Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Where to see the leadership candidates this weekend

With Layla and Ed duly nominated, they now embark on an eye-watering series of hustings events across the country. There are 4 this weekend.

In just under an hour you can see them at the Social Liberal Forum q and a at 11 am.

At 3:25pm, both candidates will be put through a job interview style interview at the Scottish special conference by former candidate Katy Gordon, who’s a senior HR person and John Ferry, a journalist. I wonder if they’ve been modelling their interviewing style on Claude from The Apprentice.

Tonight at 6pm, it is the South Central hustings.

Tomorrow at 6pm, it’s the Yorkshire and the Humber’s turn to question the candidates.

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Four ways Lib Dem MPs stood up for those with no income

MPs’ inboxes at the moment are flooded with the millions of people who are getting no support at all during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Imagine what that must feel like?

It’s people like self-employed hairdressers, physiotherapists, cleaners, decorators, people who own self-catering holiday homes who have been left with nothing.

Often their income from self employment was not that high anyway so they don’t have any sort of cushion.

After almost 4 months of this, many are at breaking point.

Liberal Democrat MPs have consistently called for more help for people who have been affected like this.

Here are four things that they have done this week:

Christine Jardine pressed the Prime Minister to introduce a Universal Basic Income

There are 3 million people in this country who get no support at the moment because they are self-employed or on contract. Our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities have an unemployment rate that is twice the national average and women are disproportionately affected by covid-19. The Prime Minister said a few minutes ago that he stands ready to help. Will he look at a universal basic income so that these people can get the help that they need now?

Typically the PM brushed off her suggestion, showing how little he cares or understands bout the predicament faced by too many.

Ed Davey called on the Government to scrap changes which would disadvantage contractors as reported by City AM:

Self-employed people face an unprecedented threat to their livelihoods due to the pandemic,” he said.

“The Conservative government’s insistence on their IR35 policy risks making the plight of many self-employed people even worse.

“Delaying the change to next April will do next to nothing to reduce the impact of Covid-19 which will be felt for months – if not years – to come. This is not the time to add to the burden of the self-employed.

And Jamie Stone is starting a new All Party Parliamentary Group which meets this coming Tuesday and aims to advocate for those who have been excluded:

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Do you owe the Young Liberals any money?

There was a bit of late night amusement over the weekend as the Young Liberals publicised this page on their website inviting all of us to pay a penance if we had referred to them by their organisation’s previous name:

(Image shows two tweets, one by me, saying “We have all done this at some point so we should all give something. Everyone deserves to be referred to by their name. My problem is that this has now reminded me of its former incarnation which I thought I had expunged from my brain.” Laura Gordon replies saying “Setting up the page like that is basically entrapment, but, you know what, well played, English Young Liberals.”`)

The reason that this became an issue is that some senior figures in the party who should know better submitted a motion to Conference with the former name in it. I suspect that the Federal Conference Committee will kindly resolve this by way of a drafting amendment so nobody will ever know unless they read this article.

I did give them a small donation, and if we all did that, it would make a big difference to their campaigns on housing and mental health. 

This got me thinking about all the previous generations of the organisation. I joined the Young Social Democrats back in 1983. I think I was the most northern member at the time. It was a bit of a novelty for my central belt based colleagues to have someone up in Caithness. That organisation distinguished itself with the slogan “Have you got the guts to vote SDP?” The equivalent organisation in the Liberal Party was the Young Liberals.

I was instinctively a Liberal rather than a Social Democrat. Primarily it was issues around freedom, civil liberties and human rights that motivated me. However, I chose to join the SDP because in Caithness their average age was around 50 while the average age of the Liberals was a lot older than that.

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Diana Maddock, remembered by her first researcher

Of all the heartfelt tributes to Diana Maddock this weekend, one on Facebook by George Crozier, whose first job was as her parliamentary researcher immediately after her spectacular by-election win in 1993.

He has very kindly agreed to let me post it on here so that you can all enjoy it too. I will admit to a few tears when I read it.

He recounts how well they got on and has some details about her parliamentary work (eg against puppy farms) that we might otherwise have missed.

George tells how she was reported in the local press and how she worked so hard as a constituency MP.

Kind and wise are two words we’ve heard a lot describing her over the last few days, and this post sums up why.

Hugely saddened by the news yesterday of the death of my first boss, Diana Maddock. Diana was a lovely person – I can’t recall us ever falling out during the three and a half years I worked for her though there were plenty of stressful moments – speeches finished with minutes to spare among the most common. She was a genuinely caring and thoughtful employer – though what she was thinking when she got me a Mickey Mouse tie for Christmas one year is anyone’s guess!

I first knew Diana in Southampton, where I was a student and she was Lib Dem council group leader and a parliamentary candidate in 1992. My house – or rather Rosemary Hasler’s – was the campaign headquarters that year, such as it was, so I lived for months amid stacks of Maddock Focuses and stakeboards. Then the following year the Christchurch by-election was called just a few weeks after I graduated, Diana was selected to fight it, and I spent so much time there that I ended up as the campaign caseworker for the final week and after she won – biggest ever swing against the Conservatives in a by-election at the time – she took a leap of faith (for which I will be forever grateful) and hired me as her researcher.

I say hired – the timing of her election was such that she couldn’t take her seat until Parliament returned in October so none of us (including Diana I think) were paid for nearly three months. Most of that summer was spent with Diana, Andrew Garratt and others in the Ferndown office sorting through rooms (literally!) full of papers of all kinds from the by-election. The scale of that campaign had to be seen to be believed. There were days when the whole constituency was canvassed and separately delivered. The detritus we had to sort through probably added a percentage point to the district council’s recycling rate!

Diana was a brilliant constituency MP – the absolute model of how to go about building non-political support through visits, regular surgeries, diligent casework, taking up local issues in Parliament and keeping constituents informed through local papers and post, in the days when this kind of thing was a novelty. We once saw an internal Conservative note expressing exasperation that she seemed to be everywhere – why were so many local groups asking to meet her? Why were people asking her to open fetes? Why? (The answer to the latter, it emerged, after she was bounced out of the ceremonial opening of the Verwood Carnival one year, was closely related to the availability or otherwise of local celebrity Buster Merryfield (Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses). But hey, that’s life, and she took this crushing blow in her stride.)

I remember once hearing from the Bournemouth Echo’s Westminster correspondent that he loved the story we were giving him but he couldn’t cover it because he’d already given her twice the coverage that week of the county’s seven Tory MPs put together. On another occasion he confided that a Dorset Tory had complained to him about the amount of coverage he gave to Diana. He had had to find a way to diplomatically explain that he was just reflecting the news generation and activity levels of the local MPs as they appeared to him.

Not all the media was perfect of course. One article about the by-election win referred to the victor, a Mrs Diane Haddock. Another, in The Guardian I think, was more to our taste. Challenging a claim somewhere else that the old folk in the constituency had taken to Diana because they identified with, her it asserted that, to the contrary, nice middle-aged Mrs Maddock brought a touch of glamour to the town – in the ‘zimmerframe world of Christchurch’ (the constituency was, I think, the second oldest in the country) Diana Maddock was, it asserted, a veritable Sharon Stone!

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Willie Rennie pays tribute to Diana Maddock

Many party figures have been paying tribute to Diana Maddock, the much loved Lib Dem Peer who died yesterday.

One of the highlights of her career was winning the Christchurch by-election in 1993, overturning a 23000 Tory majority with a 35% swing.

Her agent in that campaign was a 25 year old Scot by the name of Willie Rennie.

Now leader of the Scottish Party, and a famous by-election winner himself, he wrote a warm tribute to Diana on his Facebook page.

I first met Diana Maddock when I was asked to be the agent for the Christchurch By Election in 1993. It was a solid Conservative seat but in just three months Diana became the Member of Parliament with a swing that rocked the political establishment.

Diana was a gentle, caring and kind woman who was anxious to do well for the thousands of people who travelled hundreds of miles to help her win.

From the old car showroom on Barrack Road, Chris Rennard and I plotted the campaign. It was an amazing effort with public meetings, Lords Teas and canvass and leaflet teams scouring the area like ants.

The issue of the by election was VAT on fuel and came when John Major was having problems with the “bastards” in the cabinet.

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Wendy Chamberlain at Pride: Let’s go high, stand for our values and build bridges.

Mary wrote yesterday about her lifetime as an LGBT ally. 

She mentioned the virtual Prides that were taking place at the moment.

I went to the Scottish Lib Dems virtual Pride event last Sunday, which was run by LGBT+ Lib Dems and Scottish Lib Dem Women. It was a marathon, but well worth every second.

The day started with a rally with speeches by Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and Wendy Chamberlain MP. It ended almost 12 hours later with a Eurovision watch along of the 2014 event, won by Conchita Wurst. I had forgotten so many of the delights of that night. Watch here if you need cheering up. In between there were a couple of panels – on queering our policy and on being a better ally. The penultimate event was a quiz won by Wales’ Callum Littlemore who seems to have a brain full of obscure song lyrics and who got almost full marks in the Gay or Eurovision round.

Alex spoke off the cuff like he always does but was as passionate as you would expect from him about how we as a party should not shy away from speaking up for LGBT people.

Wendy had her remarks written down and I’m delighted that she has shared them with us.

I’m privileged to be asked to address today’s rally
But, as I mentioned in my maiden speech, I may be the first female MP for North East Fife, I’m well aware of my privilege in other areas – my class, my ethnicity, my sexuality, my gender identity.

My life experience to date, also, if we are looking to make generalisations, perhaps, on the surface, doesn’t suggest that I’d be a natural ally. Having been a police officer for 12 years brings its own assumptions I suppose, particularly of late.

But, other than friends at university – no one at school was out – from colleagues in Tesco (Grant and I bonded over Eurovision and mourned Michael Ball’s 2nd place) and friends in the Edinburgh University Footlights (I had a couple of dates with a guy who told me that the last person he had seen was a 36 year old man – I was fine with that, but I did meet his parents a couple of times as his ‘friend’ as he was clearly struggling to be honest with his Dad (I’m pleased to report he’s now happily married to a man and still working in the theatre), the police was the first workplace where I had a number of colleagues who were gay.

The first trans women I knew was through the police – Jan, a traffic warden. She had transitioned later in life, her marriage had broken down and she had been ostricised by her family and children as a result.

I know that Jan experienced direct discrimination from some colleagues at work, but I also saw the service trying its best to support Jan, and provide the facilities that she required.

A friend met her on the bus last year – she still has no contact with her family, and in the main keeps to herself – her bus trip was an exception and not the norm.

Not long after returning to work after maternity leave, I attended 3 days of diversity training, as did all police officers in the UK, as part of the police response to the Lawrence report, where the police’s institutional racism was called out.

I was pleased that the training was not restricted to racism, but covered all of the diversity strands.

I’ll be honest, the last day, was the toughest – the majority audience of white heterosexual men, really struggling with their prejudices in relation to the trans activists delivering that part of the training.

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Diana Maddock has died

Some incredibly sad news has come through this morning. Diana Maddock, winner of the Christchurch by-election in 1993 and a Lib Dem member of the House of Lords, has passed away.

Diana was a lovely woman. She was always willing to help and support others. I will miss her so much.

I first met her at a training session for women in the 1990s. She was kind, supportive and very frank about her own experiences.

Please feel free to share your memories of Diana in the comments.

All of us at LDV send our love to Alan and all her family.

There’s real affection in the tributes from senior party figures:

You can read more about her, and find out about her work as a councillor, MP, Party President and Peer on the party website:

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Get your Conference motions in for 1st July

There’s going to be a massive Conference shaped hole for many of us this September. I love heading to the seaside – Bournemouth being my favourite by far – to catch up with the Lib Dem family. Whether it’s causing trouble for the leadership in the hall or indulging in late night irreverent singalongs, taking part in training, wandering round the exhibition or just catching up for a coffee or a cocktail, those few days are a whirlwind of activity.  I’ve taken to staying an extra night at the end to have a  a quieter meal out with friends and a walk on the beach.

So the cancellation of both Spring and Autumn conferences this year was really disappointing. By the time York was cancelled in Spring, I had already decided not to go because I felt it was too risky. And given that a fair proportion of the friends I would have spent time with all came down with  an illness that had a startling resemblance to Covid-19 very shortly afterwards, that was the right decision for me.

While I will miss going to Brighton in September – and in particular dinner at Smokey’s  with its rather excellent cocktails – I am glad that we will at least have the opportunity to attend an online event from 25-28 September. The Federal Conference Committee has put a huge amount of work into identifying and customising a digital platform. They’ve had so many meetings and have been determined to be as faithful as possible to what we think Conference should be.

I did wonder about how the exhibition would work, but watching this demo from Hopin, the platform we are using, explains it all. You are not going to get all the random bumping into people and the buzz of a physical event, but you will be able to take part in debates, vote on policy motions, attend fringe meetings, go to training and catch up with people in the networking room. I liked the feature in there that it only swapped contact details if both people wanted to.

There will  be BSL interpreters on the main stage as happens at a physical conference.

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A new direction for the Social Liberal Forum – A Liberal “Think and Do” tank

When Ian Kearns joined us from Labour in 2018, he gave a barnstormer of a speech at the Brighton conference that year explaining why. Here’s a reminder:

Now Ian has taken up the post of Director of the Social Liberal Forum.

In a post on their website, he sets out his vision for the role of the SLF website:

Over coming months and years we will set out and campaign for a vision of a Citizen’s Britain where what matters is not a person’s race, religion, gender or sexuality but the content of their character. A country where every human life has equal worth and where all are equal before the law. We will campaign to create a country where individuals take power at every level and use it to shape a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. We will challenge the remote, over-centralised, and unresponsive British state and the massive accumulations of unaccountable private wealth and power that sustain an unjust status quo. We will chart a course to the next renaissance and to a society and government not only of the people and for the people but by the people.

It is our belief that only such an approach can restore trust in our institutions, create the conditions for much needed fundamental reform, build resilience in our communities and provide the opportunity for mass flourishing that our citizens deserve and our planet so badly needs.

And these are just some of the things he has in mind:

We will build and host a set of liberal networks across science, technology, business, academia, the media, law, engineering, the arts and politics. By drawing on their expertise and via a series of events, publications, consultations with members and exercises in participatory democracy, we will analyse, host virtual and physical debates on, and develop liberal solutions to the biggest questions of our time.

We will pursue an era of great reform so as to decentralise the British state and usher in an era of community power. We will campaign for fair votes. We will campaign to re-engineer our cities and towns so they become the sustainable urban centres upon which our survival is going to depend. And we will campaign to replace our crony and oligopolistic economy with a new economy of the common good, where everyone has a stake and where we ask not what we can do for capitalism but what capitalism can do for us.

We will go wherever the debate takes us, and not shirk big or uncomfortable questions or talk only to ourselves. To build a liberalism that is future ready, we will think through and articulate an electorally viable ‘build back better’ strategy in the era of COVID-19; study and learn how to beat the populists; work to extend the social reach of truth and to tackle fake news; build and promote liberal technologies in the age of AI; grapple with the profound challenges of a shifting geopolitical landscape; and combine the articulation of a liberal form of patriotism with a passionate defence of the very idea of international community.

And a resounding call to action – we are the people we’ve been waiting for:

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Wendy Chamberlain leads parliamentary debate on electoral reform

Every night, House of Commons business closes with an adjournment debate for half an hour. It’s a half hour in which an MP raises an issue and a Government minister has to respond.

It was worth staying up last Monday night to watch Wendy Chamberlain lead a debate calling for electoral reform. She made a brilliant case both for PR and votes at 16. She was supported by Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine and Layla Moran.

You can watch the whole thing here – and it is worth doing so to see how well they make the case – and how the Government Minister responding is all over the place, presumably because she knows fine that they were right.

Here are some key highlights thanks to Make Votes Matter:

 

You can read the debate in Hansard here and Wendy’s speech in full is below:

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The realities of everyday racism – Lib Dem Federal Board member Joyce Onstad shares her story

Liberal Democrat Federal Board member Joyce Onstad had a video chat with her minister in which she describes some of the realities of everyday racism that she has had to deal with in her life.

She describes first becoming aware of racism in this country when she came to live here 24 years ago. She heard of black children being told that they should aim to be footballers rather than doctors.

She went on to describe how she would apply for jobs in her own name – and get rejection letters. When she applied under her married name, she got interviews.

Watch the conversation here.

Conversation with Joyce Onstad on Racism and Racial Injustice from St Paul’s Ealing on Vimeo.

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“It’s a matter of life and death” LDCRE Chair Roderick Lynch on Black Lives Matter protests

The chair of Liberal Democrats for Racial Equality Roderick Lynch was on Politics England today talking about the Black Lives Matter protests taking part around England.  Why are people taking to the streets in the middle of a pandemic?

He talked about how inequality in housing and health and higher rates of poverty are a matter of life and death every day for black people.

When you think about it like that, you can understand their need to highlight how tough life is and how much of the burden of the inequalities in our society they are being forced to bear.

An article in today’s Observer shows how BAME people and single parents are taking the hardest financial hit from the pandemic. And when they were already struggling long before Covid-19 took over our lives.

Approaching half – 44% – of non-BAME individuals whose working hours have declined during the crisis have been furloughed, while 7% have found themselves unemployed.

By contrast, only 31% of BAME workers who have experienced a drop in the hours they are working have been furloughed, while more than 20% have lost their jobs.

BAME household earnings have fallen from an average £441 a week to £404 over the course of the crisis. Non-BAME groups saw their average weekly earnings fall from £547 to £503.

And single parents have faced an eye-watering fall in their weekly incomes:

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Jamie Stone to Jacob Rees-Mogg “You’re talking bollocks!”

One of the most awful things about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s intransigence over ending the virtual Parliament is the position it has put MPs with caring responsibilities in.

Although Mogg reluctantly agreed that MPs who were shielding could get  a proxy vote, but he will not because he is caring for his disabled wife and not shielding himself.  This is incredibly unjust.

In normal times, Jamie was able to travel to Westminster with the help of carers who came in to look after his wife, Flora. Because of the risk of spreading the virus, the carers are not coming in any more. Jamie and others in that position should not have to choose between doing their jobs and looking after the people who depend on them when it is perfectly possible for him to do both.

Jacob Rees-Mogg moaned about MPs tweeting about casting parliamentary votes while out for a walk. It’s kind of like when people said that the coronation shouldn’t be televised because it would be watched by men in public houses with their hats on. A horrible, them and us elitist view of people’s place in life. The ruling elite runs thing and the governed just have to put up with it.

Anyway Jamie has been talking to Politics Joe about the whole thing – in some fairly frank terms. Enjoy the video here.

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Ed Davey: We have a duty to fight and extinguish racism

Ed Davey has spoken out on the horrific events in the US. He argues that the sort of structural racism we see in the US is prevalent here too.

The Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality has tweeted this powerful poster which shows that white people have to stand up against racism wherever we find it:

It is worth joining them to learn about how you can support and contribute to their work.

Lib Dem Councillor and race equality adviser Rabina Khan has written an article for the Huffington Post in which she warns that the stress of lockdown  could exacerbate similar tensions here.

In George Floyd’s case, it was evident the behaviour of the police was appalling but as the lockdown gradually eases, the UK’s focus must be on what challenges community policing will inevitably face in a post-lockdown era.

This is a difficult situation as the police also fear for their own lives, particularly when we look to the epidemic of knife crime that continues to plague the UK’s biggest cities. The police are already fearing an explosion of violent crime as rival drug gangs try to re-establish their dominance across London following the lockdown.

There needs to be a meaningful discussion ahead of time about the positive measures that could be taken to reduce the risk of this happening in the future – both in terms of police training and guidelines, and helping and supporting those often black and minority ethnic communities who are most at risk from this type of crime, and being lured into carrying out this type of crime.

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Dillie Keane’s song for Dominic Cummings

Today’s entertainment comes courtesy of Dillie Keane’s hard-hitting, furious and funny song about Dominic Cummings. MPs should sing this in the corridors of Westminster next week as they are forced back unnecessarily putting themselves and Parliamentary staff at risk.

Or watch on You Tube here.

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Jo Swinson: I’m not finished making change in the world

I know that many readers will be wondering how Jo Swinson is getting on.

Her leadership, which offered so much promise, came to an abrupt end at the General Election.

She has written an article for the Sunday Times today in which she describes how she learned to deal with a sudden mid-life career change.

Given what she has been through in the past few months, it is really uplifting and optimistic.

In looking for what to do next, it wasn’t a surprise that she looked for guidance in books:

I longed for simplicity in reinventing myself. But most big career changes aren’t simple, says Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organisational behaviour. Having studied people transitioning from bankers to novelists, and psychologists to monks, Ibarra concludes that people rarely set out with a clear and simple plan that they execute. More common is the test-and-learn approach.

Reading her book, Working Identity, gave me confidence to explore the possibilities. I mixed paid speaking engagements and consultancy with volunteering and board experience. Networking was crucial and people were kind with advice. I learnt that by helping others with your own expertise, you can complete the circle of kindness. It is a feature seen in business more than politics.

Jo was an early adopter of Twitter and won an LDV award back in the day for using it, but she’s mostly stayed away:

Some things, such as avidly reading Twitter for the latest news, put me in the headspace of my old job. Breaking that habit helped me focus on the future.

One thing you will never find me trying, but is also very typically Jo:

When a friend told me she went open-air swimming, my initial reaction was incredulity. Then I figured, why not give it a go? So one January morning I found myself squeezing into a borrowed wetsuit and wading into a 2C lake. I loved it. I’ve even found myself changing al fresco into my swimming costume in appalling weather and high winds.

And, as always, her Dad, Peter is a key inspiration:

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Alistair Carmichael questions government on ending of virtual parliament

If the Government produces guidance it should stick to it, right? After this weekend, that idea seems old-fashioned.

One of the 5 main steps of the UK Government’s guidance on safe working is about helping people to work from home.

3. Help people to work from home

You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements

  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems

  • including them in all necessary communications

  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing

     

For people who are mainly office based, the guidance is clearer:

Objective: That everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home.

We have seen over the past few weeks that MPs have been able to work pretty well from their dining rooms, studies and kitchens. Some might say that Parliament has even come across as being a bit more mature and responsible in that time as we’ve not been subjected to the weekly pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions at full pelt.

But Jacob Rees-Mogg has decided that MPs should all return to Westminster from next week. Unless they live within driving distance of Commons, they will have to take public transport unnecessarily. They will require on-site staffing, not necessarily from their own parliamentary staff, who can continue to work from home, but from House cleaners, security staff and clerks.

Rees-Mogg, a representative of a Government who doesn’t like being held to account at the best of times, argues that Parliament can’t operate effectively if they aren’t all there. How effective a use of people’s time is it going to be to take up to an hour carrying out votes which could be done at the touch of a button? Chris Bryant, in an article in today’s Observer, describes the bizarre procedure:

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Hay Festival provides food for thought for so many more people

The beautiful Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye is in the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. Jane Dodds, the Welsh Lib Dem leader lives there and every year they hold a book festival.

This year the pandemic has inspired them to take the festival online and make it available to people for free. Most things are now fully booked, but I managed to register for about 9 events.

So far I’ve seen one of the pioneers of the feminist movement, Gloria Steinem discuss gender inequality with Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates.

Yesterday evening, the BBC’s Jon Sopel described the surreality of Donald Trump’s White House. Remember when it came out that Donald Trump had had a very sweary response to the appointment fo Robert Mueller? Sopel described the tortuous discussions at the BBC about whether he could use the word. He did in the end, and his story was better for it.

He talked about how for all Trump’s shortcomings, he understands his base and what he needs to do to keep them on board. There are lessons for us all in that, as we see our government adopt the same brazen tactics.

A night out at the Trump hotel i Washington ended up with Sopel and his wife gawping at Trump and his wife Melania, after he became President, who were having dinner in the same restaurant.

This evening, I listened to author Elif Shafak talk about her vision for a new, more egalitarian world after the pandemic. As part of a series of lectures, she talked about the importance of knowledge, wisdom and empathy and the role of storytelling in bringing people together.

We can’t, she said, just go back to normal.

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Ed Davey’s media blitz calling for Cummings to go

I have a friend who is not well. She had to spend lockdown away from her husband, who was working, being cared for by her parents.

She didn’t see her husband until restrictions were lifted, even though he was round the corner.

Another friend lost her husband. She’s had people at the end of a phone or video call, but not with her to help and hold her. We may all have watched the livestream of the funeral but we couldn’t be there to support her and pay tribute to her husband.

We’ll all know people who have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep to the rules, because it was the right thing to do.

Yet the person who helped write those rules pretty egregiously flouted them. And not only is he not sorry. He’s had a stream of government ministers backing him up. Straight out of the Trump playbook. If you’ve done something awful, just brazen it out.

The people who grabbed power by persuading people that anyone acting in their interest was some sort of elitist are now treating the same people with utter contempt.

Ed Davey has never been off the telly today, telling all the news outlets that Cummings should go and if he hasn’t gone by the morning then Boris Johnson would have to answer why.

Here he is doing various interviews as the story unfolded:

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Daisy Cooper: Now is not the right time for me to go for leader

Daisy Cooper has announced on social media that she will not be standing for leader.

In her statement she says that she was flattered by the messages she received from Liberal Democrat members asking her to stand but she has decided against it.

My decision on whether to stand was always going to depend on the timing and, as the contest has been brought forward to this Summer I’ve decided that, right now, this isn’t the time for me.

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Liberal Democrats mark IDAHOBIT

Today is the annual International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

During lockdown, many LGBT people will be stuck at home with families that don’t accept who they are.

Imagine what that does to your mental health. If you know a young person in these circumstances, reach out to them today, and every day.

And if you leave home because of it, it can be very difficult to get help. Rejection on this basis is not classed as domestic abuse.

I was moved by these stories on the BBC website. Lucy talks about her family not accepting her transgender identity while Matt was thrown out of home by parents who rejected him for being gay.

Layla Moran talks about this is as Honorary President of LGBT+ Lib Dems:

And interim co-leader Ed Davey looks at how far we have come:

Over on the Lib Dem website, Christine Jardine writes that we need to be aware of these sorts of experiences:

As Liberals we should be aware of the danger of assuming that everybody feels equally respected and protected in the current crisis. These past two months have posed problems for us all that we never thought we would have to face, and demanded strength we did not know that we had.

But we are not there yet.

In striving to reach that moment we would do well to remember the words of US politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.
The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

That is the task we must set ourselves.

Former MEP, now Chair of the Lib Dems Federal People Development Committee tweeted:

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LDV interviews: Bill Powell on surviving Covid-19, tackling inequality and plans for the future.

It was wonderful to catch up with Bill Powell on Friday. Bill, the former Welsh Assembly member for Mid and West Wales, recently spent 6 weeks in hospital, 3 of them in Intensive Care, after contracting Covid-19.

Our chat was his Zoom debut. Thanks to his friend Ann for making it possible.

Bill  talked about his time in hospital, how he was admitted to ICU within half an hour of arriving and was put in an induced coma. More than two weeks later, he had the disorientating experience of waking up, not knowing what had happened to him. Over the next week in intensive care, he suffered all sorts of dreams and delusions, at one point being convinced that the Queen and Prince Philip had died.

After that, he spent three weeks in rehab regaining his strength before leaving hospital to applause from staff and fellow patients. I had thought that, as everyone on the rehab ward would have had the virus, that they would be able to mix reasonably freely with each other, but Bill explained that it wasn’t like that at all and the people he saw most were the nurses and physiotherapists.

The support of those nurses, physios, occupational therapists and doctors was crucial to getting him well enough to go home. Since returning to his farm in Talgarth, he has given several media interviews expressing his profound gratitude to the teams who saved his life.

It was great to follow his recovery on social media. Once he’d left intensive care, I was first aware of him liking posts and comments on Facebook, and retweeting things. Then he started to comment and, eventually, to post things himself.

He really appreciated the avalanche of messages he received from party members, political opponents and constituents.

However, he is “haunted” by the thousands of people who weren’t as fortunate as he was and  feels an obligation to give something back.

He talked about how the current crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and how we have to come up with new ways of tackling them.

Welsh Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams came in for particular praise for the calm and competent way she is dealing with the pandemic

There are two ways to catch up on our chat. Paul Walter very kindly uploaded the audio to Soundcloud, and I managed to figure out how to get it from Zoom to YouTube. At the start of the YouTube, it looks like the audio and visual are out of sync but it sorts itself out after a bit.

Below, some photos and news articles chart his path to recovery. 

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Kirsty Williams outshines Williamson with her guidance on Wales school re-opening.

Education spokesperson Layla Moran has often expressed her frustration with the Government for the mess it is making over re-opening schools.

If only there was a sensible Lib Dem Education Secretary.

But wait. There is. In Wales.

Our Kirsty Williams has been giving Gavin Williamson a masterclass in how to set out a comprehensive, detailed plan which keeps people on side and gives them enough time to do what is necessary. It’s the perfect example of competence, clarity and calm.

She said:

As Education Minister, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

“Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

“This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

“I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase.

“When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

In drawing up her decision framework, she is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders including unions, teachers and education providers.

Kirsty is being open and transparent about her approach and sets out the basis on which she will make her decisions in the Decision Framework document. 

In its foreword she writes:

This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing the operations of schools or other providers.

For example, in allowing time to plan ahead, there are a series of connected decisions. We will work towards the next end-of-cycle review, but I can also guarantee that the ‘next phase’ won’t start midweek; there will be preparation and training time for teachers, and we will work with local authorities to ensure the necessary cleaning and hygiene operations and products are in place.

I can guarantee that an increase in operations will be a phased approach. I do not expect that schools or other education settings across Wales will be open for all learners, from all years, all week, anytime soon.

I am sharing this working document, and framework for decisions, to show the extent of the issues related to the next phase. I want it to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback from the education family, including parents and carers, children and young people.

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Lib Dems react to PM speech

As soon as Boris Johnson started speaking, I was infuriated.

Nicola Sturgeon manages to get a signer there for every briefing. And she does hers live.

Boris’s was pre-recorded. Why not have a signer in the room with him so that, whatever channel you watch, you can understand what is being said?

It’s not the first time I’ve been infuriated by his government over the past week. The misjudged, mixed messaging. One minute people were doing great for obeying the guidance, the next they were getting too lazy at home. Then the briefing that lockdown was going to be lifted on Monday leading to a whole clutch of “we’re being set free” headlines. It’s not what you need in the middle of the greatest crisis we  have faced in generations. People need to understand exactly what they need to do.

That’s why the new slogan is so terrible.  Nobody knows what “stay alert” means in practical terms. Everyone will tell you something different. If you had something like stay 2m apart, wash your hands, wear a mask in confined spaces, you know exactly what to do. Not only that, but when the other UK governments hear about it on in the press, it’s clearly not been well discussed.

So how have senior Liberal Democrats reacted to the PM’s speech?  So far we have been asking careful questions about issues like care homes, PPE and testing. I sense a more critical tone now.

Ed said that the PM’s statement had more confusion that clarity:

 

This is the first time we’ve seen divergence between England and the other nation states of the UK.

As liberals, we should welcome this, given that we get what devolution means. We should respect the devolution settlements that give different parts of the UK the powers to do what is right for them.

But that means that all the governments have to clearly show that the decisions they make are governed by the science.

Willie Rennie said tonight:

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The C Word – 10 years on: What were we thinking?

Ten years ago, in the wake of an election which delivered the first hung Parliament since 1974. the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition with the Conservatives. Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister leading five Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers and 20 or so junior ministers.

That decision has undoubtedly affected our party’s fortunes badly. We won 57 MPs in 2010, and just 8 in the brutal and devastating election 5 years later. In the intervening years, we had lost most of our MSPs, all but 1 of our MEPs, 40% of the council seats we defended and control of 9 councils. Although we have gained signifiant ground in local elections since, we are still on less than a third of our 2010 vote share in the opinion polls, – although we did, briefly, get back up there last year.

There is no doubt that the Liberal Democrat ministers delivered some brilliant and progressive measures. During that period there were huge advances in the fight against climate change, most of which have now been rolled back by the Conservatives on their own. Our Pupil Premium gave a lot more money to support disadvantaged children in school and its benefits were already being seen in terms of attainment and will continue to do so. Improving mental health was given high priority on the political agenda with Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb making more services available. Better consumer protection, shared parental leave, same sex marriage, a transgender action plan and ending the export of execution drugs to the US are just a few examples of the good that we did.

There is no doubt that we stopped the Conservatives doing some really awful things. We know this because they did them the very minute that we were off the scene – things like even more swingeing cuts to social security which drove up inequality and poverty.

The point of this article is to look at the context in which the party made its decision to go in to coalition. There are no silent words like “on earth” in the title. Why did we do a deal with the Tories, with whom we were fundamentally incompatible in values and outlook? We were under many different kinds of pressure. Hindsight, of course, tells us that we could have done some things differently but it is important to understand what it was like at the time.

The first consideration was that we had not been dealt a very easy hand. The parliamentary arithmetic didn’t give us much choice. The only way of getting a majority coalition between two parties was with the Conservatives. Labour and us, even if Labour were remotely interested in talking to us, would only have managed 315 seats so would have needed the support of other parties in order to govern.  Nick Clegg had always said that he would talk to the largest party first, so it was with the Conservatives, on 306 seats, that Chris Huhne, Danny Alexander, David Laws and Andrew Stunell sat down on the Sunday after the election.

In a context of a very fragile economy – and as they talked in the Cabinet Office, the Greek economy was on the verge of collapse – there was a sense that they needed to get on with it so as not to spook the markets. There was a huge pressure to form a stable government. And we certainly managed that. It was actually more functional than most of the single party governments of my lifetime. However, the economies of European countries seem to remain relatively spook-free in the weeks it generally takes them to form governments, and this was a lesson we would do well to learn in the future. Coming to an agreement in haste, within five days of a gruelling election campaign is not a thing we should do in the future.

The Scottish experience will have weighed heavily, too. Liberal Democrats had enjoyed 8 years of successful coalition in Scotland and could point to transformational change – the abolition of university tuition fees, free personal care, Single Transferable Vote elections for local government, free eye and dental checks. All of these things remain in place to this day. An SNP minority government had taken over in 2007 and we had struggled to make any sort of impact. I wrote about the Scottish experience in an article at the time:

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Ed Davey’s message for Europe Day

It’s Europe Day today and I find myself quite emotional. This country finds itself outside the European Union and with the prospect of no trade deal at the end of this year. Presumably Boris Johnson’s government thinks that we won’t notice that nasty little act of economic vandalism in the midst of the economic chaos wreaked by Coronavirus.

We know from the last few weeks how bloody difficult isolation is in our personal lives and so it is the same on the international scene.

Over on the Lib Dem website, Ed Davey has written this message for Europe Day:

Europe Day is a reminder of the value of international cooperation.

Only by working internationally can we effectively combat international challenges.

It is also an opportunity to recognise the contributions EU citizens living in the UK make to our society. These friends, colleagues, neighbours, and family members enrich our lives every day.

During this crisis the contribution of migrants, including those from the EU, has been immense.

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The C Word 10 years on: Crossing the RubiCon

As we mark 10 years since the formulation of the coalition, I’m reposting my initial thoughts from 8 May 2010 about how we should approach the dangerous situation in which we found ourselves:

This is going to be a very quick post. If you want deeper, more robust analysis, go to the lovely Elephant or Daddy Alex. With 15 minutes to go to Doctor Who, you are not going to get any more than a few random thoughts from me.

Firstly, a few right wing commentators are getting their knickers in a twist and describing the current series of civilised negotiations between the parties as “chaos”. They have clearly led very sheltered lives. This is a perfectly normal part of the democratic process in most of the rest of Europe and beyond.

Secondly, I like Nick Clegg’s style. He takes the trouble to go and talk to the 1000 demonstrators outside where he was meeting the Parliamentary Party. Can you see either David Cameron or Gordon Brown doing that?

Thirdly, I grew up in the 80s. I hate the Tories with an absolute passion. Thatcher came to power when I was roughly the same age as my daughter is now and my education was punctuated with poor or no equipment, not enough teachers, strikes and my school was falling to bits. Do I want this for her? No way! However, the first 10 years of her life have seen an authoritarian Labour government which has been complicit in torture, has eroded our civil liberties, damaged our standing by taking part in illegal wars and has repeatedly crapped all over the poorest and most vulnerable. I really loathe and detest them too. Almost equally. Trying to choose between them is like being on some trashy game show and having to choose between eating a wichety grub and a kangaroo’s testicle. Either way, I’m going to throw up. Having said that, the stakes are high – the country needs a decent government and we have a responsibility to look at all possibilities of building one. That means, unfortunately, talking to parties we don’t like.

Fourthly, the 24 hour news cycle is a hungry beast and tends to over analyse every sigle word that people say for hidden meaning. This is not helpful and we probably shouldn’t do it either.

Fifthly, it is in the interests of both Labour and the Tories to derail this process. They want to maintain the current duopoly that the current electoral process creates. Of course they do. Turkeys don’t have a habit of voting for Christmas. They are trying to make out that it’s all down to Nick to do a deal with them on their terms. Actually, their leaders have to behave like mature adults.

It is in ours to make it work. That doesn’t necessarily mean forming a coalition with anybody, but it does mean that we need to be open, businesslike and willing to explore all the possibilities.

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The C Word 10 years on: How it all began

In some ways, the days following the 2010 election seem so much more than a decade ago. I have definitely cried more than 10 years’ worth of tears in that time. The long term effect of the coalition on our party has been profound. The decisions we made within it were still being used as a stick to beat us with in the most recent General Election.

We’ll be looking in more detail at the formation of the Coalition in the days to come. It was a process that many of us viewed nervously but that the Party backed overwhelmingly in a special conference in Birmingham.

But on this day, 10 years ago, then co-editor of LDV and now Party President Mark Pack set out what we could expect as Liberal Democrat leaders entered into talks firstly with the Conservatives:

The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party and the Federal Executive are scheduled to meet again on Monday. If a firm proposal is coming out from the talks today, expect it to be put to them both tomorrow. The big question is what might be proposed…?

Right across the party, both from senior to grassroots levels and from social through to economic liberals, there is very strong feeling that significant movements on electoral reform are a must for any arrangement. Given the country’s current economic woes, there is widespread agreement that PR isn’t the only issue at stake, but – for example – I’ve not spoken to anyone in the party who thinks the budget deficit is such a dominating issue that PR can be put on the back-burner for a few years.

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Lib Dems join calls for virtual recall of Parliament

This week, Nicola Sturgeon took First Minster’s Questions from Scotland’s party leaders in virtual form.

Holyrood is again leading the way on showing how a modern Parliament can continue to scrutinise a government even in these unprecedented times.

Willie Rennie asked about care homes, particularly about how they accepted new residents who may be discharged straight from hospital and about mental health – especially the trauma that NHS workers are being exposed to. You can see him at about 30 minutes in.

It was a really good and thoughtful session with difficult questions being asked and answered in a manner that people are entitled to expect of their elected representatives.

It’s almost a fortnight since Ed Davey first called for a Coronavirus Select Committee to be set up by some manner of internet magic in order to question the government.

MPs from all opposition parties (and even some Conservatives) are now ramping up the pressure on the government to ensure that there is some scrutiny of their decisions.

Most Liberal Democrat MPs have signed a letter to Dominic Raab asking for an immediate recall of Parliament in virtual form.

With public and political unease mounting about the government’s handling of the crisis, people rightly expect these issues to be debated by their elected representatives fully and publicly.

One of the hallmarks of this Government is that it is not really up for being subjected to any sort of scrutiny, but as questions build about the lack of PPE for medical staff, and the millions of people left high and dry without income at this time, we need MPs to be able to hold them to account.

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Wendy Chamberlain: I used to be a Police Officer, now I worry about them being given more power

I, like virtually everyone else in this country, am taking this lockdown business very seriously. In fact, I think my anxiety about  Coronavirus is going to skyrocket in that intervening period between the most restrictive measures ending and the advent of a cure or vaccine. My husband is not quite as high risk as you can get, but he’s well on the way and when I read the small print, I’m high risk for complications from Covid-19 too. So I’m actually quite happy being at home at the moment. I realise that I am very lucky to be able to spend that time with people and dogs that I love, and to have a garden that I can sit out in. I am very aware that some people are on their own, or trapped with abusive partners, or are stuck in a flat.

It’s really strange to say that I haven’t been to a shop in a month. No more just nipping up to the Co-op to get rice when you realise you haven’t got any and the curry has been bubbling away in the oven for hours. It is really strange to think how well we have adapted to what are colossal infringements on our freedoms. News reports from intensive care units are more effective than any law enforcement approach.

But I do feel slightly uneasy whenever I see police vans heading into the park across the road from our house. Whenever I have been there, virtually everyone is keeping their distance. Ok, so there is the very occasional strange looking household walking together but the rules are pretty much enforcing themselves. And if I saw someone sitting on a bench, I’d think that they needed a rest. Not everyone can walk uninterrupted for an hour or so.

Even if they were very polite about it, I would still bristle a bit if a Police Officer were to ask me what I was doing in the park when the answer, given that I am usually accompanied by my dog, would be obvious. I think that is an ok way for a liberal to feel. We should always be aware of who holds power over us and assess whether they are using it appropriately. And if they aren’t, then they need to be challenged through the relevant complaints procedures.

Police suggesting they might be having a nosey through people’s shopping trolleys to look for “non-essential” stuff, even if their bosses backtrack later, or telling a family they can’t play in their front garden., are clear examples of when their approach goes too far.

This week, Lib Dem MP and former Police Officer Wendy Chamberlain wrote in the Metro about how she was worried about how they exercised their new powers.

What should they be doing?

Just as the air raid wardens kept communities safe during the Second World War by making sure people observed the blackouts, now we rely on police officers to keep us safe from coronavirus by making sure we observe the lockdown. Like everyone on the frontline of this crisis, our police are doing a very difficult job in extremely difficult circumstances. They not only have to enforce the new emergency laws, but also tackle other types of crime.

But we must be very careful to ensure that these powers are not used in a discriminatory way:

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