, affordable housing cut by a third in the middle of a massive housing emergency, mental health support cut, education cut.

There was never a cat in hell’s chance that Lib Dems would vote for such an ill thought through budget. Alex Cole-Hamilton explained why:

In this budget, the Scottish Government is reaching for more tax rises. It is punishing low and middle-income families through fiscal drag, it is taking a hammer to the green renewables piggy bank and it is cutting public services for young and old alike. Why? It is doing so because Scottish National Party and Green ministers are completely out of ideas about how to spark growth, drive innovation or enlarge the tax base sustainably. They have a habit of making costly blunders—for example, the two ferries that are rusting in dry dock, the botched deposit return scheme, the independence papers and the selling of Scotland’s prized sea bed on the cheap. Next in their sights is the clueless and bureaucratic billion-pound ministerial takeover of social care that we are set to debate this week. In every case, taxpayers and public services are expected to pay the price.

The Government is out of touch and is taking people for granted. One thing that it must realise is that it needs the talents of everyone in order to grow the economy and make our country fairer. There is an intrinsic link between the health of our people and the health of our economy. People are waiting in pain for long-overdue operations. Their conditions are worsening by the day. It can take years for people to get the mental health treatment that they desperately need, which means that they cannot get on in life. There are now around 200,000 people in Scotland who are out of work because of mental ill health, long Covid and long-term conditions. According to the Our Scottish Future think tank, that costs our economy £870 million a year.

The longer people are out of work, the worse their prospects become. The longer they wait to be treated, the greater the cost to the NHS. That is why making yet another cut to overwhelmed mental health services makes no sense whatsoever.

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Important Federal and Scottish Conference deadlines coming up

It’s just 16 days till Liberal Democrats gather in York for Spring Conference. Next Monday,  4th March, at 1pm, is a very important day as it is the deadline for submitting all sorts of things – questions to committees, amendments to motions and emergency and topical motions.

So what are all these things?

Questions to Committees – and the Leader

Each Federal Committee has an accountability session where it presents its report on what it’s been up to since the last Conference. This is an important chance for members to accept what it has been doing or not. It is rare that a report is rejected or amended, but it can be done. For example, back in 2021, the first attempt to streamline the Federal Board by sidelining half its members was overturned thanks to a clever member of the Awkward Squad.

If you want to know what the party’s committees are doing, you can submit a question by the deadline. So if you want to question the Board about how it’s implementing the strategy adopted by Conference, if you want to ask Federal People Development Committee about training, diversity or membership, or Federal Conference Committee about Conference or Federal Policy Committee about their work, get your question in.

There are usually more questions submitted than there is time to take. If it one of those chosen to be asked on the day, you will get the chance to ask a supplementary question in the hall. If it’s not asked in the hall, it will still be answered at a later date in writing in the report from Conference.

You can also question organisations like the Campaign for Gender Balance on their important work.

You can also put in a question to Ed for his leader’s q and a session on Saturday. Don’t, however, do what I did and forget that you have done it and head off for a nap so that you miss it being asked and getting the chance to ask a supplementary. I was kicking myself for that one.

Amendments

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Artificial intelligence – golden opportunity or massive threat?

You can hardly read the news, listen to the radio or scan your preferred social media without hearing about AI.  Or experiencing it in practice, whether you are aware of it or not.  

On the one hand, it is seen as offering huge potential to transform business and other organisations, reducing costs and creating entirely new capabilities.  

On the downside we hear of threats to democracy with a surge in fake videos and information; the potential for mass job losses as AI systems replace employees to reduce costs; at the extreme, dire tales of AI systems taking over humanity altogether.  

One important concern is the concentration of AI development in too few powerful hands and the struggle of governments and international bodies to regulate them.  

To discuss these issues, Green Book Pod is back with another episode in our series of discussions on key issues for the Liberal Democrats, now available on Lib Dem Podcast and on YouTube.

In this podcast we try to provide a balanced view and to give a sense of what you need to know, and perhaps what you do and do not need to be concerned about.  That includes what to be looking for both from governments and business, and how to balance the need for regulation with desirable innovation.

Podcast Guests

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27 February 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems table motion calling on Parliament to rebuke Lee Anderson’s Islamophobic comments
  • Cancer survival rates: Lib Dems will put giving UK among best cancer survival rates at heart of priorities
  • Tory support in freefall – Rob offers London liberal choice
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for action against child health inequality in Wales

Lib Dems table motion calling on Parliament to rebuke Lee Anderson’s Islamophobic comments

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a censure motion, calling on Parliament to rebuke Lee Anderson’s Islamophobic remarks and calling for him to come to the House and apologise.

The party is calling on Conservative MPs and the government to back the motion, adding that the Conservative party must “show that Islamophobia is not tolerated in Parliament”.

It comes as Anderson said that he would not apologise for his Islamophobic remarks as to do so would be “a sign of weakness”.

The motion tabled by the Lib Dems, if adopted by the government and passed by the House, would be an unprecedented rebuke of the Ashfield MP’s remarks. It would show that Parliament found the remarks unacceptable and Islamophobic and that Anderson should apologise in the House.

Liberal Democrat Women and Equalities spokesperson, Christine Jardine MP said:

Lee Anderson’s remarks were damaging, divisive and need to be called out for what they are – Islamophobic. He should apologise immediately.

British Muslims across the country deserve so much better than this. There is no place in our society for hatred like this.

If the government is too weak to call out this behaviour, the House – including Conservative MPs – must take matters into its own hands and show that Islamophobia is not tolerated in Parliament. Not go completely silent on the issue or look for a way to excuse the inexcusable.

This latest scandal proves once again that the Conservative party is not fit for purpose and is certainly not fit for office.

Cancer survival rates: Lib Dems will put giving UK among best cancer survival rates at heart of priorities

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Lib Dems unveil plan to improve Cancer care in the UK

Cancer will affect virtually all of it. The first time I saw it in all its awfulness was with my mother in law back in the 80s. By the time it had been discovered, she had no chance. And even with pretty good home care and wonderful support from Macmillan nurses, it was brutal for all of us.

This week the Lib Dems have unveiled a plan to boost Cancer care in the UK, which includes:

Make the UK a world leader in cancer research by:

  1. Passing a Cancer Survival Research Act that would require the Government to coordinate and ensure funding for research into the cancers with the lowest survival rates, including lung, liver, brain and pancreatic cancer.

  2. Saving the National Cancer Research Institute. The Government is presiding over the closure of the National Cancer Research Institute, which was established in 2001 and plays a vital role in coordinating cancer research, due to uncertainty over research funding. Its closure has been described by one oncology professor as like “turning off air traffic control and hoping the planes will be fine”.

  3. Halving the time for new treatments to reach patients. It takes an average of 11 months for a new medicine or medical technology to be approved and available to patients in England, compared to just 4 months in Germany. We will expand the MHRA’s capacity to speed up that process.

Boost treatment capacity to ensure survival rates are in line with the best in the world by:

  1. Introducing a two-month cancer treatment guarantee: a new target for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral, with this right written into law. Currently this is only a government pledge, and 36% of patients wait longer than 62 days.
  2. Boosting access to radiotherapy: replace ageing radiotherapy machines and increase their number, as well as widening access so that no one has to travel too far for treatment.

  3. Improving support for patients and their families: recruit more cancer nurses so that every patient has a dedicated specialist supporting them throughout their treatment. Ensure patients and their families are given information about charities, patient support groups and financial support at every key stage: referral, diagnosis and starting treatment.

This is particularly timely given today’s shocking research showing that Cancer survival rates in the UK are 10-15 years behind similar countries.

Ed Davey said:

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26 February 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lee Anderson: Sunak needs to condemn his comments for what they are
  • Bathing Water announcement: Half-baked which does not ban sewage in swimming spots
  • Wales’ Biggest Scarf? Showing Some Love to Our Care Experienced Community.

Lee Anderson: Sunak needs to condemn his comments for what they are

Responding to Rishi Sunak and Mark Harper’s latest comments on Lee Anderson this morning, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

The refusal of Rishi Sunak and his ministers to properly call out Lee Anderson’s extreme comments shows just how low the Conservative Party has fallen.

Rishi Sunak needs to condemn Anderson’s comments for what they

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , , and | 7 Comments

26 February – 1 March 2024 – this week in the Lords

Welcome to another preview of the week’s events in the Upper House, one in which a space will become apparent following the loss of Conservative Peer, Patrick Cormack, who passed away over the weekend.

But on to business in what is another long week for the denizens of the red benches. Monday starts with a Liberal Democrat Oral Question – Lorely Burt will be asking the Government what is being done to encourage businesses to employ people with criminal convictions.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill reaches Day 6 of its Committee Stage but the …

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged , , , , and | 1 Comment

We should allow Ukrainian refugees to stay

It has now sadly been over two years since the latest phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

I was living in Kyiv back in early 2014 when the conflict began after Russia invaded Crimea and East Ukraine. Since then, the UK has rightly been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, providing economic, military, political and diplomatic support. This has also very much been a cross-party endeavour, which I strongly welcome.

There is though more that the UK and our allies – particularly the USA – need to do to now ensure that Kyiv has the military means to defeat Moscow.

Refugees

Likewise, there is more …

Posted in Europe / International, Local government and Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

PSA: Reddit AMA with Mark Pack on 3rd March!

Following the success of r/UKPolitics, a subreddit dedicated to discussion of current affairs in the UK, and their regular “Ask Me Anything”, or AMAs for short, the r/LibDem subreddit mod team, of which I’m a new member of, have reached out to Mark Pack, our Party President, to trial an AMA of our own on Sunday 3rd March at 6PM.

The thread to ask questions went up on Sunday Afternoon, and anyone, member, supporter or a curious individual, will have the chance to submit questions to Mark to answer on the Sunday. You’ll have the opportunity to ask …

Posted in Party Presidency and Social Media | Tagged | 2 Comments

Welcome to my day: 26 February 2024 – the Nasty Party, blue in tooth and claw?…

I was a little tardy last week, which I blame on the beach I was sitting on in Bali. But, still slightly jet-lagged, I return for another Monday here at LDV Towers.

And it seems that, whilst I was away, all sense of Conservative discipline has gone, blown to the four winds. The idea that senior figures in the Party, Members of Parliament, Cabinet members, former Prime Ministers, could suggest that the country is under the control of “Islamists”, or is run by the “Deep State” should horrify any sane member of their Party. But no, the line is to suggest that they don’t really mean it, or that we’re all being too sensitive. And, with a Leader too frit to take serious action – and in the case of Lee Anderson, would an apology really have sufficed? – we can expect to see many more provocations as Conservatives attempt to shore up support amongst racists and bigots.

But, as a Civil Service trans activist (or am I an environmental extremist?), I would be concerned by Liz Truss, wouldn’t I? For the record, I’ve not encountered either in the workplace during my many years of public service.

There is an issue though which might concern a Conservative thinker, which is this. If your party has spent decades denigrating the public sector, and lauding the private sector, should you be surprised when your supporters opt to take the money? And, if you depress public sector salaries over the fourteen years that you’ve been in office, should you be terribly surprised when only the more altruistic opt to work in government, central or local? After all, altruism doesn’t appear to be high on the list of Conservative principles these days.

And the apparent glee with which James Cleverly announced last week that he will be banning overseas care workers from bringing dependents with them is merely another mark of how low they will stoop to secure what they see as a core voting group. What such people will think if it becomes apparent that there isn’t anyone willing to look after Granny is, obviously, a problem for another day.

I’m not convinced that moving ever further towards the nationalist right offers much hope for the Conservatives though, given that Reform UK offer greater clarity for the sort of voters for which such a programme appeals, but there is a risk that they lose those who might consider themselves One Nation Conservatives in the process, leaving them worse off overall. But such a thought process would require some rational thinking, and I’m not convinced that the Government are at home to the concept just now.

But enough depression about our politics. Here’s Chopin’s Nocturne in A Flat major, played by Grigory Sokolov, to soothe the savage breast…

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Ed on Kuenssberg: Lib Dems are excited and confident about election

Ed Davey did his first interveiw of the year on Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday this morning. The first question, was, of course, on the Post Office scandal and Ed’s role as Minister.

Her first question : Why did it take you so long to say sorry?

I probably should have said sooner early on.

It’s a huge scandal and our hearts go out to postmasters. They need to get exonerations and compensation quickly and we need to get the truth from the enquiry.

He talked about two sub postmasters in his constituency, one of whom spent 16 months in prison.

I’m going to fight for those and join others in making sure that the Government gives the sub postmasters the fair deal they deserve.

He actually has been fighting for them since there was evidence that there were flaws with Horizon and called for the enquiry back in 2015.

Kuenssberg showed him the letter he wrote to Alan Bates in 2010 saying that there would be no point to a meeting.  Ed replied that he had only been in office for 11 days and  was advised by his officials not to. When Bates wrote to him again, though, he wanted to know more about his concerns and was the first post office minister on record to meet him.

When that meeting took place in late 2010, he said he was concerned about the issues Alan Bates raised about Horizon. He took the concerns to his officials and the Post Office and was given categorical assurances that there was no remote access.

He said that it turns out that the Post Office were lying to him and that conspiracy of lies means that we need systemic change in how we deal with things like this.

Kuenssberg asked him if he’d never stopped to think that there must be something going on here.

He said that he wasn’t asked about it in Parliament. He said that things didn’t really change until the BBC’s Panorama programme found hard evidence in the form of a whistleblower from Fujitsu in August 2015.

Kuenssberg then moved on to the General Election, asking  if we weren’t embarrassed by the results in the by-elections last week.

Ed responded:

What we are seeing in this Parliament is huge success for Liberal Democrats. In those 4 by-elections we had staggering success in true blue areas.

We’ve had some of our best local elections ever and we have had by far the best success in local government by-elections.

We go into the next election with a real sense of excitement. There’s loads of areas where if you want to get rid of your Conservative MP, you’ve got to vote for the Liberal Democrats. I’ve talked about the “Blue Wall” where we are having massive success against the Conservatives and the south west as well, we are coming back there. So we go into this election year more confident than for many a year.

Kuenssberg asked if he was confident that we can be the third party again. His answer was simple. “Yes.”

Earlier she  brought up the Guardian letter signed by 30 prominent party members back in November as we reported here.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

Alexei Navalny is dead.

His body lies in a prison morgue inside the Arctic Circle. It is generally accepted that he was murdered, or at the very least Vladimir Putin is responsible for his death by sentencing him to a frozen penal colony.

After days of standing at the prison gates, Navalny’s mother was finally allowed to see his body. But she has been denied permission to take it away for burial.

Instead she was told that she had to agree to agree to a secret burial at a hush-hush site. Otherwise, Lydmilia Navalny reported, “the authorities said they would do things to Alexei’s body.”

Putin is clearly afraid of Navalny the martyr. He is afraid that a public burial at an accessible site will become a focal point for those opposed to his corrupt oligarchical rule.

Navalny was not even cold on his morgue slab before the Russian media machine was trying to spin him out of the Russian story. The state-controlled news machine was late in reporting his death and its accounts were, at best perfunctory. There was no contextual information to explain why he was in prison and one commentator refused to use his first name.

From Putin himself there has been a deafening silence. This is unsurprising. In the past, the Russian president has refused to use the opposition leader’s name when directly asked about him at press conferences. He clearly hopes that the dearth of reports by the media will result in Navalny becoming a non-person as well as dead.

This maybe the case in Russia, but it isn’t working in the West. Navalny’s wife Yulia and their 23-year-old daughter Dasha have already been quick to pick up the baton. Navalny’s 15-year-old son Zahar is probably not far behind.

But will the West listen? Yulia made a major impact when she spoke at the recent Munich Security Conference and Dasha joined her mother in an emotional White House meeting with President Joe Biden.

But Biden and the Europeans were a receptive audience before Alexei’s death. The nut that needs to be cracked is the MAGA Republicans. When Trump was asked by Fox News to comment on Navalny’s death he refused to blame Putin and focused on linking Alexei’s death to his own legal problems. We are both persecuted victims of the state, he claimed. Trump added that Navalny should never have returned to Russia after being treated in a German hospital for novichok poisoning.

Navalny knew he would be sent to prison as soon as he returned. He explained the move by saying that he could not expect his followers to overcome fear of Putin’s rule if he did not himself demonstrate bravery by returning to certain imprisonment.

 

The world is divided on a ceasefire in Gaza. Political leaders in Europe, America, Japan and Australia are generally behind the proposal for a “temporary ceasefire,” the return of the hostages and a massive increase of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

LIb Dems demand that Sunak removes the Whip from Lee Anderson

Lee Anderson has spent most of the past 2 years saying horrible things to excite the Tory right. From telling anyone unhappy with how the UK treats migrants could “f**k off back to France” to saying that people should be able to feed themselves for 30p per day, giving him his “30p Lee” nickname, to horribly transphobic comments about Eddie Izzard, he has been one of the commanders of the Tory culture wars.

Last night, talking to GB News, he took it all a step further by being unambiguously racist and islamophobic about London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

From the BBC:

He told GB News Islamists had “got control” of Mr Khan and he had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

His words, which follow pro-Palestinian protests outside Parliament, have also been condemned by Tories.

Not condemned enough by Tories as the same article reports a Conservative source trying to play down what he had said. The fact that he still had the Tory whip 5 minutes after making these comments is an absolute disgrace. As the hours drag on, this looks increasingly like Rishi Sunak is either too weak to discipline Anderson or he agrees with him.

Anyone with an ounce of decency has called on Rishi Sunak to remove the Conservative whip from Anderson for these comments, including Labour’s Annaliese Dodds and Theresa May’s former Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell. Here’s what Lib Dem MPs have been saying.

Daisy Cooper said:

These comments from a Conservative MP are despicable. Rishi Sunak should remove the Conservative whip. There should be no space for this in our country, let alone in our Parliament.

Tim Farron:

This isn’t dog whistle, it’s fog horn. Sunak will remove the whip for this if he has an ounce of either decency or strength.

Munira Wilson:

Utterly disgusted by Lee Anderson’s racist comments. Stirring up hatred and tension in our great capital city in this way is downright dangerous. If Sunak has an ounce of decency and courage, he will kick Anderson out of the Tory party.

Alistair Carmichael:

This is entirely wrong and harmful from Lee Anderson, and comes after a similarly malign attack by the Conservatives in recent weeks. Criticise Sadiq Khan all you like on policy but these dog whistle arguments about his character have no basis and no justification.

Beyond Westminster, Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments
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