Author Archives: Antony Hook

Lib Dem Lawyers’ Open Memo calls for more vocal party support for legal aid

Imagine you are charged with a criminal offence. It has the potential to result in loss of your freedom, reputation, job, family, custody of your children and so on.  You will want a trained professional to help you.  Someone to explain to you the law that applies to the offence, what the state needs to prove against you and what defences may be available.  Someone to scrutinise the evidence against you objectively and assist you in presenting your defence. Someone to protect you from any abuses of power by the state’s police …

Posted in News | 27 Comments

Gender equality… how becoming a councillor has changed my perspective

I am a feminist.

I have called myself that since the mid-2000s and by that term I simply mean that men and women deserve equality. To be valued equally and to have equal opportunity to make the most of our lives.

I have worked for the election of female parliamentarians.  I was part of the team that secured Sharon Bowles’ re-election and Catherine Bearder’s election for the first time in the 2009 European Elections. Five years later, I was Catherine Bearder’s running mate (Sharon having decided not to stand again) and I chaired the regional campaign.  We raised about £250,000 and honed …

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Kent County Council to debate “all options” on the Customs Union today

Kent is known as the Garden of England and the Gateway to Europe.

As a County Councillor, you will rightly expect me to be proud of the place. It’s England largest county authority with 1.82m people.  It has a significant economy (GDP about £37 billion in 2015).  We have everything from Blue Flag beaches (where you can quite often find a Lib Dem peer swimming…) to UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Our history has been shaped by being only 17 miles by sea from continental Europe. Today it’s just 75 minutes by ferry or …

Posted in News | 8 Comments

“Complaining is not a strategy”: Lib Dem European Group’s new invitation to join us

LDEG (the Lib Dem European Group) is an associated organisation of the party campaigning for Britain’s role in Europe and for peace and prosperity across Europe.

The last few years have been harrowing for Liberal Democrats and pro-Europeans.  Our representation in the European Parliament reduced in 2014, a reckless Europhobic government elected in 2015 and the narrow loss of the 2016 referendum.

Things will not change if we do and say the same things we have done and said for years. Nor can we just complain or retreat into self-satisfied disdain of those whose support we failed to win or our …

Posted in News | 32 Comments

The Parliamentary Boundary Review is continuing.


If you want to win a parliamentary seat at the next General Election start thinking about the new parliamentary boundaries.

Seasoned political campaigners understand the importance of the boundaries.  Any area that is divided up into electoral districts has to have lines drawn somewhere.  Moving a village between this or that constituency can make all the difference to who wins and who loses. Sometimes changes are so significant that new constituencies are radically different to their predecessors.

In 2011, Parliament amended the Parliamentary Constituency Act 1986. There were two main changes: 650 MPs …

Posted in News | 25 Comments

“We get fined if we meet your wishes” – the NHS could be so much better

Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of the fact that the NHS exists and the role of Liberals, especially Beveridge, in its creation.

But I find there is a lot to be concerned about in the way it is run.  From the point of view of a patient I often feel more like a player in an elaborate board game.

When I call my local surgery for an appointment I am invariably told nothing is available for 2 or more weeks.  It’s always longer if I want something early or late to minimise the disruption to work.

But I am always told “if it …

Posted in News | 15 Comments

The importance of the frame when debating Brexit

This piece arises out of a comment I made on Facebook that one of Lib Dem Voice’s founding editors asked me to write up as an article for LDV.

I have given training on debate and hustings skills to candidates at the party conference and there are a couple of rules to help you in that I think Remainers and Liberals are continuing to paying insufficient heed to in Brexit related debates.  This was brought home to me while watching recent episodes of Question Time and similar programmes.

The first rule is framing. In a debate, the success of what you have to say (measured by whether people will feel they agree, …

Posted in News | 36 Comments

4 May 2017: a chance to vote against hard Brexit

In 3 weeks most of the UK has a chance to vote in an election. 

The 2017 elections are a national opportunity to push back against hard Brexit.  Unlike so much else that supporters and opponents of Brexit can cite as evidence of public support for their side, the success or failure of each side is measurable, public and real.

On 4 May 2017 there are elections, in

Posted in News | 11 Comments

Cannabis – Canada moving towards legalisation by 2018

Eight states of the USA have already legalised cannabis and Canada is set to follow suit in 2018.  The Liberal government. elected in 2015, had a manifesto commitment to do so.  Unlike the pledge to scrap first past the post and introduce a new electoral system, it is a promise that looks set to be kept.

There are various arguments for legal cannabis.

First, it has been shown to be an effective pain killer, for example for MS patients, and may ease symptoms of conditions like Parkinsons.  It is cruel and unfair to deny patients access.

Second, it …

Posted in News | 17 Comments

Flying our flags – @timfarron and @libdems at Conference

Tim Farron has shown British politics the meaning of political leadership. On Brexit, his fight for the public to be allowed a further say and against ultra-Brexit that no-one voted for has been bold.  In contrast, the leader of the supposed official opposition has dithered.  The unelected Prime Minister pursues a course she herself described as a catastrophe.

Too much of our future is falling under the Brexit axe, which people were reassured by the Leave campaign would not happen.

So, straight after business in the conference hall was concluded on Saturday, Tim Farron was able to join a large group of EU …

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Join @timfarron for Euro campaign photos at conference

I’m really proud to be the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit Spokesman for the South East.  Working with Nick Clegg, our national Brexit spokesman, to hold the government to account and fight for the true national interest could not be more important.

One of the most successfully ways to communicate a message is visually. Pictures speak loudly.

I would like to mention two opportunities, if you are coming to party conference this weekend, to join photos that you can use at a local level.

First, we know that hard Brexit is putting our future under the axe. No-one voted for the Brexit axe to fall on family …

Posted in Conference, Europe / International, Europe Referendum and Events | Leave a comment

Where power is going and more reason for democracies to band together

The Independent has covered a PwC report on the likely biggest 32 economies by the middle of this century.

It is a familiar prediction of power slipping away from the West towards the global South and East.  As history teaches us, with economic size go political, diplomatic, military and cultural power.

The PwC prediction has China and India overtaking the USA.  Only Germany, Britain and France from Europe in the top 12.

Of the top 5: China, India, the USA, Indonesia and Brazil.  All except China are putative democracies and have functioning multi-party systems, to an extent, but all have serious human …

Posted in News | 15 Comments

Even the Daily Telegraph now says Leave was “wrong, “wrong” and “wrong”

The Daily Telegraph was once a Liberal newspaper.  It praised Gladstone as “the People’s William”, supported the abolition of the death penalty in the nineteenth century, and reform of the House of Lords.

As the Liberal Party lost public strength in the inter-war years it became a Conservative newspaper, although like Liberals in the 30s, opposed Hitler and the Conservative policy of Appeasement.  It also gave Tony Blair a sympathetic hearing in 1997 and 2001.

In recent years it has seemed to drift to the more UKIP end of the Conservative Party.  It was the only daily broadsheet newspaper that backed Leave …

Posted in News | 36 Comments

Norman Lamb slams West Kent NHS Operations Ban

The NHS in West Kent (one of the most prosperous parts of the South East) has banned operations until April due to a funding crisis.

Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb, the former Liberal Democrat Health Minister, has responded after West Kent banned all non-urgent operations until April.

“Patients who are in severe pain should not have to wait for a new financial year to have an operation. This is not what our NHS is about. What we need instead is a new financial plan from the government to deliver the funding the health service needs.

“This is the longest …

Posted in News | 22 Comments

Attack Leave’s Leaders, Ideas and Claims. Not Voters.

When our party, and the wider movement of people in our country who are broadly liberal, is at its best we are: understanding, tolerant, empathetic and open.

But there are times when some people “on our side” are less than that. There are some people who do not understand the difference between robustly defending an idea and being rude.

I know the aggression of the other side.  I know all about the trolling and harassment on social media.  In my years as a candidate I have had hate mail, someone follow me at night, silent phone calls and been signed up to junk mail lists.  You just …

Posted in News | 43 Comments

If the wooly hat fits – raising money by email

Fundraising matters.  In the system we have in the UK, where the law permits large amounts to be spent on elections, minimal state funding of candidates and no restriction on how much donors can give, you have to raise funds to have a chance to compete and win on polling day.

Email fundraising is a type of fundraising that can really work for Liberal Democrats if it is done right.

When I stood for the European Parliament in the South East in 2014 we ran an email fundraising campaign that raised a significant six-digit figure (an amount more than twice the entire campaign spend at the previous …

Posted in News | 1 Comment

EU-US Agreement on Law Enforcement Data Sharing Approved – something else we are set to lose

It’s important for police and other law enforcement agencies to keep information.  They could not function without it.  In the modern age it is advantageous for information to be shared across national borders, if we are to beat criminals who cross borders physically or electronically.

In my time working in the criminal justice system, I have seen that happen successfully many times.  Sometimes it is as simple as a police officer here emailing police in another country, explaining what they are investigating and would they be able to look into something for them.

I have seen witness statements for cases in England supplied by police in other parts …

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Goes AWOL

EU foreign ministers are meeting on Sunday to discuss the outcome of the US election.  Our Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson brings shame on himself, his office and our country by announcing he will not turn up.

The UK remains a member of the EU for the time being and should make its voice heard fully in Europe for as long as it can.

The US election result has important implications for Europe. Just as European politics affects the US.  The shape of trade between the EU and USA may be affected by Trump’s win (will TTIP happen, how might it change?). European defence may …

Posted in News | 45 Comments

Understanding the High Court Article 50 Decision (link to full judgment)

The High Court today ruled that the Prime Minister cannot give notice of intention to withdraw from the European Union (“activate Article 50”) without reference to Parliament.

Social media has exploded this morning with comment about this.  A lot of it is inaccurate and gets wrong why the court had ruled as it has and what are the practical implications of the ruling, which will be appealed to the Supreme Court in December.

The best way to understand is to read the full judgment or the shorter summary issued by the court.

You can find both of those here.

In the long-run, decisions …

Posted in News | 54 Comments

10 human rights orgs take UK to court over bulk surveillance of the public

Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International and seven other organisations are jointly taking the UK and the US to court over their bulk surveillance of ordinary citizens.

This 115 page document sets out the applicants case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case is about systems whereby the UK and the US are collecting data on all of us without our consent, for example 5 billion records per day of mobile phone locations and hundreds of millions of text messages.

It is argued that this level of surveillance of the public is unnecessary and, in any event, is being done without sufficient …

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Tim Kaine: “It’s a civil rights election”


Hilary Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, has written about the importance of civil rights in America’s presidential election.

In an essay for Black Entertainment Television he writes:

I’ve learned how being white… means you can go your entire life without ever understanding the challenges African-Americans face every day. It’s on all of us to come to grips with these issues.

In many ways, that’s the deeper question we’re facing in this election: who we are, how we treat each other and what kind of nation we want to leave our children.

It’s a civil rights election.

He …

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Arthur Koestler’s Account of the Fall of France: Closed, Intolerant, Divided. A Warning for Brexit Britain.



Britain faces a challenging time in the next few years.  We can meet these challenges if we are the best Britain we can be:  open in our minds and hearts, tolerant and united.

I am one of those who believes that history has much to teach us about ourselves and the present.  Past and present are not the same.  But by studying the mistakes of the past we have a greater to chance to do better in future.  My 3 years as a history student have formed my mind as much as …

Posted in News | 16 Comments

Even George Osborne Gets It: “Hard Brexit did not win a majority”

George Osborne is not a popular figure in the Liberal Democrats. He has never shown compassion of the poor and since the 2015 General Election followed an economic policy we disagree with – failing to invest and take advantage of low interest rates.

Many of us who gave all we had for Remain feel he let us down. His foolish threat of an “emergency budget” drove voters into Leave’s hands. Like Cameron, he contributed over years and years to the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe mood music that entrenched euro-scepticism in many people’s minds.

However, he has now made a speech clearly criticising the May government’s …

Posted in News | 19 Comments

50 Cases Where the European Court of Human Rights made a real difference

Adam Wagner on the brilliant  Human Rights Info Blog has compiled a list of 50 important cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights.

Any list inherently leaves out others that could have been included but it is a good selection that easily gives anyone who is unfamiliar with the court and idea of what it does for the people of Europe.

The classic nationalist objection is that “our country could do that anyway“.  The point is that at least one country in the Council of Europe did not do so and someone had to seek the court’s protection.

In some of the …

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One of the most important human rights cases in the world may have started this week

Human rights law is inherently international.

This is true not only because of international agreements that codify rights to which ever person is entitled.  It is also true because the authors of such agreements and courts that resolve disputes about the relationship between citizen and state look to each other, across national boundaries, are influenced by each other and have done for a very long time.

Arguably the most important human rights case in the US since 1945 was Brown v Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court unanimously decided that segregation of black and white children between different schools was unconstitutional.  …

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All over the country, cross-party meetings on Europe are taking place

I cannot recall a political issue since I joined the party in 1998 that has engaged public interest so deeply and for so long as the EU referendum and its aftermath.  Almost 3 months after polling day, you can still hear people you pass at the bus stop, in pubs and cafes and other public places talking about it.

I agree with the analysis of David Allen Green of the FT that Brexit is not inevitable and will be with us as a political issue for a very long time.

Tim Farron has set out the Liberal Democrat plan for Britain in Europe.  …

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Judge: “Did you issue the fine in the water?” – Burkini Ban Suspended By France’s High Court

The decision of some French towns (it is not a decision of France’s national government) to ban head-to-toe Burkini swimsuits is clearly a mistake.  A free society is one in which people can decide for themselves what they want to wear.

The justification offered by the Mayor or Nice that after terrorist attacks by people who say they are Muslims, Islamic dresses causes people fear and should be banned is wrong.  If every wrong-doing resulted in interference in the basic freedom of entirely innocent people, who happen to share a religion or other characteristic with the wrong-doer, none of us would have very …

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Welcome news – police create online hate crime hub

 Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / wacker


The Guardian reports the Metropolitan police are creating an Online Hate Crime Hub.

The detectives staffing it – nicknamed “troll hunters” – will be specially trained to identify people using the cloak of online anonymity to commit hate crimes and similar offences.

In my view, this is a thoroughly positive step that recognises modern problems need modern solutions.  Liberal Democrats should enthusiastically welcome this initiative.

Hate crime is terrible for the people who suffer from …

Posted in News | 43 Comments

Indian Independence Day

Today is 69 years since India gained its independence from the British Empire.

On this day, everyone in the Liberal Democrats will send warm wishes to our friends in India and the other countries of the Indian sub-continent that were created when British rule ended.  We restate that our friends and neighbours of Indian, Pakistan, Bangledesh, and Sri Lankan heritage in Britain are welcome and valued members of our society, as are people of all heritages.

The struggle for self-rule in India was long and hard.  As Liberals, we recognise and share the deep, basic, natural desire for freedom that drove men and women such as the …

Posted in News | 14 Comments

Grammar School Selection – some absurd recent history

Theresa May’s party activist pleasing aim to create more grammar schools generated a lot of debate last week.

I thought I would share the absurdity of the Kent Test, which I sat to go to grammar school in 1991.  It is fair to say that Conservative-run Kent administered selection in a very odd way at that time.

In those days:

Your test could be given someone else’s mark

a) You took, at the start of Year 6, three tests.  But the marks you were given was usually not your own.  This was not an administration error but was intentional policy.

Primary Schools had to rank pupils in order of ability before the test.  This ranking was kept secret.  It was pre-FoI, pre-DPA and pupils and parents were never allowed to know where they were ranked or why. You then took the test.  The best mark scored by anyone in the school was assigned to the person the school had ranked top.  The second best mark to the next person and so on, even if the student had actually scored a different mark in the test.

Posted in education | 87 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Steve Trevethan
    Might the root problems of yesterday’s childish and selfish behaviours be found in the extremely unsuited design of the House of Commons, the lout behaviour o...
  • Jeff
    expats 21st Feb '24 - 8:24am: I looked at the ‘trading giants’ listed… This makes my point perfectly. As with other Brexit benefits, the...
  • Neil Fawcett
    @Paul Barker - she clearly didn't hide them very well. Another member spotted that she had made some abhorrent posts on social media and put in a complaint. As ...
  • Nick Baird
    Imperfect as it is, our democracy is the sum of its parts, and one of those parts is Opposition Day debates. The second largest party gets 17 of those per parl...
  • Nigel Jones
    So good to have Layla representing us in Foreign Policy, especially on this issue. A pity she did not have time to say more, especially to put things in perspec...