ALDC’s by-election report – 30 November 2023

There were 3 principal Council by-elections this week with Liberal Democrat candidates – and there was so much to celebrate in all three.

There were an additional 2 by-elections on City of London Council but these were only contested by independent candidates.

The only place to start is North Yorkshire Council with a historic Lib Dem gain from the Green Party in Sowerby and Topcliffe ward. Congratulations to Councillor Dan Sladden on an extraordinary victory that is remarkable for a number of reasons.

Not only did we get a brilliant 42% of the vote, we did so from nowhere having not stood in the ward in the previous local election! It is also only the third principal council seat that we have gained in a by-election from the Green Party since 2002. For so many reasons this is a historic result so once again we want to say thank you and well done to Councillor Sladden and North Yorkshire Liberal Democrats.

North Yorkshire Council, Sowerby and Topcliffe

Liberal Democrats (Dan Sladden): 764 (42%, new)
Conservative: 460 (25%, -23%)
Green Party: 306 (17%, -35%)
Labour: 250 (14%, new)
Yorkshire Party: 35 (2%, new)
Official Monster Raving Loony Party: 20 (1%, new)

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New issue of Liberator out

It’s not often Liberator has a “hold the front page” moment but we did to briefly fit in something on the Guardian letter about party strategy and Ed Davey’s reaction to the 30 signatories, including by all accounts dissent at the Federal Policy Committee.

Find out the news in Radical Bulletin and the thoughts of Lord Bonkers, and this is what is in Liberator 420, which you can download for free here.

You can sign up to be emailed when each new Liberator comes out.


What is the Government scared of in Lib Dem South Cambridgeshire’s trial of four-day working, wonders council leader Bridget Smith


Rebecca Tinsley wonders why mass killings in Sudan lack the attention focused on Gaza


Suella Braverman’s campaign against rough sleepers was enough to put J Frasier Hewitt off breakfast, and the rest of the Government looks hopeless to a former Tory too


Mid Bedfordshire showed the Liberal Democrats how not to campaign, but Michael Meadowcroft sees a lesson form Poland in how to effectively take on nationalism and populism


The failure in Mid Bedfordshire holds three lessons the Liberal Democrats should have the wisdom to learn from, says Roger Hayes


Getting the UK back into the European Union can only be a long-term goal, though one helped by Brexit’s manifest failings, says Nick Harvey


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Why is the Government scared of Lib Dem South Cambridgeshire’s trial of four-day working?

The Government has called on Local Authorities to innovate and that is exactly what we’re doing in South Cambridgeshire, but it appears to be the wrong sort of innovation if you are a Tory. They have gone so far as issuing a Best Value Notice when our corporate peer review has just reported that we have really sound finances and an enviable record of delivering on the Government’s priorities.

In more ‘advanced’ parts of the world such as Scandinavia and Australia the four-day working week is becoming the norm and in the UK over 90% of those private sector businesses in a recent large scale study found it hugely beneficial and have chosen to stick with it. The five-day week is over 100 years old and was undoubtedly fit for purpose in a world without internet, AI and remote working. The pandemic accelerated the move into this new world of work and most organisations have retained those practices because they worked for people and for business.

Despite Jacob Rees Mogg wanting all civil servants tied to their desks five days a week, eight hours a day that is certainly not what is actually happening in government and it is not happening elsewhere. So why did we put ourselves in the firing line in South Cambridgeshire and why have we chosen, thus far, to stay there?

There is a national crisis in recruitment and retention which is most acute in the public sector and especially acute in places like ours where it is extremely expensive to live and there is a very competitive market for the sort of talented people we need. Greater Cambridge (Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire) is the hottest growth area in the UK and it is nigh on impossible to compete on salaries and perks with the wealthy private sector for planners, IT experts and others.

We had tried everything we could for years to become an employer of choice but we had to look at something else, not only to attract people but to hold onto them. We routinely failed to fill 80% of vacancies and early last year only filled 50%; some very attractive jobs received no applications and we were spending more than £2m a year on agency staff.

We began by running an initial three-months’ trail just to test if performance held up. We had previously spent three months preparing for the trial because evidence from the private sector study indicated the strong link between good preparation and eventual success. We extended the trial to a year when the result were encouraging and have subsequently seen an escalation of benefits as we move towards the end of this longer trail early next spring.

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UBI and PR will work together

“UBI” (Universal Basic income) has staggered and lurched in Lib Dem Land. I  believe most of the arguments against it are the prejudices of ignorance or the handicaps of expertise.   I shall try to explain why and how UBI and PR must and can work in harness.  I shall not here consider the objections to it,  but I do hope others will.

UBI is not too expensive – it should be managed by the Inland Revenue, and subject to Income Tax – simply one more thing to add to each taxpayer’s Income Tax  total bill.   Everyone receiving UBI would pay Income Tax at the rate appropriate to his or her means.  Say 10%, perhaps, for those without any other Income at all?   Enough for everyone to recognise that everyone getting UBI is a payer of Income Tax – and well aware of the fact.

Clearly that would require much re-arranging of Income Tax rules and rates.  But that will happen anyway, since there can be no such change before we have elected the House of Commons by Proportional Representation.   That will be all the sooner thanks to Boris’s laying waste to the Conservatives.

The Labour Party has (timorously?) declined to endorse either idea, despite having commissioned a Paper on UBI from the distinguished academic, Prof Guy Standing.

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Green Book Pod 2: the net zero debate

As the world’s nations gather for COP28, we need no reminding that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity.  It is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

How should the UK – and politicians vying for office – respond?

Polling by More in Common consistently shows that British voters see “climate change and the environment” as one of the top three issues facing the country.  This is a remarkable increase from just a few years ago.

But the UK is doing nowhere near enough to meet its legally binding “net zero” target – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Over recent months, Rishi Sunak has backtracked on key net zero policies as he tries to draw new political dividing lines.

Labour have promised a multi-billion-pound green prosperity plan, but they keep pushing back its timetable and planned scope.

And what about the Liberal Democrats?  In the mid-1990s, we were the first UK political party to publish a comprehensive programme to address climate change.  Sixteen years ago, we were the first to set a net zero target for 2050.  Liberal Democrats in coalition presided over a quadrupling of renewable energy and established the world’s first Green Investment Bank.

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Ed Davey tackles PM on hospital delays

Ed Davey used his question to the Prime Minister today to highlight hold-ups in the building of the mythical 40 new hospitals promised in the Government’s 2019 manifesto. Especially as the National Audit Office thinks it won’t meet that commitment.

Ed said:

Three years ago, the Government made a commitment to 40 new hospitals and significant upgrades to hospitals in most need, but today many schemes are badly delayed. The Royal Berkshire—stuck at the development stage, with not a single pound transferred for construction. Harrogate District Hospital—still waiting on £20 million for urgent upgrades after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete was

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UPDATED: Senior Liberal Democrats call for “bold and distinctive offer to voters”

Thirty Liberal Democrats, including the chiefs of staff to two of the three most recent leaders, a former policy director, a former MP, two peers, members of federal committees, councillors and current and former candidates have called for the party to be bolder in the run-up to the General Election.

In a letter to the Guardian, they said:

There is a massive opportunity for a liberal alternative based on internationalism, environmental awareness and modernising Britain. But we believe the Liberal Democrats are swerving this opportunity, not seizing it.

It is crucial that we are brave and honest about the challenges a new government will face, with distinctive positions the Tories would never take and Labour dares not adopt.

They argue that rejoining the single market, creating a “dividend” that would revive our public services, should be part of what we offer.

Citing the way Paddy Ashdown set out a clear alternative to both parties, they continue:

We have bolder policies than Labour on the environment, fair votes and human rights, but we are not communicating them. At a general election, echoing Labour’s general antipathy to the Tories through local campaigns is part of the battle but insufficient on its own.

Only a statement of confident liberalism – on Europe, the environment, political reform and public services – will show people that the Lib Dems are a national force worth supporting. We do well when we have a principled message that cuts through, such as our current one on Gaza.

In the accompanying story,  former Policy Director and Federal Policy Committee Vice Chair Duncan Brack is quoted:

We’re not criticising the target seats strategy, but focusing on target seats alone is not enough,” said Duncan Brack, a member of the party’s federal policy committee who was an adviser to Chris Huhne in the coalition government.

“We need to stand for something inspiring. Otherwise, why should people join the Lib Dems, pay money into campaign war chests, go delivering and canvassing? And why should anti-Tory voters vote for us as opposed to another opposition party if it’s not clear what we stand for?”

The Party’s response shows that it is capable of delivering a robust message:

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Welcome to my day: 27 November 2023 – there’s no need to burn down Parliament given what some MPs are doing to it…

I’m visiting Parliament this week, in my capacity as a member of the National Assembly of the National Association of Local Councils, and it looks like I’ll be entering something of a controversy. Not me, I hasten to add, or anything to do with the event, but the building itself. For, whilst the building is in an increasingly dangerous state, leading figures in both Houses of Parliament appear determined to delay any decision that would allow the major works needed to be completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Indeed, a promised debate on which of two options was to be adopted has been postponed until next year.

Whilst you can argue about the value of refurbishing a building which suffers from so many shortcomings, or indeed, whether Parliament should remain on that site or even in London, as a metaphor for the shortcomings of the Government and our democracy, the Palace of Westminster takes some beating. An aging structure containing obsolete infrastructure, with an increasing risk of disaster… need I go on?

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The Lib Dems (and Labour) could learn from Russell T Davies

Christine Jardine wrote about the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination earlier this week. The day after, 23rd November, marked 60 years since the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast.

For me, ever since the very first episode I watched in 1974, it’s been a  constant source of joy, inspiration, curiosity and adrenaline rushes. There seems to be quite an affinity between Lib Dems and Doctor Who. We identify with a socially awkward eccentric travelling through time and space saving peoples and worlds and universes, a lot of the time from themselves.

Last night marked a new era for the show. Or, more accurately, a reboot of one of the most successful ones. Russell T Davies is back as head writer and has reunited much of the team who brought the show back so brilliantly in 2005. Much as I love the Doctor and all his companions, it simply hasn’t been as good since RTD left in 2009.

David Tennant, the first actor to return for a second stint as the Doctor is reunited with Catherine Tate who played his last regular companion, Donna Noble. The way her character developed over 13 episodes was outstanding, but then the Doctor, against her will, wiped her memory to save her life.

Russell T Davies really knows how to play with your emotions and not just in Doctor Who.  In the drama It’s a Sin, he just breaks you as he contrasts the  horrendous cruelty of discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS with the love and support of friends.

Last night’s Star Beast had plenty tugs on your heartstrings. Joy, apprehension, fear, optimism, love, the fierce, protective love of a mother for her daughter being just a few.  The one thing he is not is subtle. You are in no doubt about what he is saying, and those of us on the progressive side of politics could learn a lot from him.

Right wing politicians have been dividing and ruling us for too long now. They are not known for hiding their rhetoric under a bushel. Look at how Conservative politicians treat vulnerable asylum seekers, set about removing benefits from sick people who can’t work and demonise trans people because they think it is politically expedient to do so. And some of them, like Nigel Farage, do so while portraying themselves as the jokey bloke down the pub that everybody loves.

While we are on the subject of Farage, rumoured to be pocketing £1.5 million for going on I’m a Celebrity, I will never forgive Have I Got News For You for showing that clip of him naked. If you haven’t seen it, you have been warned.

Sadly, those of us who want to see a more liberal and equal society  too often shy from challenging the right wing. We murmur round the edges, too timid to take them on in case we scare people from voting for us and we shrink back when the right shout at us. Even when our policies are much better, and pretty much all the  time they are, we don’t use our creative skills to appeal to the better, more compassionate side of public opinion. It’s there, but it needs to be nurtured.

And every time the right go unchallenged, they pull the political agenda a little bit more over to their side. We all lose when that happens because the country becomes a nastier, unhappier place to live, particularly for those whose lives become a lot worse as a result but the toxicity affects us all.

And so back to last night’s Doctor Who. 5.1 million people saw it, the highest for the first episode of a drama this year.  It was woke as hell, and much the better for it. You see, woke, explained properly, is all about making sure everyone can take part in life. It’s about kindness, generosity and seeing the best in our fellow humans. No wonder the Daily Mail hates it.

I’m wary of too many spoilers, but the joys included a TARDIS that anyone could access and a  scientific adviser being given the perfect tool she needed to do her job.

It was clear from the get go that Donna Noble has a brilliant relationship with her daughter, Rose. We learn that Rose is trans, confirmed by boys from her school yelling transphobic abuse at her. Every parent will recognise the furious love Donna has for Rose in that moment. We all want to protect our children and Davies evoked that beautifully.

Russell T Davies manages to get you in the gut every time. And that’s what we need to get better at.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Diplomatic Miracles do happen.

And if you need proof just look at the exchange of hostages currently taking place between Hamas and the Israeli government.

Enmity, internal divisions and complex diplomatic channels have all been overcome to allow not only a hostages-for-Palestinian-prisoners exchange but also a ceasefire and aid convoy into Gaza.

There were problems. One was the opposition by far-right Israeli cabinet ministers to any agreement on anything with Hamas. The other was the fact that 50 of the roughly 240 hostages were held not by Hamas but the even more extreme Islamic Jihad.

Then there were the complex diplomatic channels. There are no direct links between Hamas and Israel. Instead the Israelis talked to the Americans who talked to the Qataris who talked to Hamas who talked to Islamic Jihad. There was—still is—a danger of mixed or misinterpreted signals in this game of diplomatic Chinese whispers.

But so far so good. The two sides have agreed a four-day ceasefire during which the Palestinians will release 13 Israeli hostages a day. As soon as their release is confirmed, Israel will set free 50 Palestinians held in Israeli prisoners.

At the same time, the aid convoy that has been sitting on the Gaza-Egyptian border will cross into Gaza to deliver much needed water, fuel, food and energy supplies. 300 lorries are expected to cross the border today (Friday). The UN World Food Programme says it is not enough, but it is a start for the 2.2 million aid dependents Gazans.

There is even another potential diplomatic miracle. According to diplomatic sources, the Israelis have offered to extend the ceasefire a day at a time in return for the release of 20 hostages per day.

But hanging over the good news is the real danger that the ceasefire could quickly collapse.  There are many danger points. One is that Islamic Jihad may back out of the hostage deal. Relations between it and Hamas are poor.

The other is Israeli insistence that Palestinians who have fled northern Gaza for southern Gaza do not return home during the ceasefire. They fear that returning Palestinians would include Hamas fighters. But from the Gazans point of view, they want to retrieve their belongings and, in many cases, bury their dead.

Then there is the very real possibility that a frightened, nervous, hate-filled and trigger-happy Israeli soldier or Hamas fighter will loose a deadly rifle volley.

Finally, there is the possibility of a major conflict with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah attacks have significantly increased since October 7, but so far the presence of two US aircraft carriers off the coast of Lebanon has been an effective deterrent.

The Argentina peso may soon be no more. 

The country’s newly-elected anarcho-capitalist (his phrase) president Javier Milei wants to ditch it for the US dollar.

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The importance of signing a Faith Covenant

I do love reading about the Census. To some people, it might be a “silly hobby”, however analysing and understanding data is hugely important in relation to mapping out the needs of our communities and facilitating adequate e.g. health, leisure, parking and social care provision.

 It was fascinating to see how much the UK has changed in the last decade. As a practising Christian, I found it really interesting that in 2011 in Welwyn Hatfield, 27% of residents reported no religion, however this number increased to 37% in 2021. Given that the population of Welwyn Hatfield, where I live and serve as a District Cllr, increased by around 10,000 (from 110,000 to 120,000), it is overall a significant change.

 I am aware that Britain, like many other European countries, is becoming more secular. However, I was personally absolutely delighted that the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has signed a Faith Covenant at the Full Council meeting on 15th November. Although it is not legally binding, I am also so pleased that the agreement was approved by the Council during the Inter-Faith Week, which took place across the UK last week.

 However, I hope that most people would agree if I said that we can’t underestimate the importance of faith communities and their contribution across the country and in our neighbourhoods. In my view, the Faith Covenant will only strengthen our collaboration with a wide range of groups and organisations in our district, but it will also help to build better understanding with residents as well as increase awareness of different faith groups in Welwyn Hatfield. Apart from providing places of worship, it is the faith communities, which run Food Banks, sport and youth projects and provide a regular platform for a successful integration. 

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Observations of an ex Pat: Geert

White-haired Dutch politician Geert Wilders hates the label far-right. Neither is he particularly fond of being called an extremist or fascist.

Wilders also dislikes Islam, the Koran, the EU, asylum seekers, and most foreigners in general. He is the avowed leader of the “Counter-Jihad Movement.”

He has been in and out of Dutch courts on hate charges; was banned for several years from Britain, Germany and Austria and has a permanent armed police guard to protect him from assassination. Wilders has attacked the Koran as a “fascist book”, Mohammed as “the devil” and Islam is a “retarded culture.”

He does have likes. They include: Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher and Israel. He is less keen on France’s Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. On Donald Trump he is ambivalent. He approves of Trump’s anti-Muslim and America first policies, but questions his honesty and claims to have won the 2020 elections.

The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party also wants to turn back the clock to 1830 and reunite the Netherlands with the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium.

Wilders political beliefs are important because he is in line to be the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. And as one of the founding members of the European Community the Netherlands has an outsized voice in the EU and beyond.

His premiership is not guaranteed. The Netherlands has a proportional representation system and a leader needs an outright majority of the 150-seat parliament to form a coalition. Wilders this week won the most seats—37– but the other main parties have either point-blank refused to serve with

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ALDC’s by-election report -23 November 2023

It has been a relatively quiet week for principal council by-elections – but a very successful one for the Lib Dems. Of the 3 elections held we won 2 of them! With one hold and one gain we are the undisputable winners this week!

The first election was held on Wednesday on Powys County Council in Wales in Talybont-on-Usk ward. Congratulations to Councillor Raith Devlin and the team in Powys on

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Is the Netherlands election the end for PR?

This week saw general elections in the Netherlands which led to the nationalist Partij voor die Vriejheid (PVV) or Party For Freedom as the largest party in the country’s House of Representatives for the first time in its history.

The PVV is led by Geert Wilders, who has called for, among other things, a ban on mosques and Qurans, and “Constitutional protection of the dominance of the Judeo-Christian and humanistic culture of the Netherlands”. While coalition talks could take months and there are a number of mathematically viable options, Wilders looks set to be the country’s next prime minister, in a rapid departure from the Dutch stereotypes of being liberal, tolerant Europhiles.

Wilders has managed to do this despite the Netherlands using a proportionally representative electoral system where all votes are weighted equally and parties are returned to parliament fully in proportion to the number of votes they received. So I think it is pertinent to point out that proportional representation is not a silver bullet; it does not stop far-right parties from reaching the levers of power. Indeed, in 2015, had we used proportional representation in this country and had voters voted the same way as they did in reality, a Conservative-UKIP coalition would’ve been the only viable option, with 49.4% of the vote between them.

I don’t think comparisons to Nigel Farage or Donald Trump are necessarily helpful and I don’t think lamentations about why the Dutch public voted PVV are particularly instructive to a British audience. I’ll leave that for the psephologists and the experts in Dutch politics, of which I am emphatically neither.

Rather, I want to tackle the sentiment that, because proportional representation does not fully prevent governments like this from forming, it is useless. I want to tackle the idea that we should abandon winning over a majority of the public and instead focus on winning over a majority of parliament.

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23 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Autumn Statement: NHS budget slashed by £5bn next year
  • Net migration figures: Conservatives need to accept that their approach isn’t working
  • Welsh Lib Dems leader calls for funding of the arts in Wales

Autumn Statement: NHS budget slashed by £5bn next year

The Conservative Government is cutting annual NHS spending by almost £5 billion in real-terms, figures buried in the small print of today’s Autumn Statement have revealed.

Jeremy Hunt has cut day-to-day spending in cash terms for NHS England in 2024-25 from £165.9bn in his March Budget to £162.5bn in the Autumn Statement, a cut of £3.4 billion.

In real-terms, that will leave the NHS budget £4.7 billion (2.9%) lower compared to 2022-23. It comes despite the Conservative government handing £3.8bn a year of tax cuts to the banks.

Jeremy Hunt also failed to mention GPs, dentists or ambulances once in his Autumn Statement today, despite the crisis facing patients and local health services across the country.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP:

It beggars belief that this Conservative government is slashing funding for the NHS while giving billions of pounds of tax giveaways to the banks. It just shows they have got their priorities completely wrong.

Jeremy Hunt failed to mention GPs, dentists or ambulances once in his Autumn Statement, showing just how out of touch he is.

Patients around the country are waiting months in pain for treatment and weeks to get an appointment with their GP. You can’t fix the damage the Conservative Party has done to our economy without fixing the damage they have done to our NHS.

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Channel 4 highlights human rights concerns of Caithness women facing 2.5 hour journey to give birth

The A9 from Wick and Thurso to Inverness is a long road, even at the best of times.

I’ve travelled it in all weathers. In the Summer of 1980 as my parents went to the Royal Garden Party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. In the depths of an icy 1984 Winter to my Grandma’s funeral in Inverness.

Even though they have made the hairpin bend on the Berriedale Braes a bit easier and the Dornoch Bridge has cut off a good half hour from the journey, it’s still a long and twisty road.

Definitely not one you would want to be driving along in any stage of labour.

I had to travel about 12 miles by car in the early stages of labour and I can promise you not one bit of that was pleasant. I could not contemplate the thought of setting off from Wick to Inverness at a windy 4 am. And let me tell you the wind in Caithness is a special thing, a lazy wind as an elderly friend of the family used to call it because it went right through you rather than go round you.

But that’s exactly what women in Caithness have had to face ever since the maternity unit at Caithness General Hospital in Wick was downgraded to midwife led in 2016. The alternative to the long drive in labour is being sent to Raigmore to be induced 2 weeks before your due date. And of course induction leads to more intervention than might have been necessary. Imagine the return trip when you’ve just had a caesarean section or a lot of stitches. If you are not wincing at that thought, I have no words.

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22 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Cameron HMRC scrutiny: Zahawi scandal mark two
  • Autumn Statement a deception after years of Conservative tax hikes
  • Ed Davey slams “Hunt hoax” over £200bn stealth tax grab
  • Welsh Lib Dems urge Welsh Gov to make sure that building remediation costs aren’t being forced on residents
  • Conservative giveaway to big banks set to cost taxpayers £22 billion

Cameron HMRC scrutiny: Zahawi scandal mark two

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an ethics advisor probe after reports that David Cameron is being looked into by HMRC.

The party said it is important to know whether this reported scrutiny was disclosed when Rishi Sunak appointed him to the Lords and throughout the vetting process.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

This looks like the Zahawi scandal mark two. Yet again, it appears Sunak has appointed a cabinet minister being looked into by HMRC.

The Prime Minister must ask the ethics advisor to investigate these reports as a matter of urgency. Serious questions need answering over whether this reported HMRC scrutiny was disclosed as part of the appointment and vetting process for Cameron’s seat in the Lords, and whether Sunak was aware when he appointed him.

Far from looking to kick sleaze out of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister seems to have sought to bring even more in from the outside.

Autumn Statement a deception after years of Conservative tax hikes

Responding to the Autumn Statement, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This is a deception from Jeremy Hunt after years of cruel tax hikes on hard-working families from this government.

Conservative chaos has sent mortgages and tax bills soaring, today’s announcements won’t even touch the sides.

Worse still was the deafening silence on health. These dismal forecasts show the economy is on life support and reducing NHS waiting lists is the shot in the arm needed.

It is a no-brainer that we need people off waiting lists and back to work, yet this Conservative government simply doesn’t care.

Today has been more stale nonsense from a Conservative government out of touch and out of ideas.

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Alistair Carmichael slams Lee Anderson’s Orkney asylum seekers plan

Lee Anderson has become notorious for saying what many right wing Conservatives think but don’t dare say out loud.

“30p Lee” is a total embarrassment to politics and public life.

Today, he suggested that asylum seekers should be sent to Orkney rather than Rwanda.

This attracted the attention of Orkney’s MP, our own Alistair Carmichael, who said:

This is not a serious proposition. I would be astonished if Lee Anderson could even find Orkney – or in his words “the Orkneys” – on a map. His remarks show inhumanity towards desperate and vulnerable people – and disdain towards island communities to boot.

Anderson has form for brainstorming Tory policy live on air. It is a novel sort of brainstorming as it does not actually involve the engagement of a brain but instead looks more like an exercise in corralling as many prejudices as possible into one space and calling it a policy.

If Rishi Sunak cannot bring his deputy chair into line then the only conclusion is that he approves of these attitudes. Yet another attempt by a Tory MP to kick up dust and distract attention from the failure of their government to manage our asylum and immigration system.

Of course, if only there was an actual solution to the asylum system. Oh wait….

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Christine Jardine MP writes: Reflections on “Camelot” 60 years on

It was Jackie Kennedy who first likened her husband’s presidency to Camelot, the mythical court of King Arthur, in an interview with Life magazine in 1963.

The musical of the same name was apparently the President’s favourite.

On the sixtieth anniversary of his death little of the inspirational quality she evoked seems to have been lost.

If anything the passing of time has enhanced his image and invested his three short years in the White House with a significance that has prompted generations to search for their own Kennedy.

But why is it that those of us who know him only from grainy black and white news footage, or endless biographical books and movies, are so enthralled by a Presidency which promised much but was denied fulfilment?

Of course there is an element of ‘what if’ about Kennedy.

The feeling that a generation was robbed of a leader who would have lived up to his inauguration’s pledge to:

Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.

The glamour of his young administration was a stark contrast to the immediate post war years and seemed to herald a new beginning.

He was after all the youngest to be elected, and the first Roman Catholic President.

A war hero who brought his children to play in the Oval Office and whose wife gave the role of First Lady a new elan.

And whose death was etched deep in American consciousness not just by those horrifying final pictures in Dallas but by the heartbreaking image of a three year old JFK Junior saluting his father’s coffin.

But that is only part of Kennedy’s story.

While he introduced more bills in his first hundred days than any president had since Roosevelt they were stuck in a log jam created by a Congress that wasn’t won over by his infamous charm.

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Lib Dems react to the Autumn Statement

So, April election anyone?

The Autumn Statement is a deceptively feelgood package of giveaways in which the already rich benefit most whether businesses or people and the really poor suffer more. Want to take a guess which group is more likely to vote Conservative. Jeremy Hunt has produced a cynical Statement that is all about the Conservative Party with no regard to what the country actually needs.

Will this attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes and pretend the past 7 years of hell didn’t happen work? Surely people’s memories are longer than that.

Underneath it all, the growth projections for the economy are terrible for the next couple of years. While the US, with all the fiscal stimulus Joe Biden has thrown at it, is doing pretty well.

Sarah Olney, our Treasury spokesperson, was unimpressed:

This is a deception from Jeremy Hunt after years of cruel tax hikes on hard-working families from this government.

Conservative chaos has sent mortgages and tax bills soaring, today’s announcements won’t even touch the sides.

Worse still was the deafening silence on health. These dismal forecasts show the economy is on life support and reducing NHS waiting lists is the shot in the arm needed.

It is a no-brainer that we need people off waiting lists and back to work, yet this Conservative government simply doesn’t care.

Today has been more stale nonsense from a Conservative government out of touch and out of ideas.

Ed Davey points out that for all the gimmicks in the Budget, people are still worse off because of the freezing of tax rates. The Hunt Hoax he calls it:

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Mark Pack’s Monthly Report – Turning our policies into practical action

Getting council housing built

Congratulations to the Liberal Democrat team on Kingston Council who have just celebrated the completion of the first set of council flats for over 30 years in the area.

It’s another sign of how Liberal Democrat councils can both build high quality homes in the right places, and win elections – by turning our policies into practical actions to improve people’s lives.


I know we have all been moved by the horrific news from the Middle East in the last few weeks. The bedrock of the Liberal Democrat approach is support for international law and for a …

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Jane Dodds sets out Welsh Lib Dem priorities ahead of Autumn Statement

Yesterday, the Government doubled election campaign expense limits.

Today, they deliver an Autumn Statement which is expected to benefit their rich friends at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Funny, that.

Tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor. It’s what they do, but it gets more and more sickening and causes so much more suffering every time they do it. The so called safety net barely exists any more.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has been setting out the priorities of the Party in Wales ahead of today’s Autumn Statement:

-Invest in our NHS, with a specific focus on providing funding for desperately needed dentistry services across Wales to cut down on waiting lists. Whilst also giving more school children access to preventative treatment through Design to Smile.

-Invest in our future by giving desperately needed funds to schools to tackle the school funding crisis so that they can help support children from low-income families to succeed and access vital resources.

-Invest in our economy by reducing business rates for small businesses through 2024-25.

-Support people with the cost of living by taking direct action in supporting people struggling to keep a roof over their head by providing further financial support.

The party lashed out at the UK Conservative party for their systematic mismanagement of the economy that has dragged Wales down , while simultaneously demonising those who need the most support by threatening to remove desperately needed services to the sick and vulnerable.

Jane said:

In the wake of the upcoming Autumn statement, we as a party have laid down what we want to see prioritised for Wales.

In a nutshell, we want to see investment. We want to see investment in our NHS, investment in our economy and an investment in our future.

Our NHS is in a dire state here in Wales, particularly in regard to our dentistry services. We must focus on providing funding for desperately needed dentistry services so that we can cut down on waiting lists.

We also need to invest in our economy by slashing rates for small businesses while at the same time ensuring that our schools are receiving funds that go directly to supporting children from low-income families.

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Carmichael warns about increases in helicopter response times

If you regularly face danger at sea, the last thing you will want to hear is that the Government plans to quadruple helicopter response times.

Alistair Carmichael seeks answers from the Government as he holds a parliamentary debate on the future of coastguard services in Parliament.

The debate follows revelations about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s plans to quadruple the emergency response time for the helicopter service based at Sumburgh in Alistair’s Shetland constituency from 15 minutes to 60 minutes.

The MCA previously “clarified” that the current “readiness” state of 15 minutes is due to remain in place until at least October 2026 — but “discussions relating to readiness states beyond this date are ongoing.” Following further meetings, however, it has emerged that the MCA has already signed a new contract for the future of the Sumburgh service.

Other concerns have been raised that the new service will only run one type of helicopter, raising issues with resilience should a model be grounded. Mr Carmichael has called on the MCA and the Department for Transport to release the full documents relating to the proposals.

Ahead of the debate, Alistair said:

Reports that there were discussions under way in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to cut back on the helicopter provision from Sumburgh were bad enough. It has now emerged, however, that the “discussions” are effectively already over – as a contract was signed months ago.

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21 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Surfers against Sewage Report: “Shameful” that people are falling sick from swimming in sewage
  • 400,000 patients waiting for NHS treatment since last Autumn Statement
  • Sexual harassment survey: Comment on BTP findings
  • Welsh Lib Dems urge speed up of Net Zero Plan
  • Welsh Lib Dems call more for ambitious clean air target
  • Welsh Lib Dems lay down their demands for Wales from upcoming Autumn statement

Surfers against Sewage Report: “Shameful” that people are falling sick from swimming in sewage

Responding to the Surfers Against Sewage report which has found bathing sites in the UK are failing to meet minimum safety levels, while hundreds of people are falling sick due to sewage pollution, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

It is shameful that so many popular swimming spots are being ruined and people are getting seriously ill because of filthy sewage dumping. Water companies are being allowed to get away with committing environmental vandalism on a huge scale while pocketing huge bonuses.

This is an insult to families across the country who just want to swim at their local river or beach without worrying about falling sick because of disgusting sewage. It’s about time Conservative ministers cracked down on sewage dumping, starting with banning bonuses for water company bosses until this filthy practice is brought to an end.

400,000 patients waiting for NHS treatment since last Autumn Statement

  • The NHS backlog has grown to 7.8 million since last year’s Autumn Statement, with almost 400,000 waiting for treatment since before November 2022
  • Liberal Democrat Leader calls on the Chancellor to bring down NHS waiting lists to get people back to work and boost economic growth
  • Ed Davey: “Any plan for economic growth needs a plan for urgent NHS action. Without a new NHS plan, tens of thousands of people will be left out of work, in pain, desperate for treatment.”

Nearly 400,000 patients have been on a waiting list to start NHS treatment since before last year’s Autumn Statement, research by the Liberal Democrats has been revealed.

This new analysis of NHS figures shows a staggering 391,122 patients have been stuck in a backlog waiting for consultant-led treatment since before last November’s Autumn Statement. Meanwhile, the number of patients stuck on NHS waiting lists has increased to 7.8 million, up 700,000 compared to last year.

It comes as new polling by the Liberal Democrats found that one in seven working age adults (15%) say they’ve had to take a significant length of time off work in the past year as they wait for NHS treatment or surgery for a health condition.

The Liberal Democrats are warning that these treatment backlogs are damaging economic growth and will continue to impact both the economy and people’s quality of life without a significant rescue package.

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Carmichael warns on new election spending regulations

So, if you’re the Tories and you’re lagging in the polls, you’ve run out of ideas and you’re basically a hot mess masquerading as a Government, but you want to grip on to power because you think you are entitled to it, what do you do?

You can’t gerrymander like the Republicans have done in states all over the US to ensure that they run State legislatures because our boundary setting process is independent.

Well, you could give yourself a massive financial boost by raising the campaign spending limits to a level at which you can comfortably outspend your rivals. And you also raise the levels at which you have to report donations.

In Parliament today, without debate, they slipped out a regulation doing just that.

Now these limits were well overdue a rise, but these limits should be set by consensus between the parties. Not on how much money the party of the rich can expect to raise.

Alistair Carmichael took to Twitter to express his displeasure:

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Rob Blackie challenges Transport for London to tackle sexual harassment

A British Transport Police survey published today revealed that a third of women had said that they had suffered some level of sexual harassment on their daily commute by train or tube:

The recent survey also shows that half (51%) of those who have been victims of sexual offending say that other passengers tried to help them, yet only one in five (18%) people who have witnessed sexual harassment have reported it to police.

Contrary to popular belief, crime data also shows that most sexual offending takes place during the evening rush hour period (5-7pm) in busy train carriages.

Just three weeks ago, Transport for London told London Lib Dem Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie that their own survey showed sexual harassment was at a very low rate.

Rob said today:

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20 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Sunak removes NHS from top 5 pledges
  • Ethics advisor must investigate David Cameron’s appointment
  • Lib Dem Peer’s Bill to end conversion therapy

Sunak removes NHS from top 5 pledges

Responding to Rishi Sunak’s speech this morning, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

By officially de-prioritising the NHS and omitting it from his top 5 priorities, Rishi Sunak has shown yet again just how out of touch he is.

The Prime Minister clearly doesn’t care about the millions of people across the country on hospital waiting lists or the families and pensioners struggling to get appointments with a GP or dentist.

Shockingly, the Prime Minister doesn’t even understand the link between a better health service and a stronger economy.

Any strategy for economic growth must have a strategy for better healthcare, yet the Conservatives clearly don’t understand that.

Ethics advisor must investigate David Cameron’s appointment

The Liberal Democrats have written to Rishi Sunak’s ethics adviser, calling on him to launch an investigation into David Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary.

It comes as Cameron is set to officially take up his peerage in the House of Lords today.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain has raised five key questions in a letter to the ethics adviser Laurie Magnus. These include whether David Cameron will be publishing a full list of ministerial interests as soon as he is appointed, and if he will be placing his investments into a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest. Currently it is expected that David Cameron won’t have to publish his register of interests until January.

Failure to prevent any conflicts of interests would risk breaching the ministerial code, which requires ministers to be transparent about their private financial interests to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest.

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Lib Dems mark Trans Day of Remembrance

Today, 20th November, is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we stop to think of those trans people who have lost their lives to murder in the past year. This year’s list has a horrifying, 320 murders. 94% of those murdered were trans women.  A further 72 lost their lives to suicide.

Last year, there were no murders and suicides in the UK. This year there were 5, one murder, Brianna Ghey and 4 suicides.

All lives ended too soon. Young people who should have been accepted as who they are and left alone to live their lives in peace.

If your child comes out to you as trans, you are likely to be very scared indeed by the rising hate crime figures and the rising suicide figures. The number of trans people experiencing suicidal ideation is a massive concern – almost 90% in a study published earlier this year. 

At the same time we see Government ministers deny, demean and ridicule trans people on an almost daily basis. And let’s not forget that Labour has decided to give in to the Tory culture war on this. In the US there are hundreds of anti trans pieces of legislation.

And we wonder why trans people are the target of violence and are driven to poor mental health, suicidal ideation and more. We could just support them, give them the healthcare they need, make sure their rights are protected in law and give vibes of acceptance. It really isn’t rocket science.  Thankfully, Lib Dem policy is centred on doing exactly that.

Lib Dems have been marking Transgender Day of Remembrance.

On the Lib Dem website, Christine Jardine, our Equalities spokesperson wrote:

Today is Trans Day of Remembrance – an important opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to transphobia, and reflect on how we as a society can end this loss of life.

In decades past, the UK has led the world in advancing human equality for all LGBT+ people – with the Liberal Democrats playing a particularly key role in driving that forward.

But in recent years, progress has stalled and even gone backwards. I’m deeply concerned to see such a vulnerable group of people being dragged into a manufactured culture war.

We cannot forget the chilling impact this has on people’s lives, either. Like the fact that last year, transphobic hate crimes in England and Wales hit a record high. Or the heartbreaking reality that nine in ten young trans adults have had suicidal thoughts – a much higher proportion than the wider population.

Today, my thoughts are with everyone in the trans community who have already lost their lives. Like Brianna Ghey, a 16 year old trans girl who was tragically killed earlier this year. And Alice Litman, who had been waiting more than three years for gender-affirming healthcare when she passed.

Let me be clear – Liberal Democrats will always stand up for the rights of everyone in the LGBT+ community, including trans people.

There is still a long way to go to achieve true equality for the trans community, but Liberal Democrats will keep fighting. We owe it to Brianna, Alice and everyone else we have lost.

LGBT+ Lib Dems said on Twitter:

Today marks Trans Day of Remembrance, a solemn occasion for our #LGBTQ+ communities and allies to reflect, remember, and honour our remarkable trans and non-binary siblings, whose lives were tragically cut short.

Whilst Trans Day of Remembrance concludes Trans Awareness Week, it remains crucial to persist in raising awareness about the prevailing injustice and prejudice in society. Let’s also celebrate the remarkable activists and trailblazers throughout history.

Earlier in Transgender Awareness Week, Plus said there are things we can all do to bring light into the current toxic environment for trans people – an environment which damages us all.

Here are some actions you can take to show your support:

📚 Educate yourself on trans issues.
👤 Use correct pronouns and names.
🗣️ Speak out against discrimination.
💙 Support trans organisations.

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Welcome, belatedly, to my day: 20 November 2023 – perhaps Bhutan might have a useful suggestion on levelling up…

Greetings from a sunny Ipswich, East Anglia’s Waterfront Town – yes, I know, but…

Nice, crisp autumn days like these are a useful reminder of the value of happiness, a sometimes underrated notion unless your life is not that good. And I was reminded that, if levelling up was intended to make people outside London better off, and therefore happier, couldn’t you instead start from the notion of making people happier and thus levelling them up?

Bhutan adopted the idea of “gross national happiness” more than forty years ago and, whilst the idea has been given lip service by politicians since then, it hasn’t been mainstreamed into policy making. Perhaps it should.

The Bhutanese index uses nine core indicators:

  • Community Vitality
  • Cultural Diversity and Resilience
  • Ecological Diversity and Resilience
  • Education
  • Good Governance
  • Health
  • Living Standards
  • Psychological Wellbeing
  • Time Use

and these seem like a list of core themes that suit Liberal Democrats, especially given the increasing concerns about a perceived lack of philosophical heft in our public campaigning.

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What Jeremy Hunt should include in his autumn statement 2023

The autumn statement will be on Wednesday. The economy faces three problems: inflation is still above the 2% target, economic growth is too low and forecast by the Bank of England to be zero next year, and unemployment is rising. Inflation was 4.6% in October, and unemployment rose by 159,000 in September to 1.464 million, an increase of 0.5% to 4.3%.

It was announced in September that borrowing was £11.3 billion less than forecast in March. Some are forecasting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have £15bn ‘headroom’ instead of his forecast of £6.5bn.

The most …

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