Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

So that is why the fringe meetings were so jam packed

Every fringe meeting I went to or participated in at Conference was absolutely packed.

On Monday, I chaired a fringe for Shelter on the need for a massive investment in social housing.

The room was packed ten minutes before it was due to start to the extent that Shelter’s own Policy Director Chris Wood couldn’t get in.

Later that day, at another meeting, for the Smith Institute and the Affordable Housing Commission, there was, again, standing room only.

I had been a bit worried, to be honest, when we booked a huge room for our fringe meeting “What would you sacrifice to save the planet?” Paul Walter and I spent that one standing at the back because there were no seats left.

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What Boris Johnson should have said to Omar Salem

I have nothing but sympathy for Omar Salem, the dad who confronted Boris Johnson today. Watch the video on the Guardian, here. Omar’s wee one is only a week old, but was admitted as an emergency. When she got to the ward, she wasn’t seen by a doctor for hours. I can’t imagine Omar would have got much in the way of sleep.

It is absolutely terrifying when someone you love is seriously ill. You need to have confidence in the care that they are getting.

I know.

Three years ago, my husband was very seriously ill and spent 51 nights in hospital. He had some superb care from  truly exceptional people. But occasionally things went wrong. This was invariably because of under-resourcing.

I’ll never forget the day that I was on the ward at just before 5pm and I saw one of the health care assistants getting ready to serve dinner. She had been on night shift the day before until 8am that morning. Because the ward was so short staffed, she’d gone home for a couple of hours’ sleep and gone back in to do the lunches because there was nobody else to do it.

That is simply not safe – for her, mostly.

Other stuff went wrong as well. I won’t give you the gory details, but if you only have one person of a particular grade on duty overnight in an entire hospital, they can’t be everywhere they are needed and vital stuff just doesn’t get done.

If Nicola Sturgeon, or then Health Secretary Shona Robison, had turned up on the ward on one of these days, I might well have given them a piece of my mind. As a worried wife, and a human being, not as a Liberal Democrat.

And if I had done that, I reckon Shona and Nicola would have shown me some kindness. They’d have asked questions and listened. Because they are actually kind and empathetic human beings, and because they know that it is important to handle these things well.

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What would you think are the odds on the Liberal Democrats winning most seats in a general election?

Given that we have 18 MPs right now, you wouldn’t expect the odds on the Liberal Democrats being the biggest party in the House of Commons to be that good.

Maybe 100-1, maybe 50-1 at best.

Well, not so much.

Look here and you’ll see a range between 9-1 and 16-1.

That reflects the fact that we have left Bournemouth with a clear path ahead.

We know that our primary objective at the moment is to stop Brexit in order to make creating the more caring, more equal society that we want to see so much easier.

We are clear that if the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next General Election before we have left the European Union, the very first thing that Jo Swinson will do if she enters Downing Street as Prime Minister, before she even puts the kettle on, will be to revoke Article 50.

The political earthquake that it would take for us to go from 18 seats to 326 would be more than sufficient mandate.

If we don’t win an overall majority, we would go for a people’s vote with a Brexit option and the option to Remain.

Over the last few days, Jo Swinson has shown herself to be a calm, capable, infectiously enthusiastic, likeable and determined leader, surrounded by a talented team.

She has been in the job for less than 2 months and already she tops the popularity ratings.

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In full: Chuka Umunna’s speech to Conference

The Liberal Democrats have taken Chuka Umunna pretty much to our hearts since he joined in June. He seems really happy and comfortable in his new surroundings

Today he gave a keynote speech to Conference.

Here it is in full.

Conference, it is an honour and a pleasure to be addressing you as a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament and as your Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Now, I’ve been to a few parties and I hope I don’t sound immodest when I say my experience of joining this party underlines that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made since going into politics.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making me feel so welcome. I could not be more at home in the wonderful Liberal Democrat family.

And the decision to join was not made out of crude self interest…If self interest or climbing the greasy poll is your goal, I would not recommend following my example.

The truth is, all the incredibly difficult decisions I have made on the journey I’ve been on this year were routed in my values and principles. I joined this party out of conviction.

As you know, I am a Remainer and proud of it – we have spent far too long apologising for being pro-European in this country. Because you cannot be pro-Britain and put our national interest first without seeking to put Britain at the heart of Europe.

But, even more importantly, I am a social democrat with liberal values. You see, to be a Remainer is not only to be an advocate of our continued membership of the European Union; it is to hold a set of liberal, internationalist values of which we Liberal Democrats are the champions and defenders in Britain.

In an attempt to smear those of us who have an internationalist outlook, Theresa May said “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”. What utter garbage. We are citizens of the world and – just you watch – at the next election you will see Liberal Democrats taking seats from the Tories in every part of the country as so many people are flocking to us, the strongest and biggest Remain party.

Be in no doubt: this is the battle of our time and it goes far beyond Britain’s borders.

What it is to be a liberal

Our party exists to build and defend a fair, free and open society, a society in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity……That was taken straight from our constitution – as you can see, I’ve done my homework.

In essence, the society we seek to build is one where if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be free to lead a happy, prosperous and secure life free of domination of either the state or the market. And we want to ensure future generations can do the same by preserving our planet for the long term continuity of life in all its forms.

I grew up in world in which we took these values for granted.

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Jane Dodds’ speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

Cynhadledd, diolch yn fawr.

Before I get going today, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came to Brecon and Radnorshire to help during my campaign. Whether you came during the recall petition or the by-election or even both – thank you. Without all of you, and the wider party and beyond, I would not be standing here today as the MP for Brecon & Radnorshire.

I want to particularly thank the local party, whose volunteers provided accommodation for campaigners for 2202 nights. Thankfully, our Welsh tradition of ironing bed sheets did not last long in to the campaign.

This victory was a team effort, and one which signalled to both Wales and the UK, that the Liberal Democrats can win.

Winning council seats.

Winning our largest ever group of MEPs.

Winning Parliamentary seats across the country.

Conference, there has never been a better time to be a Liberal Democrat.

I also want to express my thanks to Plaid Cymru and the Green party, who took the difficult decision to stand aside in Brecon & Radnorshire – in order to help further the fight against Brexit.

They put the national interest first, and because of this cooperation, this alliance of parties, we were able to win.

We are believers in pragmatic, collaborative politics. I want to see us work with people in other parties – and none – to achieve the aims we have in common.

Sometimes this may mean we have to be prepared to make sacrifices, but when it comes to issues like Brexit, the risk is too high to not work together.

Now, although I am the newest elected Member of Parliament, I am not the newest Liberal Democrat MP.

One week after I was elected, we were joined by Sarah Wollaston. The day I took my seat in Parliament Phillip Lee came to sit alongside me, and shortly after that both Luciana Berger and Angela Smith joined too.

And they’re not the only ones joining. Since my election thousands people have joined our party too, taking us to our highest ever membership. And day by day, we keep growing.

To everyone who’s joined the party in recent months, croeso! And to those who are still on the fence about joining, what is stopping you?

If you’re fed up of the endless back and forth, the empty rhetoric and the hollow promises of the other parties… then why not come make your home in the Liberal Democrats, as so many others are doing?

As Jo Swinson said, “if you’re fed up of shouting at the TV, then get up and do something about it”.

Conference I am proud to be a Liberal Democrat because we are the only party offering a bold and optimistic vision for the future of our country.

In Wales Kirsty Williams is putting this vision into action.

As Education Minister she is cutting class sizes, protecting our rural schools and, overhauling our curriculum to make it fit for the 21st century, including making sure relationship education is LGBT inclusive.

This is what the Liberal Democrats are championing, a society which gives everyone the opportunities to make the most of their talents and potential, and which ensures everyone is included and supported throughout their life.

We are also the only party fighting to keep all of our nations part of the United Kingdom, and the whole UK part of Europe.

Rwy’n sefyll yma, Gynhadledd, fel Cymraes balch, a rhywun sy’n credu’n gryf mewn datganoli pŵer i’r bobl.

I stand before you today as a proud Welsh woman and a staunch believer in devolution. I want to see devolution not just to the nations and regions, but to local government as well – to bring power as close to the people as possible.

I am also proud to be British AND European. All of these identities are what makes me who I am and are rooted in my belief that there are things we do better together – in the same way as there are things we do better as part of the European Union or as part of the United Nations.

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Jo Swinson arrives at Conference

It was a truly impressive site as Jo Swinson led a group including newly elected MEPs, key seat candidates and other key party figures such as Isabelle Parasram, our Vice President BAME down the hill in the sunshine towards the Conference Centre.

Shaffaq Mohammed, Yorkshire and the Humber MEP and HazelGrove PPC Lisa Smart were on either side of her in a group that included our own Kirsten Johnson as PPC for North Devon and Wendy Chamberlain, who is challenging for the most marginal seat in the country.

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Goodbye from Pastoral Care Officer Jeanne Tarrant

For the last five years, Jeanne Tarrant has had the herculean task of guiding our party towards following best practice in safeguarding and dealing with complaints, updating policies and developing training.

Now she’s leaving us. She told us:

After five amazing and turbulent years,  I’m off to pastures new. I have been (un)lucky to experience two General and European elections and referenda during my time and worked with an incredible bunch of people in the wider membership and at the Liberal Democrats HQ.

I have seen how remarkable and dedicated individuals here in HQ and the wider Party have contributed to the Lib Dems’ continued political successes. Long may that continue!!

I would like to take this opportunity to say good luck and best wishes in the coming months, I know the Liberal Democrats will keep going from strength to strength in all their endeavours.

Thank you for the ride. It’s been an honour.  

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Remembering Paddy

I still can’t get my head round Paddy being gone, even nine months on.

I am so glad I was in the room at Glee Club to see him tell the Joke in Brighton last September.

Paddy influenced a huge part of my development as a Liberal Democrat. I’ve been inspired by him, I’ve fought with him (yes, I dared answer back), I’ve admired the way he dragged us from an asterisk to a sizeable political force and then tried to do it all again. While I may have disagreed with him on a fair few occasions, I sought his counsel on many more.

I will never forget how, within seconds of me doing the Today programme at the nadir of our time in coalition, the aftermath of the 2014 Euro elections, I had an email from him praising me on my performance.

Every so often, he’d ring me up and tell me off or offer me some useful ideas. He was always worth listening to. I mean, he’d built a party from nothing and he’d put together a country in the aftermath of war. How could you not?

I was gutted that I couldn’t be at his memorial service at Westminster Abbey today. An impressive location for a giant.

As a party we fought the Major Government with a passion, but we knew that there was a respect between Major and Ashdown. It made me howl when I heard John Major’s tribute to Paddy today. While I opposed the Tories with my heart, Major reminds me too much of my Dad to ever dislike him. They both look alike and are incredibly kind and decent human beings. And the generosity and eloquence of his tribute to Paddy today cemented his place as one of my favourite people in politics.

Here are just some of the tweets from the service:

From our leader to one of our newest MPs

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+++Breaking…Angela Smith MP joins the Liberal Democrats

Now we are 17.

Angela Smith, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who joined Change UK from Labour back in February has tonight announced that she had joined us.

Angela said:

I am delighted to be joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats. We need a more inclusive, tolerant politics for our country that values diversity. The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party to stop Brexit and build a society that gives opportunities to everyone, tackle the climate crisis and invest in our public services.

We are facing a national crisis and people deserve better than the choice of the old two parties. I am relishing continuing my work with the Liberal Democrats to not only fight against Brexit but to also campaign for the constitutional reform needed to mend our broken politics.

Jo welcomed her to the party:

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Is Jo trying to tell us something?

She does love her cryptic tweets, does our leader.

Of course, she could just be introducing her boys to one of the best films of all time.

If she is, she could take inspiration from this song which should be our anthem in the weeks leading up to the expected General Election. Certainly, Jo is determined to absolutely go for it, with no limit to our ambitions.

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Jo tackles Boris on sexist insults

Twice this week, Boris Johnson has used sexist insults. In deeply dignified and mature behaviour for a Prime Minister, he called Jeremy Corbyn a “big girl’s blouse” the other day. And now we discover he called David Cameron a “girly swot.”

This is how Jo Swinson responded.

She took the fight for liberal values to him the other day and he was all over the place as a result. Jo is usually very prepared about what she is going to say, but she was clearly furious with his dismissive answer when challenged on his dangerous racism and she handed his backside to him on a plate.

Jo is fired up and ready to go when the inevitable election eventually comes along, after she and others have protected the country from government shenanigans which could force no deal on us.

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“God I felt in the right place” LDV talks to Dr Phillip Lee MP about his dramatic entrance to the Lib Dems.

It was a moment of high drama. As Boris Johnson started his statement on the European Council on Tuesday afternoon, Phillip Lee walked into the Commons Chamber. Rather than turn left to the Government benches as he had every time since his election in 2010, he turned right and took a seat next to Jo Swinson.

This afternoon I spoke to him, just after he had been talking to the Washington Post and he relived that moment.

It wasn’t easy on a personal level. You can imagine, I was a member of a political party for 27 years, I’ve got relationships that are well established and some of them are going to be strained by all of this.

After he’d sat down, his watch started buzzing to tell him that his heart rate had been over 120 beats per minute for over four minutes. He had to do some deep breathing to coax it back to normal.

Today was his first day back in his constituency since crossing the floor. A walk around a new shopping centre in Bracknell had laid bare the polarisation our country faces today:

It was love and hate. It was really quite remarkable.

He’d been thinking about joining us for a few months, talking to friends and family and reading the Preamble to our Constitution and said that he felt that our ideas of equality, justice and community were where he was. You don’t, he said, just have a hissy fit and change political parties, but the final event that propelled him our way was Jacob Rees-Mogg’s LBC interview on Monday in which he disparaged Dr David Nicholls, who had contributed to the Yellowhammer Report on no deal preparations. Mogg made “dreadful statements, comparing him to someone who had been struck off.”

It made me feel as a practising medical doctor that I’d made the right decision.

That feeling intensified the next day at Prime Minister’s Questions, which he described as the worst display he’d seen by both Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

His friend, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough, asked Boris Johnson to apologise for the derogatory and racist remarks he’d made on many occasions in the past and which had led to a rise in hate crime. The PM’s dismissive answer fired up Jo Swinson so much that she handed Johnson his backside on a plate. shortly afterwards.

Phillip knows Slough well. He has worked there as a GP for over a decade and knows its diverse communities, where 60 languages are spoken, backwards.

God I felt in the right place.

All of that appalling language in that article, it matters in communities like that because language matters and for the PM to be so dismissive confirmed in my heart that I was in the right party.

As a doctor, he said that he had problems with the Health and Social Care Bill during the coalition years. He raised his issues privately with then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and regrets that he toed the line and voted in favour of it – a view no doubt shared by many Liberal Democrats.

His move to our party has not been without controversy. There has been considerable anxiety, which has led to the resignations of Federal Conference Committee and LGBT+ office bearers Sarah Brown and Jennie Rigg. Both of them are close friends of mine and I’ve felt intensely sad this week. The party is already missing the massive amount of work that they do and I hope that we will be able to welcome them back one day.

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Two big leaps forward for the Liberal Democrats in tonight’s by-elections

Lib Dem candidate Tracey Henry came within 32 votes of winning a safe Labour seat in Hull tonight.

That works out as:

Lab: 45.6% (-20.1)
Lib Dem: 43.9% (+30.7)
Con: 10.5% (-4.0)

So that’s up almost 31% since May.

That’s one hell of a leap forward, more than tripling the vote.

The other result involving Lib Dems tonight saw James Morshead surge in the Wainbody ward in Coventry.

The Lib Dems weren’t involved in tonight’s only other contest, in Rory Stewart’s parliamentary constituency.

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WATCH: Jane Dodds’ maiden speech

In case you missed it yesterday, here’s Jane Dodds’ excellent maiden speech. Just as a side note, Holyrood started calling them debut speeches a while ago to get rid of the gendered implication. It seems appropriate for Westminster to follow suit.

The text is below:

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++++Breaking….Luciana Berger joins the Liberal Democrats

Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger is the newest member of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary team.

She said:

This is a moment of national crisis. The Liberal Democrats are unequivocal in wanting to stop Brexit and are committed to securing Britain’s future as a tolerant, open and inclusive society.

I am joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats today, in the national interest, to offer a vital, positive alternative to Johnson and Corbyn and help build a future that our country deserves.

Jo Swinson welcomed her:

Luciana is a passionate advocate for women’s and LGBT+ rights, and she’s at the forefront of efforts to counter anti-Semitism and prevent discrimination. I’m delighted to welcome her to the Liberal Democrats, where we can work together to stop Brexit and build a fairer, more equal society for all.

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Lib Dem Lords vs Brexit: Middle of night special

It’s 12:55 am and the House of Lords just got to the amendments on the first paragraph of the timetable motion for the avoiding no deal  bill. They have been going for the better part of 11 hours now and the vote they are on now is, I think, the 16th. According to Lib Dem Peer Paul Strasburger, this is the most votes ever in a single session.

This is part of the Government’s attempts to filibuster out the Bill to stop a no deal Brexit in its tracks which was passed by the Commons earlier.

There were rumours on Newsnight that Jeremy Corbyn had done a deal with the Government to allow an election in mid October in exchange for the filibustering to stop, but this appears to have been averted after MPs of all parties prevailed on Corbyn to not trust a word that comes from the Government.

So, No 10, I understand, has told the Lords to keep filibustering.

The Lords chamber is still pretty full. Every single vote has been won by the Rebel Alliance. And by some margin. It is the most colossal waste of time ever.

Some of our Lib Dem Lords may be in their element. It does rather read like a Lib Dem constitutional review, but even after an hour of watching, I am ready to throw things at the telly.

If you are trying to frustrate business with hundreds of frivolous amendments, you might at least make them interesting. I mean, why not include proposals for unlimited marshmallows to be provided, or to play beer pong at the bar of he House?

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Two times Jo Swinson was awesome today

Today saw Jo Swinson’s first PMQs as leader against our incompetent and awful Prime Minister. She had intended to ask about a constituent’s mother who was having a hell of a time getting settled status despite living in this country for almost half a century.

Just before the end of PMQs,  Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi tackled the Prime Minister about his awful column in which he said horrific things about Muslim women. It’s worth remembering that these comments are not consequence free. Every woman of colour I know, whether she wears a hijab or not, noticed an increase in the racist, islamophobic crap they have to put up with every single day after he wrote that.

Typically, Johnson was incredibly dismissive of the challenge. Then it was Jo’s turn and she absolutely laid into him. 

Unfortunately the embedding feature on Parliament TV isn’t working right now. Here’s a small clip:

Here’s the text.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)

The Prime Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) was appalling. An apology was required, rather than some kind of justification that there is ever any acceptable context for remarks such as the Prime Minister made in that column. He is the Prime Minister of our country. His words carry weight and he has to be more careful with what he says. My constituent Kristin is afraid because her mum, a European citizen, has been struggling to get settled status after 45 years in this country. Our friends, colleagues and neighbours deserve better than his failures and carelessness with language.

The Prime Minister

In the case of his constituent Kristin—

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
His?

The Prime Minister

Her constituent Kristin—if she has indeed been here for 45 years, and I am sure she has—should be automatically eligible for settled status. Clearly, it is a difficult case, but the answer is for the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) to bring it to the Home Secretary, and I am sure we can sort it out.

The text alone doesn’t capture how utterly floored Johnson was by Jo’s question. It’s like a surprise to him that he isn’t universally loved.

Later on, during the debate on the Government motion for an election, Jo took apart Johnson’s arguments for an election. A general election, she said, should be held in a responsible manner, after an extension to article 50 had been assured.

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Jo Swinson: We will stop Boris Johnson’s no deal plans in their tracks

Jo Swinson’s reaction to the defeat of the government by 27 votes tonight:

The attempt to shut down Parliament by Boris Johnson is authoritarian and anti-democratic. The fact that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wants to silence the people and their representatives shows that Boris Johnson will pursue Brexit at any cost, even at the cost of our democracy.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats, along with a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, have voted to take control of the order paper tomorrow.

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Our new deputy leader is…

And look who’s chuffed to bits

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Jane Dodds and Beatrice Wishart take their seats in Westminster and Holyrood

Amidst today’s drama, let’s not forget that Jane Dodds, our new MP for Brecon and Radnorshire and Beatrice Wishart, our new MSP for Shetland, take their seats today.

 

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All aboard the rollercoaster

A Prime Minister with no mandate intends to shut down Parliament to pursue a reckless agenda which could lead to food and medicine shortages. He threatens to end the careers of anyone on his side who defies him.

No, not the plot of some fanciful work of fiction I read on holiday. Quite possibly the plot of a film in a few years time.

There is a surreal feeling about what’s happening at the moment. A colleague of mine commented when we heard that Conservative MPs were being summoned to the garden of Downing Street that some of the rebels may not be allowed to leave.

An emergency debate today will lead to a Bill being introduced by the opposition tomorrow. That bill will compel the PM to ask for an extension to Article 50 to the end of January. If the European Council ask for it to be to a different date, MPs will have the chance to accept or reject that date.

Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats, have been heavily involved in planning over the Summer.  Our aim is ultimately to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote. That is something that was supported by 280 MPs the last time it was debated.

Boris Johnson knows that there is a good chance that this legislation will pass. It was pretty extraordinary to see Michael Gove refuse to confirm that the Government would abide by this new law.

Last night’s ultimatum, when he threw a general election into the mix, looks like it may not succeed. The only way an election can be called is if Labour votes for it and it looks from what their people are saying that they will resist that, at least in the short term. My worry is that an election called for 14th could be delayed to 31st once Parliament is dissolved, when it’s too late to do anything to avert no deal, by a Prime Minister who is  not exactly known for keeping his word.

This is a hugely anxious time for anyone with a liberal mindset. A government taking an increasingly authoritarian, anti-democratic course needs to be stopped. Every vote is going to shred our nerves and send our blood pressure through the roof. A longer term objective surely has to be to end the 15 minutes of drama that goes along with every Commons vote. Pressing a button would end that agony.

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Huge thanks to Paul Walter and Mary Reid

I have now returned from two weeks enjoying the restorative magic of Rosemarkie Beach. I needed that break so much. At the beginning of July, I felt so physically and mentally exhausted that I actually feared that I was going to fall over completely. My trip to Brecon, hard work though it was, revived my spirits a bit, but I was still in dire need of a proper break.

Editing LDV is a huge passion, but it can be a bit all-consuming at times, especially when trying to combine it with a day job and all the other assorted Lib Demmery in my life. Add to that some family health issues, and you can see that an extra 12 hours in each day would be very welcome.

I could not have had my break without the team stepping up to cover for me. Paul Walter and Mary Reid did a sterling job in my absence and I just wanted to say to them how grateful I am. They dealt with submissions, moderated comments and wrote some great stuff of their own.

Here are some of my highlights of their work during the last fortnight:

Paul’s coverage of the Stop the Coup protests yesterday.

Mary’s brilliant piece on diversity in film and theatre

Kirsten Johnson talks about the need for action on social care.

Miranda Roberts writes about making the Sheffield Hallam HQ family friendly.

Mary reporting on a recent lecture by the Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4 News, Dorothy Byrne, about the way politicians interact, or not, with the media.

Paul writing about how Irish travellers deserve our respect like any other ethnic group.

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WATCH: North Cornwall Lib Dem PPC Danny Chambers speak at #stopthecoup rally

The next generation, we hope, of Lib Dem MPs have been out and about speaking at Stop the Coup rallies today. Daisy Cooper spoke in St Albans, Laura Gordon in Sheffield Hallam and, courtesy of the wonderful Steve Jolly, we have video of North Cornwall’s Danny Chambers at the event in Bodmin.

As an added bonus, London Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita was down there visiting her parents and she went along and the two of them did a video together.

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Beatrice Wishart wins Shetland by-election for the Lib Dems

Great news from Shetland tonight as the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Beatrice Wishart won the Scottish Parliament by-election with 48% of the vote.

The result in full is:

Beatrice Wishart (Scottish Lib Dems)5,659 (47.86%, -19.52%)
Tom Wills (SNP) 3,822 (32.32%, +9.27%)
Ryan Thomson (Independent) 1,286 (10.88%)
Brydon Goodlad (Scottish Conservative) 425 (3.59%, -0.07%)
Debra Nicolson (Green) 189 (1.60%)
Johan Adamson (Scottish Labour) 152 (1.29%, -4.61%)
Michael Stout (Independent) 134 (1.13%)
Ian Scott (Independent) 66 (0.56%)
Stuart Martin (UKIP) 60 (0.51%)
Peter Tait (Independent) 31 (0.26%)
14.40% swing Lib Dem to SNP
Electorate 17,810 – Turnout 11,824 (66.39%, up by 4.31%)

Willie Rennie was delighted:

And Scottish Lib Dem Women’s Girls Supporting Girls initiative helped too, with visits from Jo Swinson and Christine Jardine.

 

A by-election in your safest seat is a scary thing, particularly when your party has caused it when previous incumbent Tavish Scott left politics to go and work for Scottish Rugby. He had a huge personal vote and had always by his own admission fought as himself rather than as a Lib Dem.

The SNP threw the entire kitchen at this because they knew that if we lost the seat, we would lose our status a a group in the Scottish Parliament. SNP MPs from the central belt had been pounding the streets of Shetland. They put a lot of fire power our way but we still got almost half the vote even with a strong challenge from Independent Ryan Thompson who was the biggest gainer.

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Lib Dem Brexit campaign chief to be Jo Swinson’s chief of staff

Today has been pretty much perfect.

I am in my favourite place in the world, the weather is glorious, I had almost eight uninterrupted hours of sleep for the first time in a long time and the local shop had in stock Lotus Biscoff biscuits just when I had a craving for them. There is a chicken roasting in the oven and some very nice gin waiting for me when I get back from our evening beach walk.

I thought it couldn’t really get much better and then I heard who Jo Swinson had appointed as her Chief of Staff.

Rhiannon Leaman, as the Liberal Democrats’ Head of National campaigns was responsible for our Stop Brexit campaign. And that’s seen us almost triple our opinion poll ratings in the last few months. She has had various campaigning roles in the party over the last few years and she knows it backwards. She has the keenest of political instincts.  She has a brilliant combination of skills to bring to the role. And I can also imagine that she will be good at  what every good Chief of Staff needs to do – tell the boss “No” from time to time. No matter how good they are, they all need that.

Rhiannon started out in politics working for Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid in the days before we were in government. You could not imagine two more different people to work for than Alan and Jo, I have to say.

As an aside, Alan has had a role in developing some very talented people in the party. Willie Rennie’s political “parents” when he was a student in Paisley were Alan and Cllr Eileen McCartin.  Back in 1989, they fought a brilliant campaign in a Council by-election that gave Labour a fright – they came so close to winning.

Jo has an outstandingly strong team around her. Her Senior Adviser, Sara Mosavi, is promoted to Head of Office. She will lead on things like policy development.

It has already been announced that her press secretary will be Ben Rathe who worked in the party’s media operation during the years we were in government. More recently, he played an absolute blinder for her in the run-up to and during her leadership campaign. 

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The most important thing Jo Swinson did this week

When Jo Swinson was asked on the Today programme if she had talked to Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman about the possibility of them leading a Government of National Unity, my first thought was “Do you know nothing about her?”

Jo does her homework. There is no way on earth she would have said that Corbyn didn’t have the support to become temporary PM if she wasn’t sure of the figures. When she said that Corbyn couldn’t command the support of the House of Commons it is because she had had the conversations and worked that out. When she said that people like Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman would be great choices to lead a Government of National Unity as they didn’t have any long term ambitions to do the job, of course she had spoken to them first.

Her constant refrain was about building a plan that worked, a plan that united those opposed to the destructive path our incompetent Prime Minister is trying to take us down.

And that’s important.

For two days, Jo dominated the news headlines. Actually, it was nearer three as the news that Sarah Wollaston had joined us came late on Wednesday.

Dominating the news headlines is news about the formation of a coherent plan to block no deal – and, if Jo has her way, to stop Brexit altogether. She was crystal clear that the aim of the Liberal Democrats is to remain in the EU and we would campaign to do so in any People’s Vote.

She looked an anxious nation in the eye and calmly and confidently told them that she, and others, potentially a majority of MPs, had their backs.

She talked about doing whatever it took to stop Brexit.

This all comes as the Sunday Times publishes details (£) of leaked government documents showing how a no deal Brexit would lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland, food, fuel and medicine shortages and massive queues at ports. It doesn’t need explaining how this will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Here’s what they have to say on medicines:

Any disruption that reduces, delays or stops the supply of medicines for UK veterinary use would reduce our ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, with potential harm to animal health and welfare, the environment and wider food safety and availability, as well as, in the case of zoonotic diseases, posing a risk to human health. Industry stockpiling will not be able to match the 4-12 weeks’ stockpiling that took place in March 2019. Air freight capacity and the special import scheme are not a financially viable way to mitigate risks associated with veterinary medicine availability issues.

And on food:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 33 Comments

The Lib Dem surge continues in Shropshire

Just one by-election last night, and it provided a very encouraging result for the Liberal Democrats. In Meole in Shropshire, Adam Feifer slashed the Conservative majority and overtook Labour to finish a strong second.

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WATCH: Jo Swinson’s keynote speech on how MPs can stop Boris

Stopping Boris Johnson inflicting a disastrous no deal Brexit on the country was the focus of Jo Swinson’s first big keynote speech since becoming Lib Dem leader.

She talked about two possible things that MPs could do to prevent us falling over the abyss.

Her preferred option would be for them to pass legislation requesting an extension to Article 50 and going for a People’s Vote.

Alternatively, Lib Dems would support a vote of no confidence called by Labour, and would look to support an emergency government which would stop no deal. She said that there is no way that the Commons would back Jeremy Corbyn to be PM and said that an emergency government should be led by someone who commanded the respect of both sides of the House – someone like Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman. She called on MPs to stand up and be counted and do everything possible to stop no deal.

She made clear that the Lib Dems wanted to stop Brexit completely – the best deal for peace, prosperity and security was what we already have in the EU.

It was a confident speech for Jo. She is such a contrast to the arrogant bluster of the Prime Minister and the tired, unconvincing interventions of Jeremy Corbyn. She comes across as grown-up, engaging, collaborative and wise. And she takes her #joinJo slogan from her leadership  campaign and turns it into a national call to get behind her.

Watch Jo’s whole speech here:

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A Remain Alliance and opportunities for the Lib Dems…..detail may not be quite there but Lib Dems are poised for massive breakthrough

On Friday night the Spectator’s Coffee House blog carried a piece by Nick Cohen about a Remain Alliance. It had details of all sorts of seats being divved up between us, Plaid and the Greens.

My first thoughts on reading that was that it was at best speculation. I mean, why on earth would anyone leak plans for a Remain Alliance to the heart of the Brexit-supporting media, I can’t imagine. Anyone can sit down with a bit of paper and the 2017 election results and work out where it might make sense to stand one Remain candidate. It’s not rocket science.

The official party response says:

These reports cited by Nick Cohen are inaccurate in many ways. As the strongest remain party we are committed to stopping Brexit and are actively talking to those in other parties, and none, to achieve this.

I mean, Unite to Remain is pretty open about what it is trying to do and I would be very surprised if there wasn’t some sort of arrangement in some seats. But that has to get buy-in from all sorts of people, not least the local parties involved. Just by way of interest, if you delve a bit deeper into that organisation, you will see that its director is one Peter Gerard Dunphy who, until last year, was the chair of our Federal Finance and Resources Committee. He left us to join the Change UK project earlier this year but is still on friendly terms. His motivation is more to bring about the massive change in politics than any falling out with the Lib Dems.

Today’s Observer carries a story saying that we are changing our strategy for a general election in the wake of new research which shows we could be in play in a couple of hundred seats. It mentions specific seats that we could be targeting, including Dominic Raab’s heavily Remain seat

The article basically says that we are changing our election strategy and trying to raise money. Now, if we weren’t doing these things, there would be something far wrong given that we could be facing an election within weeks. The election of a brilliant, engaging and dynamic leader with a strong message, and our victory in Brecon, should make those jobs a lot easier.

The article carries quotes from three senior Conservatives who suggests that the Tories could lose seats to us as voters are horrified at the hard right direction of the current Cabinet. This from a former Cabinet Minister:

The route the PM and Dominic Cummings have taken is really blind to the fact that you’ve opened up this yawning chasm in the centre of politics,” said one. “The Lib Dems have always been at their best in a crisis.”

And more:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 60 Comments

Another good night for the Lib Dems in local elections – a strong hold and a GAIN

The Council by-election results are in and it’s been another very good night for the Liberal Democrats.

In Newnham ward, where MEP Lucy Nesthinga has stood down, Josh Matthews won with a big swing from Labour.

Congratulations to Cllr Josh Matthews and all the Cambridge team.

We had to wait for this one, but we GAINED Claines ward in Worcester to gain our only seat on the Council. Congratulations to Cllr Mel Allcott and team.

The Conservatives held the Irthlingborough Waterloo ward in Northamptonshire. Sadly there was no Lib Dem candidate.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments
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