Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Beatrice Wishart challenges media on reporting violence against women and girls

Thursday was White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. At Holyrood MSPs paused for a minutes silence to remember those women murdered by men over this past year.

Later there was a debate on ways to eradicate men’s violence against women. Beatrice Wishart, our MSP for Shetland, who has a long record of helping women who have suffered domestic abuse made a brilliant speech in which she called for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms. She drew attention to the way the media reports violence against women, often victim shaming and she talked particularly about how they talk about this awful practice of “spiking”, drugging someone’s drink in order to assault them.

You can watch her speech here. The text is below:

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a trustee of Shetland Women’s Aid.

I, too, pay tribute to Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and other services and individuals across Scotland for the good work that they do, not just on international day for the elimination of violence against women, but every day. It is worth saying again that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 days of activism campaign. It has been 30 years, and, each year, the debate exchanges statistics that are unacceptable and horrific, as Pam Duncan-Glancy stated.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in three women worldwide will, in their lifetime, be subjected to

“either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, and we know that Covid has impacted on women’s equality progress across the globe.

Earlier this year, Jess Phillips MP, the UK shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, read out the names of the 118 women who had been killed in the preceding year and in whose case a man had been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. It took her a little over four minutes and the list did not include the names of the women referenced in the motion, who were tragically killed after March this year.

The number of domestic abuse incidents reported by Police Scotland has risen for the fourth year in a row, with one in four women in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is a plague that not only affects women but impacts whole households. Children are tragically caught in it, too. It was seeing the lifelong impact of domestic abuse on children and the financial abuse of women that drew me into my voluntary trustee role.

I know that all speakers in the debate are striving to ensure that women and girls across the globe and closer to home can live their lives free from fear. Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously called for—and we do so again—the establishment of the new commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government. Along with providing increased training for those who work in education and on the front line in public authorities, we can work together to build better public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women and take action to eradicate it.

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4pm today – show your solidarity with refugees

People across Scotland will be placing an image like this in windows with a candle at 4pm today to show solidarity with refugees.

I thought it might be an idea to share the idea here in case any readers want to take part.

This started as an initiative from the Strathclyde Chapter of the Methodist Church. Lib Dem Councillor Fiona Dryburgh is a member and shared it. It’s fine for heathens like me to take part. The idea is:

Print the picture – or draw an orange heart on a piece of paper and put it in your window with a candle today at 4pm. Take a picture of it and post it on your Twitter account with the following tag: @IMIX_UK or tag your post with #TogetherWithRefugees.

I’m sure most people reading this will be filled with heartbreak and anger at the needless loss of life in the Channel. And we will also be horrified by our Government’s heartless attitude towards people trying to reach a better, safer life. And, to be honest, we’ll be horrified by the appalling way the French authorities have destroyed the refugee camps in Calais and hampered the efforts of people helping them.

Euan Davidson wrote on this site in 2018 about his volunteer trip to Calais to help refugees:

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Momentum builds for Lib Dems in N Shropshire as Ed Davey visits again…

So the Lib Dems are certainly dominating with tweets on North Srhopshire and also with campaigning on the ground.

The campaign is really taking off as party members from all over the country visit. If, like me, you can’t travel at the moment, see under the cut for details of how you can be part of this.

There won’t be many from further away than Alistair Carmichael who has been in Wem this weekend instead of at home in Orkney.

This has all the hallmarks of the Great Lib Dem By-Election campaigns. It’s hard work and lots of fun!

And Ed Davey is enjoying himself, he’s back for his third visit in two weeks:

He spoke to the local paper, telling them:

When I am talking to people on their doorsteps I would think about a third of them are telling me about problems they had faced themselves.

I have been told of eight to nine-hour waits for ambulances – that really shocked me.”

The Liberal Democrat leader raised the issue of the closure of North Shropshire ambulance stations in the House of Commons.

London Ambulance Service changed its mind about closing down stations. Here West Midlands Ambulance Service has already closed Oswestry and Market Drayton,” he said.

And here are some of the others who have flocked to the constituency this weekend:

 

 

But there might be all sorts of reasons that you can’t get there. Read on to find out how else you can help.

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Lib Dems in Three Rivers instal first Progress Pride flag crossing

Visitors to Leavesden Country Park in Hertfordshire will have the chance to cross on the first Progress Pride flag in the country. Former Council Leader Sara Bedford set this project in motion before she stepped down

The Progress Pride flag incorporates additions to the traditional rainbow flag to make it more inclusive and intersectional. The addition of black, brown, pink, blue and white stripes shows solidarity with trans people and people of colour.

Earlier this year, Sutton Lib Dem Councillor Jake Short wrote on this site about the rainbow and trans flag crossings now in place in Sutton.

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For Transgender Day of Remembrance

On 20th November each year, vigils take place across the world to remember those lost to anti transgender violence every year. This year the list stretches to more than one person for every single day. 375 trans people have been killed since November 20 2021. It’s grim reading. So many are in their 20s. These are not just names on a page. They are people with feelings, hopes, dreams whose lives were taken from them as a result of prejudice and discrimination.

Transgender Day of Remembrance started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to remember Rita Hester who had been killed the year before.

A good few years ago now, I was in London with some young people and, at their request,  spent a rainy Saturday evening that we could have spent in a warm theatre standing in Trafalgar Square in the freezing rain at a hate crime vigil.  Not long after that, one of those young people came out as transgender.  He was under no illusion about the prejudice he faced, yet he knew that the only way he could have a fulfilling life was to be open about his true self. That takes incredible courage and requires our sensitivity and support. Every time we open our mouths on this subject, or get ready to hit our keyboards, we need to think about the human cost of our words. If in doubt, be extra kind.

In the UK today, trans people face a barrage of prejudice and discrimination wherever they turn. Anti-trans activists dominate newspaper columns and broadcast interviews while complaining of being silenced. Helen Belcher wrote about the current climate on this site the other day.

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Last chance to see start of Impeachment: American Crime Story

If, like me, you were waiting for life to calm down a bit before you binge watched the new drama about Bill Clinton’s impeachment and his appalling behaviour which led up to it, think again. The first episode disappears from iPlayer at 9:15 on Thursday (18th November) and the subsequent 4 every Thursday afterwards.

I watched the first two episodes on Sunday night and found it to be absolutely brilliant, made with sensitivity and understanding. That may well be because Monica Lewinsky is one of the producers and has the chance to tell her story in a way that she couldn’t at the time.  And it is very true to the way I remember it. Great care has been taken to make the scenes that took place in public, like the hug between Clinton and Lewinsky at a White House event after his 1996 victory look very authentic.

I remember Bill Clinton’s furious denial of sexual relations with “that woman”, I remember the fury I felt at the public shaming of Monica Lewinsky while Clinton basically got away relatively easily. It seemed to me that the women at the heart of this suffered so much more than the man. Hillary also came in for criticism for choosing to stay with him with little recognition of the agony she clearly went through. I could always feel her pain and understand why she would choose to stay, having been with him at that stage for almost 30 years.

As recently as last year, Clinton was trying to make excuses for his behaviour. The BBC reported his comments in a documentary:

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Lib Dems North Shropshire campaign gathers momentum

It’s only 10 days since Owen Paterson resigned, but to say that the Lib Dem campaign had got off to a flying start in the by-election would be under-egging the pudding considerably. It’s more of a blast-off than a take-off. We are well into the second leaflet, we have an HQ, and Ed Davey has now been there twice. I also took part in the first campaign Maraphone on Friday.

Here is our last by-election winner, Sarah Green, opening the HQ:

The Young Liberals were there too:

And look who else turned up:

The party’s chief executive sent out one of these “confidential” briefings that is just crying out to be shared, given that most of the info is in the public domain anyway. Part of it was a photo of the first leaflet. Putting “confidential” on something is a good way of getting someone to read it. However, Mike Dixon is pushing at an open door. There is already a sense of excitement building in the party, one that is surprising given that it’s only two years since the last December election.

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Lib Dems mark Remembrance Sunday

One of the most moving things I have ever seen was the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London. Over 800,000 ceramic poppies were planted in the moat and from one of the windows at the Tower, to commemorate the British and commonwealth military personnel killed during World War 1.  It was a stunning memorial and its impact was heightened when you factored in that this was only one small fraction of the millions of military and civilian lives lost in that conflict.

My great grandfather, Charles Homer Bosworth survived World War 1, including being captured by the Bolsheviks and being held on a cattle train.

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In Full: Wendy Chamberlain’s speech from the Standards debate

I thought it was worth reproducing in full Wendy Chamberlain’s speech from the Standards debate she successfully led on Monday.

Wendy has been our lead spokesperson on two of the biggest recent news stories – the events around the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s murderer and now the Government’s attempts to dilute the disciplinary processes after one of their own MPs was found to be in breach.

Wendy also smashed various media interviews on Monday. She did the full morning round and here are some clips:

 

Here’s a brief video of her speech with all the interventions with the full text below She did a fantastic job:

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Lib Dems demand public enquiry into Tory sleaze ahead of Commons debate

Last week, Wendy Chamberlain secured a parliamentary debate following the fiasco over the standards process votes. Here she is proposing it:

And later she spoke to Sky News:

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, the party has given an indication of what we hope to achieve.  We have called for an independent public inquiry into government sleaze and allegations of political corruption, warning that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are “releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.”  The inquiry would look into various scandals including the awarding of lucrative Covid contracts to those with political links to the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson’s failure to declare that holidays abroad and the redecoration of his Downing Street flat were paid for by party donors, and last week’s attempt to block the suspension of former Conservative MP Owen Paterson after he was found to have breached lobbying rules.

The inquiry would have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath, including current and former government ministers and officials, and demand the disclosure of any relevant official documents and communications.

The party is also demanding that any MPs under investigation for breaking parliamentary rules should be barred from taking part in Commons votes on disciplinary issues.

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Look who’s turned up in North Shropshire…

Look who spent their Sunday in North Shropshire…

Ed made around 16 visits to Chesham and Amersham earlier this Summer. He is the first party leader to show up in the by-election caused by the resignation of Owen Paterson over allegations of paid advocacy.

The Lib Dem campaign seems to have got off to a very good start. My spies tell me that we have delivered a LOT of leaflets this weekend. Given that we didn’t know this by-election was happening until Thursday lunchtime, that is impressive.

We haven’t selected a candidate yet, but I suspect that will happen very quickly.

Ed told local activists in Whitchurch:

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are pumping sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics. People in North Shropshire including many lifelong Conservative voters are sick of having their concerns ignored and being taken for granted.

It is clear that the Liberal Democrats are the challengers to the Conservatives in North Shropshire. Labour and the Greens cannot win here.

For too long, the Conservatives have left North Shropshire lagging behind with the local NHS facing real difficulties. A Liberal Democrat by-election victory would send a powerful message to the Conservatives that the people of North Shropshire need to be listened to.

He was accompanied by Helen Morgan, our candidate in the 2019 General Election, who said:

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Martin Bell to be Lib Dem candidate in North Shropshire? Don’t hold your breath

The Sunday Times (£) reports today that veteran journalist and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell has been approached by the Lib Dems to be our candidate in the North Shropshire by-election.

The article by Caroline Wheeler and Gabriel Pogrund says:

One thing that may fill older MPs with dread is the symbolic spectre of Martin Bell, who ran against Neil Hamilton on an anti-sleaze ticket in 1997. On Friday, the 83-year-old was called by the Liberal Democrats, who offered him the chance to be their candidate.

This report prompted me to look out my copy of Purple Homicide, the account of his first foray into politics, in Tatton, in 1997, written by then Observer political correspondent John Sweeney. Disgraced Conservative MP Neil Hamilton was allowed to continue as the Conservative candidate after being implicated in the cash for questions affair. The title comes from his description of trousers worn by Neil Hamilton’s wife Christine to an encounter on Knutsford Heath as “a homicidal purple.” The Lib Dems and Labour stood aside to give him a better chance of unseating Hamilton.  The book is well worth reading if you can get hold of a copy.

Martin Bell’s victory over Neil Hamilton was one of many bright spots in the 1997 election. Often dressed in a white suit, he used his time in Parliament to argue for higher standards in public life. Bell stood against Eric Pickles in 2001 over concern about the influence of a local pentecostal church on the Brentwood and Ongar Conservative party but lost heavily. He had promised the voters of Tatton that he would serve for one term only and honoured that promise despite calls for him to stay. His departure paved the way for the election of George Osborne.

I don’t know if the Sunday Times report that we have approached Bell to be our candidate is true. But let’s look at what might happen if it was. I certainly wouldn’t mind him representing us, but I would not hold my breath. I like Martin Bell. His distinctive voice is one of the first I can remember as he reported on the Watergate scandal in the early 70s when I was a small child. I can’t see him entering a contest when Labour are not standing down. I also can’t see him agreeing to enter a contest that could end in him taking a party whip. I suspect he is probably unwhippable, even though our views are probably in alignment on many issues. That, by the way, is not in my view a flaw on his part.

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By-Election results – TWO Lib Dem GAINS, a Lib Dem HOLD and a massive leap forward

I am covering the by-election results for ALDC tonight. So far we have done pretty well. We have won 3 of the 4 wards where we are standing.

A very strong gain from the Conservatives in Gloucester:

And another in West Sussex

And a solid hold in Huntingdon

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WATCH: Sarah Green has her first Prime Minister’s Question!

The newest Lib Dem MP, Sarah Green, had her debut PMQ today.

The headquarters of the Epilepsy Society is in her constituency of Chesham and Amersham so it was fitting, during COP26, that she highlighted the need to fund research into the effect of climate change on people with health conditions like Epilepsy.

And Boris Johnson wasn’t even horrible in his response.

I was annoyed that so many MPs talked over Sarah’s questions. It was very disrespectful, particularly on a question that was higher quality than many asked in these sessions.

The text of the exchange is below:

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Davey: Government is taking carers for granted again

Carers UK today release a report showing that one in five unpaid carers fear they may not be able to cope financially over the next 12 months.

And along with that, carers face increasing strains on their health and wellbeing.

From the report:

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen 81% of carers take on increasing hours of care, often with less or no outside support. This has had a significant and detrimental impact on carers’ health and wellbeing; over two-thirds of carers (69%) reported that their mental health has worsened, and 64% of carers said their physical health has got worse as a result of caring in the
pandemic. Our results confirm that the pandemic is continuing to have a
negative impact on carers’ own health and wellbeing and they are facing
additional health inequalities.

Ed Davey, himself a lifelong carer for parents, grandparents and now his disabled son responded to the report:

With the cost of living spiralling this winter these damning figures show the struggle that many unpaid carers face.

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Disaster for the Democrats in Virginia

It’s not fun to wake up this morning to discover that Virginia has elected a Trump-endorsed Republican as its governor. Glenn Youngkin is projected to defeat former Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe by 2.7%.

What on earth has gone wrong?

It’s a bit of a perfect storm made up of a new way that the Republicans have found to frighten people into voting for them and the failure of Joe Biden to deliver what would have been a very popular series of measures, including paid family leave, mainly because of the failure of two right wing Democrat Senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

It’s a year since we all spent 5 days on tenterhooks waiting for confirmation that Trump was on his way out. I certainly wasn’t filled with unbridled optimism that Joe Biden was what the country needed, though I thought that his long experience in Congress would be enough to get his legislative programme through.

Just imagine if Joe Biden had been able to hit the stump in Virginia saying he’d put in a $3.5 trillion package which included, for the first time, measures that we in Europe take for granted. Things like paid family leave and a tax credit that would take children out of poverty. Opinion polls suggest that these measures are popular across the political divide, so failure to deliver them will surely bring disapproval.

If Biden had had a good story to tell, there would be no void for the malevolent right to fill with poison.

The toxin of choice in this case was a faux argument about “critical race theory”, something that isn’t even taught in Virginia’s schools.

From The Guardian:

McAuliffe’s all-out effort to portray Youngkin as an acolyte of Donald Trump proved less effective than the Republican’s laser-like focus on whipping up parents’ fear and anger about culture war issues in Virginia’s schools.

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Lib Dem James Barker to fight North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner by-election

James Barker has been selected to stand again as the Lib Dem candidate in the forthcoming North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner by-election. James was our candidate for this role in May. The by-election was caused by the resignation of the previous incumbent for his disgraceful observation in the wake of the details of Sarah Everard’s murder being made public. He said:

“So women first of all just need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can’t be arrested.

“She should never have been arrested and submitted to that.”

Although he apologised, the county’s Police, Fire and Crime panel passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in him, which led to him stepping down.

The Harrogate Informer reports on James Barker’s selection:

James is a City of York Councillor, representing the Rural West York ward since his election in 2019, when he overturned a huge Conservative majority to win his seat from the former York Conservative party leader.

James’ background is in the armed forces, having joined the RAF as an Officer Cadet in 1996, graduating in 1997. 24 years of military service has seen him deploy to Iraq three times and he has also been deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan as well as a number of other countries on exercises and training tasks. James continues his military service as a reservist with 7644(PR) Squadron based at RAF Halton.

James lives in York with his wife Mandy and two adopted children. Outside of work James is a Scout leader and a qualified rugby coach.

James said:

Following Philip Allott’s resignation there is work to do to rebuild the trust lost with victim’s groups, women’s groups and the public at large. If elected, my priority on Day One would be starting the long process of making sure everyone can have faith that the PFCC listens to and supports victims of crime.

I try to make a difference in whatever I do and my aim is to build a resilient, professional and diverse Police and Fire service representing and working for the people of York and North Yorkshire. I want to bring openness and transparency to its operations and make the case for adequate funding to be devolved to these services to tackle local issues.

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WATCH: American diplomats try out Scottish delicacies ahead of COP26

For me, this won the internet this week. US diplomats filmed themselves trying out some Scottish delicacies, including Haggis, Irn Bru and Deep Fried Mars Bars ahead of spending a couple of weeks in the city for COP 26.

It’s charming, funny (especially when you see their diplomatic skills being put to good use) and exactly what you need on a rainy Sunday morning.

 

On a more serious note, Joe Biden has yet to appoint a US Ambassador to the UK as Mark Johnston pointed out on Twitter:

It was reported back in July that Jane Hartley was going to be appointed …

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Scottish Lib Dem social justice spokesperson Bruce Wilson highlights childcare problems

Former marine Bruce Wilson is the Scottish Lib Dems spokesperson for veterans and social justice. In this week’s Daily Record he wrote about the need for high quality childcare as a key element of a fairer society.

As the father of three children under 7, he and his wife know only too well the crippling costs of childcare:

While my eldest is in school and goes to after school club, there is no way for me and my wife to afford mortgage payments, bills and childcare for our twins, despite having decent salaries.

Nursery costs to cover full time work come to roughly £2,000 per month for both of them – a sum that is completely unachievable for most parents. Parents are often forced to leave the workforce.

And  it is most often women whose careers are adversely affected:

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Ed Davey takes on “sexist dinosaur” Philip Davies with humour

It’s not often I’ve felt the need to thank Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley for anything. I am kind of glad, though, that he felt the need to write to Ed Davey on House of Commons paper to complain that we didn’t use an all-women shortlist when we selected Bobby Dean as our candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, because Ed’s blistering, beautifully crafted response showed a new side to him.

Davies’ attitude is surprising given that he’s actively campaigned against measures to protect women for some time. Back in 2017, Laura Bates wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian outlining some of the worst. She said:

He has previously described feminists as “zealots”, voted against equalities legislation, argued against equality targets in the workplace and once tabled a private member’s bill that would have repealed the Sex Discrimination Act 2002. Last year, he spoke at a conference organised by the Justice for Men and Boys party, which is known for presenting petty “whining feminist” certificates to women’s rights advocates, and promoting inflammatory, misogynistic articles on its website such as one entitled “13 reasons women lie about being raped”.

Charming.

Now, I have always been in favour of all-women shortlists, but the fact is that they were so successful that we are not allowed to use them any more because our Parliamentary party in Westminster is 2/3 women. I don’t think it is fair, given the huge democratic deficit women face. There are only 222 women out of 650 in Parliament. It just isn’t good enough when your all-time high is 34%.

Ed just let Davies have it in return:

Writing on party paper, way more appropriate for the purpose than Commons stationery, Ed reminded us all of Davies’ prior views and expressed and pleasure that he may have finally seen the light:

I can only imagine that your interest has been triggered by a “Road to Damascus” moment and a realisation that we live in 2021 not 1821. Making a transition from sexist dinosaur to someone who champions the rights of women will not be easy for you. The list of people you need to apologise to is long.

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Lib Dems stand up against use of facial recognition tech in school dinner halls

This week the Information Commissioner stepped in after 9 schools in North Ayrshire started using facial recognition technology to speed up the payment queue in the dinner hall.

From The Guardian:

The ICO, an independent body set up to uphold information rights in the UK, said it would be contacting North Ayrshire council about the move and urged a “less intrusive” approach where possible.

An ICO spokesperson said organisations using facial recognition technology must comply with data protection law before, during and after its use, adding: “Data protection law provides additional protections for children, and organisations need to carefully consider the necessity and proportionality of collecting biometric data before they do so.

Scottish Lib Dem schools spokesperson Carole Ford went on GB News to say that this was wrong both in practical and privacy terms. Carole would know. As a former headteacher she knows what the issues are in school dinner halls. This is what she had to say:

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Put your questions to the Federal Board – next Monday evening

Next Monday evening, from 6-7 pm, the Federal Board are having an online q and a session for all party members.

Party President Mark Pack will be taking questions and I’ll be there alongside former Welsh President and AM Bill Powell.

I’d really like to see loads of you there, not least because doing this was my idea and I’ll look like an idiot if nobody turns up. We had some really useful discussions in the Federal Board booth at Federal Conference. In fact, believe it or not, I was even able to give some information about the English Party constitution.

Also, much as I love Mark, I don’t want to spend an hour arguing with him about which is the best type of chocolate.

And finally, my dogs can usually be relied upon to turn up to meetings, so if you have heard about Hazel and Bernie on Twitter, now is your chance to meet them.

Seriously, though, our party democracy is really important to us. We are a member led organisation and all the power structures should be accountable and this, for me, is part of that. It’s also important that our decisions are informed by what members are thinking and we will be having a Board meeting the very next night so what you tell us will be fresh in our minds.

Details of how to register are here:

Mark said:

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Ed Fordham: Why I can’t attend a civic event in a venue that rejects me, my marriage and my community

LDV contributor and Chesterfield Councillor Ed Fordham has written to the Mayor of Chesterfield, her predecessors and the Council Chief Executive to be open about the reasons he can’t attend the annual Mayor-making procession and service – because it is held in a Church of England church, an organisation which doesn’t support same sex marriage equality.

I am really impressed that Ed has spoken out about this. He has made the case very eloquently and he has given permission for us to reproduce it here.

Our civic events have to be inclusive and I hope that those who are responsible for organising them at any level think about this.

Here is Ed’s letter:

As you know I sent my apologies to the formal mayor making, procession and service at St Mary and All Saints Church. As you know I stand in the open market on a Thursday and a Saturday and this usually conflicts with the procession and service. Accordingly it has been easy for me to send my apologies and absent myself as a councillor.

However, as a friend and out of a desire to be honest I feel I should write explaining my true reason.

In 2013 the law of the land was finally changed to enable two people of the same sex who love each other to marry each other (this took effect on March 2014).. My life partner and I took advantage of that and duly married that year – indeed we had a religious wedding in a Unitarian Chapel.

I was closely involved in the passage of the bill and am more than a little aware of the resistance of the Church of England to the bill and indeed to the debate. This was not universal to the Church and there are many good friends of mine who fight for acceptance and reform of the Church of England from within. However, the position of the Church and indeed the Bishops remains that it is opposed to LGBT+ marriage equality. Indeed, several gay friends who are clergy within the Church who have married their same sex partner have had their license to lead worship withdrawn. This has only been enabled because the Church of England is, astonishingly, exempt from aspects of the nation’s employment law as it affects equality.

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New Fawcett Society report on tackling sexual harassment in the workplace

The Fawcett Society in collaboration with Chwarae Teg, Women’s Resource & Development Agency and Close the Gap has produced a very comprehensive report aimed at giving employers advice about how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. They will be producing a toolkit for employers in the Spring.

The 113 page report covers how to change the culture of an organisation to show that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, set up reporting mechanisms, how to treat those making reports and how to respond to reports.

Key findings of the report include:

  • At least 40% of women have experienced workplace harassment, and women who are marginalised for other reasons, such as race or disability, face an increased risk and different forms of sexual harassment
  • 45% of women in a recent survey reported experiencing harassment online through sexual messages, cyber harassment and sexual calls
  • Almost a quarter of women who had been sexually harassed said the harassment had increased or escalated since the start of the pandemic while they were working from home
  • Almost seven in ten (68%) disabled women reported being sexually harassed at work, compared to 52% of women in general
  • Ethnic minority workers (women and men) reported higher rates (32%) of sexual harassment than white workers (28%) over the last 12 months
  • A poll of LGBT workers found that 68% had experienced some form of harassment in the workplace

These figures are truly disturbing and show the extent of the problem.

One bisexual woman describes her experience:

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Lib Dems mark World Mental Health Day

10th October every year is World Mental Health Day.

This is a cause that is very close to Lib Dem hearts. We were talking about it long before it became mainstream. We understand the impact of poor mental health and when Norman Lamb was health minister in England during the coalition years, he did so much to improve access to mental health care, particularly for young people.

In Scotland we have never been lucky enough to have a Health Minister who actually gets it. And things are getting worse.

A GP gave evidence to a Holyrood Committee this week saying that referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service were being rejected.

The feedback is actually very very consistent, that there is a big yawning gap. Obviously GPs offer universal services and holistic care and I think one of the advantages that we have is that we work very closely with our health visitors and our family and it’s often the whole family that are involved when a child or adolescent has a mental health problem.

But the feeling is still that the bar for referrals is very very high. GPs and I include myself in this, say that they will “think three or four times”, and I’m quoting there, before even considering a referral, and we have high levels of referral rejections.

And I think the other thing about referrals is that we know how damaging it can sometimes be to the person referred and their family if they get a rejection because they’ve often tried lots of other things before they get to us.

In a panel on mental health at the joint Scottish and Welsh Conference yesterday, GP and 2022 Council Candidate Drummond Begg talked about the need to prioritise mental health because the brain was the most important organ in the body.

Alex Cole-Hamilton highlighted that over 40,000 calls to a mental health helpline in Scotland were abandoned.

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Scottish Lib Dems call for better Police vetting and Commission to prevent violence against women and girls

This weekend, Scottish Conference passed a motion calling for serious action to prevent violence against women and girls:

In the wake of the shocking revelations of the details of the murder of Sarah Everard, Scottish Lib Dem Women submitted an emergency motion calling for, amongst other things:

  • An NHS-style public awareness campaign to build public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women;
  • An extended Independent Review of Equality Matters in policing as recommended by Dame Elish Angiolini, to include a review of police vetting processes and consideration of misogynistic behaviour;
  • New training for those working in education and frontline in public authorities;
  • Recognition of misogyny as a hate crime.

The party also reaffirmed its call for a new Commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to report within one year in order to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government.

Wendy Chamberlain MP summated the motion, saying:

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Scottish Lib Dems call for measures to end the drug deaths emergency

In an emotional debate this afternoon, the Scottish Liberal Democrats passed a motion on ending Scotland’s drugs deaths emergency:

Speaker after speaker talked about the need to see the people not the numbers.

New leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose professional life before politics was helping disadvantaged young people, showed how important this issue was to him by proposing the motion. His speech was so effective, compassionate and caring.

Culture spokesperson Joe McCauley talked about the deaths of two of his family members.

It was a such a powerful and emotional speech.

I spoke about my friend Tracy, and her son, Nathan, who died in March at the age of 20 from an overdose of street valium.

It is so important that we reaffirm our commitment to treat drug use as a public health issue, and ensure that people caught in possession of drugs are referred for treatment and help, not put through a justice system that isn’t working.

If the justice system worked to deal with these issues, Nathan would have emerged from court and prison in better shape than he went in.

Just two days before he died, he was arrested. The day before he died, he appeared in court. He wasn’t offered any help with his issues.

Tracy told the Daily Record last month:

I begged police to make interventions with him when he was a teenager, to get him out of the way of drug dealers.
“But the bottom line with them was always the same.
“They never discussed diverting him to treatment or doing anything other than arrest people.”

“I just feel that if we had arrived at where we are today and there were proper professionals who understand trauma able to speak to him, he could have had a fighting chance.”

She feels that if the changes that Dorothy Bain announced last month had been in place a year ago, Nathan would be alive today.

After the motion passed, Alex said:

Scotland has the worst drug mortality in Europe. Nearly four times the rate of our neighbours in England and Wales. We cannot continue to witness this epidemic destroying lives.

“Despite the focus of an entire ministerial portfolio, additional investment and interventions like the rollout of naloxone, people are still dying at the same terrifying rate. That is the legacy of years of prior government inaction.

“Government must be open to learning from international best practice. It is why I have written to the Director General of the WHO to ask for a specialised taskforce, made up of leading experts in drug mortality, to analyse and mobilise against this particularly Scottish epidemic.”

And our spokesperson for the drugs death emergency Ben Lawrie said:

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Ed Davey: Boris speech was most out of touch display by a PM in decades

For me the week of the Conservative Party Conference is usually a week of low level nausea. Seeing Conservatives in their comfort zone is never going to be pleasant for any liberal. This week was particularly bad.  The bottom of the barrel was seeing Peter Bottomley whinging that 81 grand wasn’t enough for him to live on and using words such as “grim” and “desperate” to describe MPs’ financial circumstances.

I suspect the millions of people who are facing a £20 week cut in Universal Credit just at the same time as food and energy prices are going through the roof will be full of sympathy for him.

And then there was Boris Johnson’s bizarre stand-up routine in place of a speech. Unfortunately he and his team have learned over time that if you repeat an untruth often enough and loud enough, you win big.  It’s clear that the Conservatives want everyone to be talking about culture wars – if they can set us up to be kicking lumps out of each other, maybe we won’t notice the empty shelves in the supermarkets and the rising prices, all of which signify that his flagship Brexit project was the ultimate pig in a poke.<

His words might have been red meat to the Tory faithful in the hall today. We’ll have to see what the country feels like after a Winter that is not going to be funny.

Ed Davey was pretty scathing about Johnson’s speech:

Boris Johnson’s speech was the most out of touch display by a Prime Minister in decades, he has created a cost of living crisis which he refuses to fix.

The Conservative Party conference may as well be happening in a parallel universe. Johnson pretends that somehow long queues at the petrol station and empty shelves in the supermarket are all part of his cunning plan and blames anyone he can for the wreckage he is causing: UK businesses, journalists and the British public.

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Sexism in the Police force goes way beyond the Met

The failings of the Metropolitan Police with regard to the murder of Sarah Everard have been well documented over the past few days. Our Wendy Chamberlain, the only woman in the Commons to have been a serving Police officer, has been absolutely brilliant in highlighting the need for change in the force.

But the institutional sexism goes way beyond the Police. Former Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Sue Fish described yesterday how she didn’t dare report sexual assault by a colleague for fear of the consequences for them and, even more disturbingly she recounted:

that she had a senior colleague that was arrested and jailed for having sex with a “vulnerable” woman during his shift.

She said she would be left, as a young probationary officer, driving a marked car around in circles while her older colleague – nicknamed ‘Pervert’ – would visit the house of a woman he met on the job.

And an employment tribunal has found “horrific” examples of a sexist culture in a Police Scotland armed policing unit. The BBC reports some of the indignities that women officers in that unit had to put up with.

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How to help others with heating costs this Winter

So my dogs got me out of bed at 7:34 this morning. By 7:46, I had joined all the people on social media who have been announcing that they had put their heating on. As an added bonus, the timer now shows the correct time and day for the first time in years after I finally figured out how to change the day.

This simple act is one which so many will have to put off for as long as possible because they simply can’t afford to.

People on the lowest incomes are facing a nightmare Winter of rising energy costs and the ending of the Universal Credit uplift. The end of the furlough scheme puts 110,000 jobs at risk, as Christine Jardine pointed out the other day in a last ditch attempt to get Rishi Sunak to see sense.

The rise in the energy price cap has a hidden extra for the poorest. Those on prepayment meters, usually the poorest in the least well insulated rented properties, pay even more. The BBC reports:

  • Those on standard tariffs, with typical household levels of energy use, will see an increase of £139 – from £1,138 to £1,277 a year – to their bill

  • People with prepayment meters, with average energy use, will see an annual increase of £153 – from £1,156 to £1,309

Local councillors, campaigners and MPs will likely be contacted by constituents who are really struggling, so I thought it might be useful to set out some of the sources of help and advice for them.

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