Long-serving Lib Dem Robert Aldridge becomes Edinburgh’s new Lord Provost

Popular Lib Dem Councillor Robert Aldridge became Edinburgh’s Lord Provost on Thursday. He was the only nomination and was proposed by the leader of the SNP Group Adam McVey and seconded by his ward colleague, new Lib Dem Councillor Ed Thornley. Watch here:

Dobbie, as he is known to his friends, was first elected to the Council in 1984. I first got to know him when we first moved back to Scotland in 2000 when he was Marilyne Maclaren’s agent in Edinburgh South for two general elections. He spent most of his career working for an organisation supporting people through homelessness. He is a wonderful, compassionate Liberal Democrat. He made a superb, generous and inclusive speech on taking office which you can listen to here. It certainly had me in bits.

He will need every ounce of his patience and ability to make people work well together over the next five years.

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Wendy Chamberlain slams PM’s “appalling attempt to rig the rules”

You would think, wouldn’t you, that when the culture of your Government has been slammed in a report which outlined disgraceful behaviour, you would be absolutely mortified and would make sure that your actions showed that you were truly sorry. Especially when you had been saying so at length and you knew that nobody believed a word of your apology.

Well, you could think that of virtually any other PM than Boris Johnson. But the current incumbent’s capacity for brazen disregard for rules or accountability is second to none. We saw this when he tried to change the rules to save his mate Owen Paterson last Autumn.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson watered down both the Ministerial Code and the role of the so-called “Independent Adviser.” The Guardian reports:

The prime minister faced a barrage of criticism after he amended the rules on Friday to make clear that ministers will not always be expected to resign for breaching the code of conduct. Under new sanctions, they could apologise or temporarily lose their pay instead.

Johnson also blocked his independent ethics chief, Christopher Geidt, from gaining the power to launch his own investigations, and rewrote the foreword to the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.

Our Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain is reported as saying that this was an:

appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

It seems the Conservatives have learned nothing from the Owen Paterson scandal.

It has been clear for some time that the Government doesn’t care that accountability and justice are seen to be done where its own behaviour is concerned. With these moves they are effectively giving themselves the right to mark their own homework. The legitimacy of any Government depends on having some sort of check on its power.

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Lib Dems head to Tiverton and Honiton

With just 26 days to go before polling day, Lib Dems are heading to Devon this weekend to support Richard Foord’s campaign to overturn a 24,000 Conservative majority. Activists have come from as far away as Fife, 600 miles away, to help.

The Young Liberals are turning up in force to help, just as they did in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire. They also produced an excellent guide to campaigning in by-elections which you can find here in the Members’ area of the ALDC website.

It’s looking busy and positive on the campaign trail and voters are well aware that we are the challengers to the Tories:

 

While Richard Foord has been impressing in the media, the Independent reports that the Conservatives are keeping their candidate well out of sight of journalists so she doesn’t have to face questions about Partygate:

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Observations of an expat: gun control v. tyranny

Chiselled on the wall of the entrance lobby of the National Rifle Association are the words: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This, claims the gun lobby is the Second Amendment of the US constitution. It is not. The oft-quoted right to bear arms clause is preceded by the words “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right….”

Should the amendment be read in its entirety with the second half contingent on the first? Or has the need for a citizens’ militia become redundant in the modern age and therefore only the second half remains relevant?

The NRA is in no doubt. It only every quotes the second half. All references to militias are conspicuous by their absence.

But why do Americans need guns? Conservatives say it is to protect themselves and their families from bad people with guns. Liberals reply: then take the guns away from the baddies as well as the goodies so no one can shoot. It is a policy that has worked in Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other developed countries.

American conservatives retort with what may be the real reason for hanging onto their firearms: Individual gun ownership is the ultimate defence against tyranny – the tyranny of anarchy and the tyranny of overbearing government.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz – one of the most prominent supporters of the NRA and a major beneficiary of the gun lobby’s largesse – was crystal clear on the tyranny issue when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He wrote in his campaign literature:

“The Second Amendment isn’t just for protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It’s a constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny – for the protection of liberty.”

But from whence does this need for weapons as protection against tyranny come? The answer is Britain.

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Russia’s Ukrainian war must lead to Putin’s downfall

In my Lib Dem Voice article of 4th March 2022, I argued that Putin should be stopped in Ukraine for good.

Now that Putin has narrowed his war aims to take over the rest of Donbas, Luhansk, including the industrial and food producing heartland of Ukraine, having had created a land corridor to Crimea and brought Ukraine’s economy to its knees, he may well accede to calls for a ceasefire to consolidate his gains, erect strong defences in his recently-captured territories and rebuild his army into a new more effective force to recommence war whenever it suits him.

A ceasefire would be the easy way out for the West. Some western countries have already suggested it. However, we must resist this happening if the Ukrainian Government is against it.

After tens of thousands of Ukrainian deaths, disappearances of whole Ukrainian populations deported from captured war zones into Russia, the wholesale demolition of Ukrainian cities and towns (all at a cost of 25,000 dead Russian soldiers so far and many more wounded), the chaos that Putin has caused cannot be allowed to be paused to be continued later, whether against Ukraine or other neighbouring countries.

We have two and a half years before the possible return of Trump or another far-right Republican to the White House. Given Trump’s previous disparaging remarks about NATO, we cannot exclude the possibility that the US would pull out or render US membership of NATO ineffective. Coupled with Trump’s own admiration for Putin, the very survival of liberal democracy is at stake in such circumstances if Putin continues to remain in power with, of course, China taking advantage of the situation to further its own aims against the West.

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Farron: Farmers at sharp end of cost of living crisis need support

Writing in The House yesterday, Tim Farron said:

British farming communities are a crucial cog in the cost of living fighting machine. But farming families themselves are facing an even more acute cost of living emergency.

He said input costs are spiralling making crops and livestock more expensive to produce. In 12 months, the price of animal feed has shot up by 60 per cent. In some cases, fertiliser prices have quadrupled because production uses gas. Twelve months ago, a tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser cost £280 – it now costs £1,000.

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Quotas, targets and strategies – how to get more female councillors

I have been asked how we consistently manage to elect a diverse group of Lib Dem councillors in Kingston, reflecting the local community in terms of gender and ethnicity.

I want to focus specifically on gender in this post, and that got me thinking about quotas and targets.

Quotas

Amongst the many strategies to get a better gender balance in education, employment and political representation, quotas have had their day. There is one simple problem with quotas – they are perceived as unfair all round.

Quotas in general carry the implication that those in the under-represented group are not able to achieve parity on their own worth; access can only be addressed by imposing restraints on selection. Quotas also create resentment amongst well-qualified people who do not fit the quota but who feel they have been overlooked in favour of someone who may be less qualified.

I do understand that quotas can be seen as a rebalancing exercise, but they are not sustainable unless they address the underlying causes of the imbalance. For that reason I was never a fan of all-women shortlists. They were seen as a quick fix to a specific problem in Westminster, although in the end the voters fixed it for us in a much more brutal way.

Targets

Targets can be helpful as a way of focussing attention on something that needs to improve. But they can also have unintended consequences, especially if resources are limited. For example, setting a target for treatment waiting times by the NHS for certain illnesses may result in resources being diverted from treatment for other illnesses.

When thinking about setting targets for recruiting Council candidates we must ask three questions:

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Independent View: Lib Dems are turning heads in the Tories’ rural heartlands. Here’s how they can win over countryside voters for good

The recent local election results continue to demonstrate that rural support for the Conservatives is dwindling.

Their loss was, by all appearances, the Liberal Democrats’ gain. Where the Conservatives faltered, the Lib Dems thrived: in newly created council Westmorland and Furness, they took 36 seats compared to just 11 for the Tories, and in the Conservative stronghold of Somerset, they won 65 seats compared to a meagre 36.

Our recent opinion poll could well have predicted this Conservative downfall in the countryside. Published just weeks before locals took to the ballots, it indicated a 7.5% drop in support for the Conservatives.

Should the governing party continue on this downward trajectory, the results could be an indication of more big wins to come for the Lib Dems.

This is by no means a foregone conclusion, however. To ensure local election wins are converted into seats at the next General Election, there is no room for complacency.

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Ed Davey highlights “Sunak Scam” and other Lib Dems respond to Chancellor’s statement

Ed Davey was unimpressed with the package announced by Rishi Sunak aimed at helping people with the soaring cost of living.

He described it as the “Sunak Scam.”

The Chancellor is hammering families with a £800 tax hike this year, more than wiping out what he announced today.

It is the Sunak scam, promising you help but picking your pockets while you’re not looking.

Soaring inflation and devastating tax rises have left proud families who never dreamed they would find themselves in trouble struggling to pay the bills.

The British people need help right now, but instead have been left abandoned again for months on end.

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Moray Deserves Better – Douglas Ross Should Resign

The people of Moray deserve better from our elected Member of Parliament. Douglas Ross should resign now as an MP. Let someone do the job who actually wants to make a positive difference in the lives of those who live and work in Moray.

Our MP has not only backed down on calling for a Prime Minister that has committed a criminal offence to resign, but he has also got a track record for missing key votes that would benefit his Moray constituents due to his commitments as MSP and as a Scottish party leader.

Only last week, our MP was absent for a vote for an emergency VAT tax cut from 20% to 17.5% that would have saved Moray residents an average of £600 per household. This at a time where there is a cost-of-living crisis in our country.

The Scottish Conservatives have already proven to be led by someone with the backbone of a jellyfish. Our former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called Douglas Ross out for his lack of backbone after he withdrew his letter of no confidence in the party-animal Prime Minister.

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Progressive Lib Dem Labour Partnership takes helm in Powys

Powys County Council is to be led by the Welsh Liberal Democrats for the first time since its creation, in a partnership with Welsh Labour. Previous administrations have been led by independents.

James Gibson-Watt, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Powys Council, was elected as Leader of the Council at the Council’s AGM this morning, becoming the first Welsh Liberal Democrat Council leader since 2012.

The agreement between the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Welsh Labour will focus on delivering a fresh and distinctive path to meet the serious challenges the county faces. A Green Party councillor is expected to join the partnership.

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17 August 2022: Ambulance Domesday in West Midlands

If you live in the West Midlands and are going to fall ill, you better get on with it. Certainly, don’t leave it until 17 August because if you want an ambulance, you may not get one. That’s the apocalyptic prediction from a director of the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).

Ambulance provision in the West Midlands, as in many other areas of the country, has been struggling for a couple of years. There are endless stories of delays in ambulances reaching patients. Handover delays from ambulance paramedics at the county’s two hospitals, both maintained by the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust (SaTH), are among the longest in England. There are far too many reports of patients dying during these delays when they might have survived. Too many patients with worse health outcomes because they could not get to specialist treatment quickly enough.

Mark Docherty, Executive Director of Nursing and Clinical Commissioning at WMAS, this week told the media and the board members of the ambulance service that the whole West Midlands ambulance service could fail by mid-August.

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Reactions to the Sue Gray report

Ed Davey spoke in the Commons following the Prime Minister’s statement on the Sue Gray report.

As you might expect, other Lib Dem MPs also expressed their anger.

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It’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to – Gray report

The evidence was overwhelming before today that Johnson had been to parties when they were barred by his own government’s rules. That’s bad.

With Sue Gray’s report now before parliament and the public, it is clear if it wasn’t before, that Johnson has repeatedly lied about parties and whether he attended any. That’s seriously bad.

Gray’s report has now been published. Thirty-seven pages. Nine photos. Vomiting, red wine on the walls, fighting, sitting on laps, karaoke, pizzas, prosecco, birthday drinks, sleeping in the office, overflowing bins, leaving drunk by the back door to avoid the press pack outside the front door, along with poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. Classic signs of parties but we have been repeatedly told that there were no parties, just meetings, and Johnson did not attend any parties.

Johnson is likely to survive this because Conservatives haven’t got the guts to remove him. Although perhaps the truth is that they have no one to replace him.

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Robb Elementary School shooting – will America ever get a grip on guns?

We woke to the grim news this morning of another mass shooting in a school in the USA. Nineteen young children and two adults died in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in south Texas. The gunman, eighteen years old, had purchased two assault rifles and used them for a mass slaughter before being shot dead by police.

President Joe Biden just back from Asia made an emotion speech.

“As a nation we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby. I am sick and tired of it – we have to act.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, reported to be close to tears, said:

“Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break. And our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families – and yet it keeps happening. So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough. Enough is enough.”

 

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Partygate – what advice?

We are expecting Sue Gray’s report today, so I thought you might like to be reminded of the advice we were being given by the Prime Minister during the pandemic.

For example, this was from the very early days of lockdown.

Ans this one was a few days before the party in the garden at Number 10.

And this one, just two days before a gathering at Number 10 to say farewell to two members of staff, which the Police have said did breach the rules.

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Ed Davey: Call COBRA meeting over further Ofgem cap rise

As if people weren’t already struggling with just about everything going up very steeply in price, Ofgem said today that further pain is on the way. A further rise in the energy price cap means that households could be paying another £900 per year come October. This would be an almost doubling of the cap in 6 months and would be disastrous for people who were finding impossible to afford the basics before April’s rise.

Ed Davey has called on the Government to declare a national emergency and convene a special energy COBRA meeting to chart a way forward.

He said:

It is now or never to save families and pensioners on the brink. The government must declare the cost of living crisis a national emergency.  Boris Johnson has sat on his hands for months, he cannot waste a single second longer.

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We must protect Britain’s liberal democracy from the Conservatives

The Conservative Government is on an illiberal rampage, bringing in multiple laws which threaten our civil liberties

From suppressing voter turnout by requiring voters to show ID at polling stations, to criminalising the right to protest peacefully, to bringing the once independent electoral commission under government control, the UK – to borrow a phrase from SNP MP Mhairi Black – is “sleepwalking into fascism”.

The measures to tackle “serious disruption” in the Public Order Bill provide a blatant example. Not satisfied with tearing apart our democratic right to protest, the Home Secretary wants to impose banning orders on protesters, including electronic monitoring tags, travel restrictions, restricted internet access and curfews.

So this all begs the question; what can we do? What can we do to tackle these measures, and protect our basic democratic rights?

Luckily, we still have time before the Public Order Bill is set to become law, so the opportunity to protest peacefully is available to us. For those unable to attend physical protests, a plethora of options is available – contacting MPs, writing articles, getting involved with political parties and groups that fight to protect our rights.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Elizabeth Line: Much to celebrate, but much to learn as well

Today’s opening of the central section of Crossrail is something to celebrate.

The benefits from Crossrail (or the Elizabeth Line as it has become) will be immense.

It will transform travel across London, but also large parts of the South East.  Indeed, it is myth that it is solely a London project. It will cut journey times, provide much needed additional train capacity and encourage people to switch away from making many journeys by car, including in time many people who travel around London by the M25.

Most importantly it will lead to a transformation in genuinely accessible travel.  Passengers will be amazed by the long platforms and trains of 200 metres in length; taking rail and tube travel to a new level.   All 41 Elizabeth line stations will be step-free to platform level, staffed from first to the last train, with a ‘turn-up and go’ service offered to anyone needing assistance. 

 However, whilst celebrating its opening, there is no excuse for forgetting that, as a project, it has fundamentally failed the basic test of being delivered on time and on budget.     

 The central section of Crossrail is opening three and half years late and even then one key station, Bond Street, will not be ready.   Crossrail’s total construction bill is already £4 billion over budget and its delayed opening has drained TfL of much needed fares revenue over the last few years.  The project will have cost around £20 billion on completion, though a good chunk of this has been paid for by London businesses.

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Lib Dems table motion to publish minutes of Johnson and Sue Gray meeting

The Liberal Democrats will today table a motion in Parliament to force the Government to release the minutes of Boris Johnson’s meeting with Sue Gray.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain will lay a Humble Address motion in Parliament, calling on the Government to publish the details of the meeting, including who was responsible for arranging it.

The motion will also call for the publication of all contact between Johnson and Gray during the course of the inquiry into breaches of coronavirus regulations in Downing Street.

This step comes following speculation over the origin and contents of the meeting between …

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Welsh Government seriously out of step with the rest of the UK on building safety scandal

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Welsh Government of being “seriously out of step” with the rest of the UK when it comes to addressing the building safety scandal. The accusation comes after the Scottish Government announced that some of the country’s largest housing developers have agreed to work with the Scottish Government towards the remediation of buildings affected by cladding and fire safety issues.

The announcement follows one by the UK Government last month that major developers will contribute towards remediation costs in England. This leaves Wales as the only GB nation where major developers have not …

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Welcome to my day: 23 May 2022 – g’day everyone!

An unpopular right-wing administration against a rather bland Labour leader results in a collapse of the Government’s vote and, potentially, a change in direction… for Australia. Is it a portent for what might come to pass here at some point between now and 2024? Ah, well that’s the 64,000 dollar question, isn’t it?

Mind you, at the rate at which Conservative MPs are being accused, or in some cases found guilty, of illegal or unwise behaviour, the Government may run out of supporters. And who could have predicted that, in a week in which the Prime Minister focussed on crime at a Cabinet away day, that most of the news would be about him not being fined despite being at parties for which others were fined. Or that a Conservative MP would be arrested over claims of rape, indecent assault, sexual assault, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in public office and another accused of the use of date rape drugs in Parliament? And what is the Government response to these stories? Silence.

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UBI can be Achievable and Affordable

I was ecstatic when our Conference voted to back a Universal Basic Income at Autumn Conference 2020 thanks to the brilliant work of many, including our brilliant Welsh Leader Jane Dodds, James Baillie and Dr. Adam Bernard among others. Since then, party processes have been busy whirring away to figure out the details. We first had a specific UBI working group but this was then rolled into the broader Fairer Society working group last autumn. I’m sure we’ll soon see what the outcome of that process is and I hope it follows the mandate laid down by our Conference in 2020. 

In the meantime, to ensure a healthy debate and help frame our thinking about the issues, we as members should be considering what sensible, funded UBI proposals can look like. To that end, I have worked with others in the Radical Association, the radical liberal pressure group that I chair, to suggest a starting point for our UBI ambitions that is politically feasible going into the next election.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Sweden and Finland want to join NATO. Vladimir Putin has reversed himself and reluctantly said that membership of the Alliance by the two Nordic countries posed “no threat”.  A seamless Swedish-Finnish application seemed certain.

Wait, the diplomats forgot about the perennial thorn in NATO’s Southern flank- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An application to join NATO requires the approval of all 30 members and President Erdogan has threatened a Turkish block. His reason? He is angry because Sweden and Norway give asylum to members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which he is trying to wipe out. Sweden and Finland also imposed sanctions against Turkey when Erdogan ordered his troops into Northern Syria in 2016 (they are still there).

At the top of the list of criteria for NATO membership, is, according to the US State Department, a commitment “to uphold democracy, including tolerance for diversity.” On that basis, Erdogan’s Turkey would fail membership requirements. Since the attempted 2016 coup, Erdogan has jailed nearly 80,000 judges, military officers, civil servants, police, teachers and journalists. 130 media organisations have been closed. Homosexuality is banned and Erdogan has announced plans to reinstate the death penalty. There is, of course, no question of booting Turkey out of the Alliance. It is the strategic bridge between Europe and Asia and at the moment prevents Russian ships from sailing through the Dardanelles to join the war in Ukraine. Realpolitik trumps human rights.

But should Erdogan be allowed to prevent solidly democratic countries from joining NATO? The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty with Norway and Sweden. If other NATO countries followed suit then the Turkish veto would be irrelevant.

The shooting in a Buffalo supermarket which left ten African-Americans dead is not an isolated incident. According to a report by the respected Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) 67 percent of the domestic terror incidents recorded in 2020 were organised by far-right and white supremacist groups. Many of those who stormed Capitol Hill were White supremacists. FBI Director Christopher Wray described White Supremacy as a “significant and pervasive threat” to the US. President Biden called it a “poison running through the body politic.”

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WATCH: Lib Dem campaign launch in Tiverton and Honiton

Yesterday, Ed Davey went to Honiton to eat ice cream, wield some oranges and launch Richard Foord’s campaign to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election. There were lots of activists there to help.

Local Devon Live reporter Lewis Clarke posted a long video including chats with Ed, Richard and Lib Dem activists on the doorsteps. It’s a lovely watch. And there is a cute dog. What more encouragement could you want to help Richard?

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Tory source: Tiverton “likely to fall to the Liberal Democrats”

The announcement of Richard Foord as our candidate for the Tiverton and Honiton by-election was a very clever piece of work by the press team at  LDHQ.

An article in the Telegraph not only had many of our key messages about the by-election, but quoted a Conservative source as saying that the seat was likely to fall to us:

The Liberal Democrat campaign in the constituency is expected to focus on policy areas on which the Conservatives are weak in southern seats, including tax increases and protections for “the rural way of life”.

A Conservative Party source told The Telegraph the seat is likely to fall to the Liberal Democrats, piling pressure on Boris Johnson to shore up support in “blue wall” areas rather than focussing solely on red wall” seats in the north of England.

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Review of “Control – The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics”

When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859; while the finches of the Galapagos Islands formed an example of natural selection, he also referenced selective breeding in animal husbandry as an example of how desired characteristics in breeds could come about. It did not take a genius to realise that selective breeding could also be applied to humans, although it was one, Francis Galton (Darwin’s half-cousin) the Victorian polymath, who did so and founded eugenics. At a distance of over a century it is difficult to see why they found eugenics so attractive as opposed to other interventions, but late Victorian Britain was a country in the grip of an early version of the Great Replacement theory, in this case the replacement of the educated middle and upper classes with the, then uneducated, working classes simply because the latter were having many more children. Galton’s “Hereditary Genius” set out the case for eugenics: that the ‘better’ classes should be encouraged to breed more and the ‘worse’ classes less.  This idea was attractive to many: Winston Churchill, Arthur Balfour, William Beveridge, George Bernard Shaw, Sydney and Beatrice Webb, Marie Stopes, and D H Lawrence amongst others. It even gained the support of the Manchester Guardian. In 1913 the Liberal Government, including Churchill, passed the Mental Deficiency Act (only 3 MPs voting against) which locked up those of low intelligence in institutions, effectively preventing them from breeding, although it did not require sterilisation. That Act was not repealed until 1959.

By 1913, Galton’s ideas had spread far beyond the UK with the United States, in particular, taking them up vigorously; the Eugenics Records Office at Cold Springs Harbour on Long Island being funded mainly by the Carnegie Institute, Rockefeller Foundation, and the philanthropist Mary Harriman. This should be a warning about letting those with money fund research; their interests may not accord with those of society as a whole. Unlike the British, the Americans had no qualms about sterilising those whom they thought should not be allowed to breed, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writing in a 1927 judgement “Three generations of imbeciles is enough”.

Not surprisingly, these American ideas soon crossed back across the Atlantic, this time to Germany, where Alfred Ploetz built on them and the earlier scientific racism of Ernst Haeckel, who had brought Darwin’s ideas to Germany. In time this led to the Holocaust as we all know, but it is important to appreciate that the first victims were those they considered inadequate, either physically or mentally. That experience inoculated most of the world for a couple of generations, but with the success of the Human Genome project and the development of CRISPR gene editing it became possible not only to repair faulty body cells (somatic cells) to cure some rare diseases, but also change the germ cells that create the sperm and ova and so eliminate the disease in future generations. Eugenics was back!

The second part of the book brings the story up to the present and covers what gene editing can, and more importantly, cannot do. It is an important corrective to the idea that genetics at its root is simple: we all learned at school about the heritability of eye colour, controlled by the OCA2 gene. Yet only 62% of those with two copies of the blue-eyed version of the gene have blue eyes; while 7.5% of those with two copies of the brown-eyed version of the gene have blue eyes as well (p. 217). Genetics is nowhere near as simple as people think, and Rutherford offers several other examples.

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Observations of an expat: Xi in Trouble

“We do things better than the West,” is the oft-chanted mantra of the Chinese leadership.

And since Covid emerged from Wuhan the authorities have proudly pointed to their handling of the pandemic as proof of the superiority of the Chinese system as infections and deaths soared in Europe and America while China’s Zero Covid Policy seemed to be keeping a lid on the virus.

That is changing, and the change is threatening President Xi Jinping’s hold on power.

Xi’s problem is that his Zero Covid Policy is making Chinese people think that his cure is worse than the disease.

The policy involves complete lockdown to prevent the spread of infection. In Shanghai recently that meant that China’s commercial hub and the world’s busiest port was shut down.  All 27 million residents were barred from leaving their homes except for medical emergencies.

Babies were separated from their parents. People could not go to the shops to buy food and officials locked people inside their homes. Food and medical supplies were rationed. They were meant to be delivered but too often never appeared.

Shanghai is China’s wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city. Its citizens are used to the trappings of Chinese economic success and enjoy a relatively free lifestyle. They objected to the lockdown and the policy behind it.

The Communist Party censored the objections but tech-savvy residents managed to circumvent the Great Firewall of China to post videos on Western social media of people banging pots and pans in protest and displaying banners which read: “I want my freedom back.”

Shanghai is beginning to return to normal, but Beijing and its 22 million inhabitants is heading for the zero policy lockdown. So far this year 373 million Chinese have suffered severe lockdown measures.

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Lies, condescension, repeat – the new mantra of the Conservative Party

In 2016, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove claimed that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills.

On Wednesday 18th May, the Tories voted against the Liberal Democrat motion to cut VAT on energy bills, highlighting yet again, the lies that Brexit was built upon. The claim by Johnson and Gove that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills implies that being an EU member didn’t allow us to do so previously; despite Belgium cutting VAT on electricity bills while being a member of the EU. Another Brexit lie propagated at the time of the referendum was the “removal of red tape”, later proven to be false by the rising administration costs facing British businesses.

This has highlighted how out of touch the Tories are with the British people.

Despite pensioners feeling abandoned by the government, Sir Ed Davey making clear that tax hikes are the last thing Londoners need and Sir Keir Starmer stating that Johnson is “choosing to let people struggle”, the advice from Home Office minister Rachel Maclean for citizens dealing with the cost of living crisis is… get a better job.

Oh…

When turning the attention to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, her advice is… to get a “high-paid job”.

Oh…

With so many having to choose between heating and eating, having to skip meals and some even having to leave their heating off entirely, the advice from the government is simply to “get a better job”. This echoes the now infamous, heartless speech from former Conservative Employment Minister Norman Tebbit, who told the Conservative Party 1981 Conference that when his father was faced with unemployment in the 30s, “he got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it”.

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Richard Foord selected as candidate in Tiverton and Honiton by-election

Congratulations to Richard Foord who has been selected as our candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election on 23rd June!

Richard lives in the constituency and is a former Army Major who served as a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo. He currently works for a University and volunteers for the Scout movement. He has also run the London marathon for the Royal British Legion.

You can read more about him on his personal website here and on the Liberal Democrat website here.

Ed Davey said:

Richard is an incredible candidate, whose dedication to others has shone not only through his career, but also in his voluntary roles in the community.

This by-election will be a two-horse race between Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and hard-working Liberal Democrat local champion, Richard Foord. This Conservative government has taken Devon for granted with local health services being neglected and botched and with trade deals undercutting farmers at every turn.

The Liberal Democrats are the clear challengers to the Conservatives in Tiverton & Honiton. On 23rd June, you can elect a strong local champion who will stand up for our communities and help kick Boris Johnson out of Number 10.

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