Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

8 Lib Dem GAINS in Oxfordshire – including Tory Council Leader’s seat

Lib Dems in Oxfordshire have taken 8 seats from the Conservatives and are now just one seat behind them.

One of the seats was that of the County Council Leader in Woodstock.

To add to Tory miseries, they also lost a seat in affluent Chipping Norton to Labour.

And there could be more..

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Election results: Current state of play

While there have been some bright spots, it’s not been the greatest set of local election results for us. It’s not been the worst, either. Maybe it was the best we could have hoped for given the circumstances.

The year ahead of any set of elections is crucial. You want to be building your campaign from at least a year out. Being locked down for most of that year under a stay at home order in the middle of a pandemic is not conducive to doing that.

A set of elections held as the country opens up again and people are getting their vaccinations and many are having their wages paid by the government is going to benefit the people who are organising the vaccine rollout and paying those wages.

I thought it might be useful to look at the current state of play.

London

We now have two assembly members. Hina Bokhari, one of the first three Muslim women to be elected to the London Assembly, joins Caroline Pidgeon, who has been an Assembly member since 2008.

Our brilliant mayoral candidate, Luisa Porritt, came fourth behind the Greens Sian Berry.

Wales

After a nail-biting few hours after we lost our sole constituency seat, Jane Dodds was elected to the Senedd on the Mid and West Wales list. It would have been an absolute disaster if we had no parliamentary representation in either Senedd or Westminster.

England

We went into this defending 580 Council seats. There are still some important councils like St Albans and Oxfordshire to count today, so our current total of 524, a net loss of 8, is set to rise. It looks overall as if we will gain slightly, but nothing like the heady days of 2019 when we gained 700 seats.

There are many bright spots within this. In Guildford, for example, we doubled our County Council representation in the parliamentary constituency once held by Sue Doughty.

I was particularly excited to see us gain two County Council seats in my old campaigning ground of Chesterfield. It reminds me of the 90s when we kicked the Tories out of the town completely and eventually took control of the Borough Council.  Ed Fordham will be familiar to LDV readers and I’m thrilled to say that he overturned a 600 Labour majority to win his county seat.

In a climate of Tory gains across the rest of Derbyshire, we gained the seat lost to the Conservatives in 2017 so Chesterfield is once again a Tory free zone.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

Scotland results open thread

The current state of play in Scotland is that the SNP is well ahead and will be forming the next government. We don’t know yet whether they will get an overall majority on their own or will need to rely on the Greens for support.

The Lib Dems ended last night on 4 constituency MSPs, with absolutely stonking victories by Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton. Alex got the highest ever vote of any MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament, a record that Willie had previously held for a few minutes yesterday afternoon.

These are huge personal votes of confidence in our amazing MSPs.

Today we learn if we are going to get any list seats. We need 5 MSPs to be counted as a parliamentary group. We made it by the skin of our teeth last time. It’s going to be a stressful day.  We’ll keep you updated but there is unlikely to be any news until much later in the day – late afternoon, early evening.

I will be spending the day at my count in Almond Valley. We got 2.9% in 2016, so actually keeping my deposit would be a major achievement. We just missed out on that yesterday in the other West Lothian seat in Linlithgow where we went up 1.1% to 4.5%.

See you later with some more news…

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 53 Comments

Jane Dodds makes it into the Senedd

So I updated the Welsh results post at 10:30 last night and went, exhausted, to bed.

At that point, the Mid and West Wales result, our only hope of a seat in the Senedd, hung in the balance – and the mood music I was hearing was not positive. We were very worried that, for the first time in its history, there would be no Lib Dems in the Senedd.

Just after midnight, though, everyone else breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

LISTEN: Christine Jardine on Any Questions

Christine Jardine was on Any Questions on Friday night, answering questions about the Scottish elections, the PM’s flat redecoration

Here are some of her best bits;

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Daisy Cooper smashes it on Question Time

Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper was on Question Time this week and won the support of so many audience members, particularly for her evisceration of the Government over its failure to help leaseholders affected by the cladding scandal. She was really excellent on everything from care homes to the Covid crisis in India to the Boris Johnson flat refurb.  Here are some of her best bits.

 

Posted in News | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Ed Davey has to self isolate

Ed Davey announced last night that he and his family have to self isolate as someone who helps him and his wife Emily care for their disabled son John has tested positive for Coronavirus.

All of us at LDV wish the family well and hope that the person who tested positive makes a quick and full recovery.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Rennie: Tackle drug addiction with compassion and treatment, not imprisonment

Liberal Democrats care about people being able to fulfil their potential and getting the care and support they need to recover from illness and addiction. That’s why our Scottish manifesto highlights the need to take a public health approach to addiction. Scotland has the highest drug deaths rate in Europe, something which became very real to a friend of mine recently when her son died after taking street valium. Typically, she thought of others before herself and allowed the BBC to film his funeral.

Willie Rennie said today that the next Scottish Government will only end the drug deaths crisis through compassion and health treatment, not prosecution, as he revealed new figures showing 605 people convicted of possession without intent to supply being sent to prison.

Meanwhile, only 108 people received a Drug Treatment and Testing Order during the same three year period (2016/17 to 2018/19).

1264 people died of drug related causes in 2019. Each of them were individuals with talents and skills. Each of them loved and had people loving them. Pretty much 3 people a day lose their lives and each one of them, with the right intervention, could still be alive today.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats, looking to the best evidence, has the following measures to tackle the harm that drug addiction causes to people and communities that are focused on help and support. The party will:

  • Reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
  • Take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
  • Establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
  • Protect and enhance drug and alcohol partnership budgets, and adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol.
  • Use emergency housing funding to help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.

Willie Rennie said:

The SNPs failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.

It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. We will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution. After years of being told no, Scottish Liberal Democrats have just won cross-party agreement for that important principle.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 9 Comments

Brick thrown at Scottish Lib Dem HQ

So, yesterday morning, this happened:

This would have been awful if it had happened to any political party, but you always feel it more deeply when the building is full of your friends, people you really care about.

You have to wonder what goes through the mind of someone who thinks it is ok to put human beings in danger like that.

Elections are stressful enough for any party’s staff. By this time, they’ve been working ridiculous hours for months, and the idea of work/life balance has completely gone out the window.

They shouldn’t have to worry about missiles coming in the window or any other threat to their safety.

Alistair Carmichael, our campaign chair, said:

This morning a brick was thrown through the window of our HQ in Edinburgh.

“Fortunately no one was hurt but it could have been very different and our staff are understandably shaken by this.

“I’m dismayed that this kind of behaviour seems to have taken root in Scotland. Political campaigning should be about the clash of ideas, not about acts of violence.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland for their work in detaining a suspect. I also want to thank all our party staff who have been affected by this incident but who continue to give their all in delivering our campaign in this election.”

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Remembering Jonathan Fryer

It’s just over 3 weeks since Ed Fordham told us in a typically empathetic and eloquent post that well known LIb Dem internationalist, broadcaster and blogger Jonathan Fryer had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Ed wrote:

In 2006 Jonathan and I didn’t win the ward of Hampstead Town in Camden for the Liberal Democrats. We failed in that short term objective but that campaign saw the Liberal Democrats emerge as the largest party on the Council and for the first time ever we led the Council under Cllr Keith Moffitt. Camden Liberal Democrats under the tutelage of Cllr Flick Rea had mastered politics and sociability. This was the principle of an army marches on its belly and under the organisation of Janet Grauberg, Louise Malin and others we fed and watered our army through a dazzling array of discussion and events. Jonathan, himself living in Bow for much of the time, was always present. I quizzed him on why he always attended: “grassroots politics” was his simple and, for me, utterly compelling answer.

A Quaker and European, a writer and traveller, homosexual and a campaigner Jonathan understood that you must be there and he always was. Jonathan is still with us but he has posted his farewell. It is perhaps the most compelling and shocking Facebook message from any friend I have ever read. He captured his own bravery, his radical soul and his clarity of thought.

Sadly, on Friday, we heard that Jonathan had died. His friend Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett posted a photo of the two of them in the grounds of the hospice, taken on Easter Sunday. Jonathan was drinking a Campari Negroni. It’s so sad to lose someone who was such a powerful liberal voice who was so well thought of here and across the world.

When he announced on Facebook that he was dying, it  was so shocking, but at the same time it felt like he was giving us the enormous privilege of saying goodbye to him that we so often don’t get.

Here are some of the tributes posted on Twitter which show how much he was loved in and beyond the liberal world.

Posted in News | Tagged | 8 Comments

Lib Dems’ parliamentary tributes to Prince Philip

I am sure that all our hearts will go out to the Queen today as we see her sitting alone in St George’s Chapel at the funeral of her husband of 73 years.

Bereavement is horrific at any time, but the pandemic has made it even more cruel for millions of people.

For the Queen there is a particularly difficult aspect. She’ll be on her own, but with the eyes of the entire world upon her. I just hope that she gets some comfort from knowing that she has the compassion and love of those millions of people.

This Monday, all our Parliaments were recalled to pay tribute to Prince Philip. Below are the tributes paid by Ed Davey, Willie Rennie, Kirsty Williams and Dick Newby, covering so many aspects of his life. Ed’s tales of Paddy’s encounters with the Duke will make you smile.

They are fitting tributes to someone who was such a huge part of our nation’s life for almost three quarters of a century.

Ed Davey

Princess Anne said yesterday:

“You know it is going to happen but you are never really ready.”

That is a truth shared by so many grieving families. Most people know that their loved one is near the end of their life because they are old or very sick, but that does not mean that they can avoid the tidal wave of grief—that moment of finality. This year more than most so many families have faced that moment, so I am sure that the Princess Royal speaks for not just the Queen and the royal family but the whole country: you are never really ready.

However, as people grieve, we can also say thank you— thank you to one of Britain’s greatest public servants of the last 100 years. As other party leaders have said, Prince Philip has been a rock in the life of our nation since his betrothal to our Queen, then the young Princess Elizabeth. Above all, he has always been her rock. After 73 years of marriage, it will be our Queen who feels this loss far more than anyone else. If anyone says that bereavement is easier when a loved one has lived a long life, I have to say that that is not my experience. So, ma’am, our hearts go out to you.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

The week in the Scottish Election – debate, baby badgers and up in the polls

This week saw the first leaders’ debate of the Scottish election campaign and Willie absolutely smashed it. Here’s his opening statement:

And can we afford to tackle climate change?

 

The photo-ops

No campaign is complete without  some great Willie photos. Here’s one with a well behaved animal:

Daphne, the star of the first photo opp in the giant deckchair, was back to show Willie finer points of Connect 4.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Ed Davey comes out against vaccine passports

Someone asked me the other day what I thought our position should be on vaccine passports.

I said that if we supported them, then it would be something that would make me question my membership of the party.

Ed Davey has missed his chance to get rid of me with a blistering article in today’s Telegraph:

He said that they would be “illiberal, unworkable and utterly ineffective in keeping people safe from Covid.”

Posted in News | Tagged and | 85 Comments

Willie Rennie highlights Lib Dem plans for health, education and climate change in first major campaign interview

It’s been a good start to the Scottish Liberal Democrats election campaign with our first photo opportunity getting on the front pages of the two main Scottish broadsheets:

Willie was out and about early for his morning run today. He posted it on Twitter at 6:30 when it was still dark due to the clocks going forward:

He had to be up so early because he Willie had a great first interview of the campaign on the Sunday Show. He always sounds so joyful and optimistic and got across our main talking points while avoiding the usual traps. He contrasted the SNP and Conservatives constant arguing over independence, which would continue into the next Parliament with our approach to get our health and education services.

Here are the highlights:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Willie Rennie: Why Lib Dems abstained on Sturgeon no-confidence vote

Scottish Liberal Democrats abstained on the no-confidence vote on Nicola Sturgeon today, along with Scottish Labour.

Willie explains why here:

The tl:dr version is that of course the First Minister and the government she leads screwed up badly in its handling of the complaints of the two women but we weren’t going to get involved in Tory game playing. They first mooted a vote of no confidence before Nicola Sturgeon even gave evidence to the parliamentary enquiry into the situation.

Willie took the right decision here. What this unfortunate situation needs is considered and careful action to restore faith in the Scottish Government’s complaints sytem, not high adrenaline political drama.

Willie went into more detail in his speech during the debate on the motion:

Scottish politics today does not look pretty, with talk of lynching and assassination; the leaking of the private evidence of complainants; the lodging of motions of no confidence even before all the evidence has been heard; the attacking of a committee because it does not agree with the First Minister; the lauding of the performance of Nicola Sturgeon because she talked to a committee for eight hours—as if the show is more important than the facts; and the boasting about recruiting new members on the back of this tragedy. No one wins from this ugly episode—not the First Minister, not Douglas Ross and certainly not Alex Salmond, who has been exposed for what he really is.

We know who has been failed: the women who complained. When they stepped up, we were not there for them. In the committee’s report, which was published today, one woman tells how she and her fellow complainer were dropped by the Scottish Government and left to swim.

There are unresolved issues that I wish to explore today, so we would have voted for the amendment in the name of Anas Sarwar, if it had been selected.

The Conservatives have shown themselves to be interested only in removing Nicola Sturgeon from office rather than in the facts of this terrible series of events. They have undermined the integrity of the independent investigator. However, even the most ardent SNP supporter must recognise that the women who complained were let down by the Government and that £500,000 was wasted on defending the indefensible in court.

We know that the Government will win today, because it has the unconditional support of the Green Party, but this debate and vote cannot be the end of the matter. In his summing up, therefore, I would like the Deputy First Minister to tell us where this goes from here.

First, how does he explain why James Hamilton was unable to conclude whether the First Minister misled Parliament over whether she offered to help Alex Salmond when they met in her home? James Hamilton says that it is up to the Parliament to determine whether it was misled on that issue. We need an adequate explanation from the Deputy First Minister.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Tony Greaves has died

I am still reeling a bit from the shock. For the second time in almost exactly a month, we’ve lost a liberal legend. Last month it was Derek Barrie. A short while ago, Lib Dem Lords Leader Dick Newby posted the sad news that Tony Greaves had died very suddenly this morning.

Tony was a legend who held this party together through its dark days in the 60s and 70s. He moved the motion in 1970 which committed the Liberals to community politics, which led to us having such a strong local government foundation and surviving long enough to form the Alliance and then the Liberal Democrats – though he had a few words to say about that process. He wrote a book, Merger: the inside story, with Rachael Pitchford in 1989, which was reviewed here by the Journal of Liberal History.

He went to the Lords in 2000 and was in fine form there only last week, speaking on everything from the Coronavirus Regulations to his last, withering, contribution, on the Heather and Grass etc Burning (England) Regulations 2021. He was unimpressed and, as usual, didn’t hold back.

My Lords, where I live, we are surrounded by moors. I would describe them as peat moors; a lot of them are heather moors and a lot are grass moors. Every year, there are fires on them. Some of them are managed fires on the grouse-shooting estates. Others are unmanaged fires caused by people who accidentally drop cigarette ends, or whatever, or have barbeques. It is not quite central to this statutory instrument, but I have asked questions of the Government previously about banning people from having barbeques on open country of this kind. The answer I get is that it is up to local authorities. The problem is that many of these moors are, by definition, the places where local authority boundaries are drawn, because they are up on the hills and the tops between the valleys, and getting local authorities together to organise jointly on this is not easy. I will just make that point.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has written a pretty damning report on the SI that has been presented. I think it is another example of how regrettable it is, with the way that parliamentary business is being organised at the moment, that there has not been the opportunity or the time available for the Government and the Joint Committee to discuss it and negotiate properly in the way in which it always happened in the past. We are told by the Government that they do not agree with it; the department says that it does not agree with it. That is not satisfactory—they should be having a discussion, getting together and sorting it out before it comes here. It is very unsatisfactory for us to have a statutory instrument where the JCSI is basically saying, “Don’t pass it”.

He was not known for his subtlety. Every so often, he would email me in no uncertain terms telling me where I or Lib Dem Voice had gone wrong. I would respond in equally robust terms. In fact, the last thing I said to him was “Bloody cheek…..” when he complained about the all member email I’d written about phone canvassing last month. But after those robust exchanges came the good chats. I will miss those emails more than I could imagine.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 52 Comments

Ed Davey sets out Liberal Democrat vision of a brighter, more hopeful future

Ed Davey made his keynote speech to Federal Conference this afternoon. We’ll have the video when it is up but in the meantime, here are the words:

Good afternoon Conference.

Our country is hurting right now.

One hundred and twenty-five thousand lives have been taken by this cruel virus.

One hundred and twenty-five thousand mums and dads. Brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters.

One hundred and twenty-five thousand empty chairs at our kitchen tables.

So many families, mourning the loss of a loved one.

Even those who have been spared the agony of bereavement…

Even they are suffering enormous hardships.

Families kept apart by lockdown.

Parents who haven’t seen their children for over a year.

Grandparents who’ve missed out on the joy of holding the new baby.

Businesses closed. Jobs lost. Savings destroyed.

A whole year of isolation. Fear. Grief.

Government Failures

All compounded tragically by the failures of this Conservative Government. Poorly prepared. Slow to act. Ignoring expert advice.

Boris Johnson’s indecision and incompetence has failed our nation.

Leaving the most vulnerable – elderly people, disabled people – to be attacked by the virus in their care homes, where they should have been safe.

Leaving our country with a shockingly high death rate – one of the worst in the world.

This Government must be held to account. Britain’s bereaved families deserve answers.

So Liberal Democrats will continue to lead that charge.

Boris Johnson must set up now the independent inquiry he promised me in the House of Commons last June.

No more excuses. No more delays.

Sarah Everard and protests

And after all the pain inflicted by Covid, last week we were forced to confront another national anguish.

 

The shocking, tragic killing of Sarah Everard.

 

And the violence perpetrated by far too many men against far too many women.

 

The abuse, the harassment and the fear women face every day, walking down their own streets.

 

And then, those awful scenes from Clapham Common.

 

Women, wrestled to the ground by police officers.

 

Handcuffed and dragged away, simply for holding a peaceful vigil in Sarah’s memory.

 

Simply for saying enough is enough.

 

We have to do better as a country.

 

We must do better at tackling violence against women.

 

Believing survivors. Making clear that misogyny in any form is unacceptable.

 

And we have to do better as men.

 

Listening to women. Calling out other men. Never turning a blind eye.

 

Just as with the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, this pandemic makes these issues more urgent – not less.

 

And this Government – these Conservatives, who talk so much about their freedoms and their free speech –

 

Must stop their assault on everyone else’s freedoms.

 

Our fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and protest.

 

Rights that have always been so crucial to our democratic society.

 

Rights crucial to the struggle over decades to advance equality and end discrimination.

 

The recovery we need

After so much hurt, we need hope.

 

And that is what our wonderful NHS staff and volunteers are injecting into our lives as they work tirelessly delivering vaccines.

 

Hope, so we can finally look forward.

 

And as we do, we must put recovery first.

 

The recovery of our health, our freedoms and our communities.

 

The recovery of business, the economy and jobs.

 

A recovery that is fair.

 

Fair for the doctors and nurses, care workers, teachers, and countless more on the frontline who have gone to work every day – putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe.

Fair for the people who have stepped up heroically to look after their loved ones.

 

The unpaid carers so often forgotten.

 

The parents who have somehow juggled home-working with home-schooling.

 

Fair for the small businesses who have adapted and innovated and sweated their way through this crisis.

 

All of you – together – have pulled our country through.

 

Thank you.

 

So we need a recovery that does justice to the sacrifices you have made.

 

A fairer, greener, more caring country

A recovery that delivers on our vision of a fairer, greener, more caring country.

 

Fairer…

 

Where everyone can have a good job and real opportunity, no matter where they were born or what school they go to.

 

Where small businesses and the self-employed can thrive, creating secure jobs with good pay.

 

Where every person’s rights and dignity are respected.

 

And fairer: where women no longer have to fear harassment, abuse and violence from men.

 

Greener…

 

Where we invest in exciting new technologies and insulate every home – to create secure, well-paid, green jobs in every part of the UK.

 

Where we work together with other nations to tackle the global climate emergency.

 

Where we clean our air and protect green spaces, and so improve people’s mental and physical health.

 

And more caring…

 

Where we look after one another, and finally recognise the true value of care.

 

Where we stand up for carers and give them the support they deserve.

 

Where people with mental ill health get quality care, quickly – not least children and young people.

 

And where we pay our nurses and care workers properly.

 

How dare Boris Johnson say all he can afford is a one per cent pay rise for nurses and other NHS staff?

 

How can he find billions for contracts for his Tory cronies, but not for the amazing people who have put their lives on the line for us?

 

How dare he boast about the vaccine rollout they are delivering so brilliantly, while he treats them so disgracefully?

 

Prime Minister: pay NHS and care staff properly. Do it now.

 

Put recovery first

Friends, that’s the recovery our nation needs.

That’s the fairer, greener, more caring country that lies ahead of us.

I know the British people can get there. But it will take the Liberal Democrats to lead the way.

Just as Liberal Democrats have already led the way towards a fairer, greener, more caring country –

With the progress we have delivered in Parliaments and councils across the UK –

Wherever and whenever we win elections.

And we can do it again now.

Because we will put recovery first.

If only the others would.

But the Conservatives won’t.

They have put Brexit ahead of the national interest, with their disastrous trade deal.

The Conservatives have put enriching their wealthy friends ahead of fair pay for nurses or support for small businesses.

And they are putting their right-wing, shrink-the-state ideology ahead of working with industry, even junking the very idea of an industrial strategy. Just when we need a recovery.

And the Nationalists in Scotland certainly won’t put recovery first.

Because they put their obsession with independence ahead of everything else.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Lib Dem passion for civil liberties shines through in right to protest debate

Conference overwhelmingly backed the right to protest today in a passionate debate which showed the party at its best. It’s so important given that the Official Opposition’s first instinct was to abstain on this draconian legislation and had to be shamed into opposing it.

We called on the Government to drop the proposals set out in the Police, Sentencing and Courts Bill and reaffirmed our support for the Human Rights Act.

You can read the motion here.

I’ve done a Twitter thread summarising the main points that were made in the debate:

After the debate, Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Lib Dems back carers with £2.6 billion support package in emotional debate

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if the person you had spent your life from childhood caring for died, you would get some help with funeral expenses?

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if the person you had spent your life from childhood for died, you wouldn’t be made homeless?

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if you were willing to take on the responsibility of caring for someone you love, you would automatically get at least some training in how to lift them in a way that didn’t ruin your own health? Or some information regarding your rights as a carer.

Nope.

In an incredibly powerful and emotional debate at Conference, carers described how hard their lives can be. The main motion, proposing a £2.6 billion boost for support for carers, was proposed by Ed Davey, who, of course, has had caring responsibilities throughout his life. As a teenager he cared for his terminally ill mother. As an adult, he cared for his grandparents and, now, his severely disabled son.

Charley Hasted proposed an amendment which added in to the main motion, better provision for respite care, better training and support for carers, removal of the cliff edge of removal of benefits if they should take up employment and faster access to mental health support. In one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard at Conference, they described how they can’t remember a time when they weren’t a carer. They care for their disabled mother with their sibling. They described how the last time they and their sibling were able to do anything social together was 23 years ago when they went to the cinema as 11 year olds.

They broke down as they described their love for their mother and the fact that they have never had respite care as the arrangements that would be made for her would not meet her needs. Carers are desperate, they said, and need the help set out in the motion.

Charley’s amendment passed with not one single vote against.

Young Liberal Katharine Macy, said that if her mum died tomorrow, she wouldn’t have any idea about how she would pay for the funeral. She described how three people she has cared for her in her life have passed away and the problems that this has caused. Her amendment gives anyone who is eligible for Carer’s Allowance the right to a Funeral Expenses Payment.

The main proposals in the motion which you can read here, are:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments

Ed Davey and Luisa Porritt tell Patel and Khan they are accountable for “disgraceful and disproportionate” vigil policing

Having called for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick’s resignation last night, Ed Davey and London mayoral candidate Luisa Porritt have written to both the Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to remind them of their accountability for last night’s events, too.

Dick, Khan and Patel have been showcasing their best buck-passing all day, but the truth is that they all have responsibility for the horrific events of last night.

Ed and Luisa have reminded them of that in no uncertain terms.

Here are their letters:

Dear Home Secretary,

I am writing to ask you to clarify what conversations you had with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner with regards to policing of the vigil on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard on Saturday evening, ahead of Saturday evening.

The heavy-handed tactics used by the police – against women who were holding a peaceful vigil – were disgraceful and disproportionate.

It is clear that the Metropolitan Police got it seriously wrong, and I urge you to join the Liberal Democrats’ calls for Cressida Dick to resign. But responsibility for this also lies with you as Home Secretary.

Given the current circumstances, the high profile nature of the vigil and the significance of the issue at stake, the potential for things to go wrong was obvious. The Met’s refusal to facilitate a Covid-safe vigil and its decision to threaten the organisers with fines only increased that risk.

So can you please tell me what conversations you had with the Met Commissioner ahead of and/or during the vigil, and what if any advice you gave her?

If you did not speak to her beforehand, why not? Given the risks, surely it was your duty as Home Secretary to provide advice and reassurance?

Asking the Commissioner for reports and explanations after things have gone wrong is simply not good enough. The public and our police officers want the Home Secretary to be held to account as well.

I look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Davey
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Luisa Porritt
Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London

Dear Sadiq Khan,

Posted in News | 12 Comments

Lib Dems tell Cressida Dick to resign

I have been a bit worried of late that the Lib Dems, at least in England, have been a bit bland and have been pulling the punches they should have landed.

Well, credit where it’s due. After the utterly disgraceful scenes on Clapham Common tonight, Alistair Carmichael, Luisa Porritt and Ed Davey have written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to tell her she should resign.

Here is their letter:

Dear Commissioner,

The scenes this evening of the policing of the Clapham Common vigil in memory of Sarah Everard are utterly disgraceful and shame the Metropolitan Police.

The vigil this evening was a peaceful one brought together in the most horrific of circumstances.

Across the country, countless women have told their own painful stories of harassment and abuse. Your officers should have been standing in solidarity with those on Clapham Common tonight not being ordered to disrupt this display of grief and peaceful protest.

This was a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the Police.

We therefore call on you to consider your leadership of the service and whether you can continue to have the confidence of the millions of women in London that you have a duty to safeguard and protect.

Yours sincerely ,

Ed Davey MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London

Alistair Carmichael MP, Spokesperson for Home Affairs

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 30 Comments

My story – why #reclaimthesestreets matters

I am going to be in so much trouble, because the National Maraphone is 3 and a half hours old and I haven’t made a single call – which is unusual for me. I’ll make it up in the week, I promise.

Like so many women, I’ve been profoundly upset by the events of this week. I think we all feel it because we all have a story to tell, something we were lucky to escape from in one piece. But these things cast a long shadow.

When we talk of being frightened if we are walking alone somewhere, we have good reason to be. When we talk about having our fingers through our keyring, just in case, we have good reason. When we talk about our constant vigilance, our constant scanning to work out potential escape routes, it’s because we’ve been followed by someone who has scared us.

I woke up this morning feeling that I needed to go back to the place where a man threatened me two years ago and make a video to tell that story. I still find it hard to be there and I’m very grateful to my niece for giving up her morning to come with me to film this.

What happened to me is on the minor end of the scale and I was lucky to get away, but virtually every woman I know will have had a similar experience.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

Munira Wilson: Government has duty to facilitate safe protest

I’m feeling frustrated, to be honest, that Reclaim these Streets vigils over the country have been cancelled after Police made clear to organisers that they could be hit with heavy fines. The events have now mostly been moved online and I’ll be taking part at 6pm tonight, on my doorstep with a candle to remember Sarah Everard and the other women killed by men and to assert the right of women and girls to go about their business in safety – and, crucially, without the fear that it is clear we all experience.

Now I’m about as Covid-cautious as you could possibly get. I’ve barely been out in a year. But I’m also a liberal and my instinctive reaction is that our right to protest is a fundamental civil liberties. In these times, you need to be responsible and protest in a Covid secure way, but the right to stand up and be counted for a cause you believe in is vital.

In recent days, several Liberal Democrats have been talking more about civil liberties.

I’m glad to see that Munira Wilson, our MP for Twickenham and health spokesperson, has made some robust comments on the vigil bans:

Women and girls should be able to walk down our streets safely and without fear. I completely understand why people feel moved to attend vigils or protest about this. It is deeply disappointing that the Metropolitan Police have refused to help make it happen.
“No one wants to see crowds of people at a time when social distancing is so important to save lives. But Reclaim These Streets is committed to organising Covid-safe vigils and the High Court made it clear that such an event can be lawful.
“The Government has a duty to facilitate safe protests. The way the Government has curtailed protest rights and is trying to do so even after we emerge from the pandemic is deeply concerning. Liberal Democrats will always defend the right to protest.”
Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

International Women’s Day: Chloe Hutchinson on the difference of having more young women in politics

Chloe Hutchinson is one of the brightest talents in our party. She heads up the South Wales West list for the Senedd elections this year. She gave a keynote speech to Welsh Conference yesterday about the difference Welsh Lib Dems can make in May. Let’s hope Chloe is elected because she would be a powerful voice for liberty and equality.

We have just 8 weeks left in what is one of the most important, and probably strangest, elections that many of us have fought. COVID 19 has had a devastating impact on our communities and it is essential that the next Welsh Government puts recovery first. From calling people across your communities to check in, to supporting local foodbanks and leading volunteer groups – thank you for everything you have done.

Thank you too for everything you have done so far and are continuing to do to help us get our message out to voters and rebuild a liberal base, offering real choice to our communities ahead of this election.

It is a privilege to be standing for this party and to be supported by so many of you here. That support means even more to me as a young woman engaging in politics when the average politician does not look like me. Now things have been getting better, slowly. Following the 2019 election 34% of the MPs elected to parliament were women, the highest ever. In Wales, we were ahead of the curve – in 2003 50% of Senedd members were women. However only 28% of councillors in Wales are women, and a woman of colour has never been elected to the Welsh Parliament, and we are at real risk of electing even less women this May.

Whether you want to run for a parliamentary seat or local council, campaign to get others elected or on an issue you are passionate about – get involved. 

This May, we will also see 16 and 17 year olds in Wales being able to vote for the first time, something we have long campaigned for. Now, I first got involved in politics during the 2014 European election, researching the issues and debating with my friends. I decided that I liked what the Liberal Democrats stood for. It just made sense. Unfortunately, I was just 6 days too young to vote. 

A few months later, angry at the number of UKIP MEPs I was now represented by and inspired by a campaign run by fantastic young woman, I decided to go to a youth conference and quickly got involved in Young Liberals, or more specifically IR Cymru.

From campaigns for cheaper bus travel, a youth parliament, more inclusive and cheaper school uniforms, and a new relationship and sexuality education that is inclusive to LGBT+ people, includes consent, and empowers young people to have healthy relationships, it has been fantastic to see young Liberal Democrats bring these to conference and even better to see them put into practice by Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Senedd. 

Posted in News | Tagged and | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day: Beatrice Wishart on gender balance going backwards at Holyrood

Today is International Women’s Day. And if you are one of those people who find it necessary to ask if there’s an International Men’s Day, it’s 19th November.

So today, I’ll be making the occasional intervention on Mark’s day to report on what senior Liberal Democrats are saying about International Women’s Day.

Beatrice Wishart, Lib Dem MSP for Shetland got in early with her speech in the Holyrood International Women’s Day event last Thursday. She highlighted the problems women were facing juggling work and caring responsibilities during the pandemic. She also spoke about the exodus of young women MSPs who  have found it too difficult to combine raising a family with their parliamentary duties. One of the women stepping down is Gail Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. If the Parliament had got its act together on hybrid proceedings before the pandemic, maybe she and others might have felt able to stay. Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

Equality is one of the four founding principles of the Scottish Parliament.

It should be at the core of everything we do here.

And yet, 20 years into this Parliament, so many challenges remain. We undoubtedly still have work to do.

In November we spoke about problems around violence against women. The life ruining crimes. The hideous harassment. Problems that just have to be addressed, globally and closer to home.

Of course, those are not the only challenges women face.

Many have said that the pandemic “turned back the clock” on gender equality.

It is certainly true that negative impacts have fallen disproportionately on women.

Job losses and income reductions have been widespread. An International Monetary Fund report highlighted how women are more likely than men to work in social sectors including retail, tourism, and hospitality where lockdown has been most widely felt.

The true value of care has come into the limelight, both professionally and domestically. 

And the responsibility to manage home schooling all hit women harder, without question.

Many people found themselves between a rock and a hard place, juggling impossible burdens and expectations. 

These problems are not new. There is nothing unfamiliar in what I’ve just described.

The relationship between women and work has always been fragile.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Your last chance to apply for the Ethnic Minority Future MPs Weekend

One of the great successes of the Campaign for Gender Balance has been its (still ongoing) series of Future Women MPs weekends. I know that Layla, Christine, Daisy and Wendy at least – and I think others – all went on one. Some even went to the same one.

The Racial Diversity Campaign is adopting the same model and is having an Ethnic Minority Future MPs Weekend next Saturday and Sunday and there are still places available. From an email sent round today:

The Lib Dem Racial Diversity Campaign would like to invite you to apply to the Ethnic Minority Future MPs’ Weekend to be held Zoom on 13th – 14th March 2021.

With sessions delivered by our MPs and more, the event is a free intensive training weekend for aspiring ethnic minority candidates, designed to equip you with the knowledge you succeed as a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate.

Daisy Cooper (MP for St Albans and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats)
Munira Wilson (MP for Twickenham)
Baroness Lynne Featherstone (former minister and MP for Hornsey and Wood Green)
Margaret Joachim (Chair of the English Candidates Committee)

As well as expert advice on your political career, the weekend will give you:
Information and advice on all aspects of the process from how to apply for approval, through to planning and winning your selection on your way to standing for Parliament
An opportunity to formulate your Personal Development Plan
Key skills on strategically planning your career in politics
A fantastic opportunity to network and make useful contacts with other aspiring ethnic minority candidates within the party

You can apply here – but hurry because the applications close tomorrow.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Willie Rennie reaches out to disillusioned SNP voters in speech to Scottish Conference

In his speech to Scottish Spring Conference, Willie Rennie reached out to disillusioned SNP voters who may be upset by the division in their party and the SNP Government’s failures in so many areas. He set out what I reckon is the Scottish Liberal Democrats most bold and radical offer for 22 years. It really has that vibe of reform about it. Free human rights based social care, a job for every teacher on the register if they want it, a housing first approach to homelessness, economic regeneration are all part of the package to put recovery first.

He also shared memories of Charles Kennedy after last week’s documentary.

He was introduced by Cllr Liz Barrett, who won a fantastic Council by-election victory at the end of last year.

The full text is below:

Councillor Liz Barrett.

Councillor for the ancient capital of Scotland.

Victor over the SNP in John Swinney’s back yard.

Winning from third place.

Thank you, Liz.  You are a true liberal champion.

Conference, it’s almost six years since we lost our Charles, Charles Kennedy.

But last week we were treated to a wonderful tribute to his life in that BBC Alba documentary: A good man speaking.

We all have our own personal recollections of Charles.

Mine was the extraordinary courage it took, just days after acknowledging his alcoholism and resigning as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to come to Dunfermline.

He came to help me win that by-election.

He would have been forgiven if he had chosen to hide away, to recuperate, to nurse his wounds, but instead he chose to face it up.

As we walked down the High Street, surrounded by the mass ranks of the media, a voice from a pensioner at the back shouted – “we love you Charles”.

As quick as a flash he retorted: “now madam, I am in enough trouble as it is”.

But that lady spoke for us all.

And if there is a lasting legacy from Charles Kennedy’s life it should be the conduct of the debate, of elections, of political life.

That would be a good way to remember our Charles.

I think Charles would be pleased with how the Liberal Democrats have conducted ourselves over the last year through the pandemic.  To put recovery first.

We set aside our differences to work together.

Working constructively with the government to deliver funds for business, tourism, fishing; an expansion of testing; access for parents of new borns; and a faster roll-out of the vaccine.

Ministers have recognised the part we have played from the First Minister to the Health Secretary to the Economy Secretary.

We rolled up our sleeves to get us through this pandemic.

There was a lovely sight this week that has made all that work worthwhile.

After months of separation, families are safely back together again in care homes.

It was certainly the right thing to do.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Sal Brinton: Make sure Ministerial maternity leave bill includes everyone

Earlier this week, we reported on Liz Barker’s speech on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill, in which she compared the demonisation of transgender people today to the discrimination she and others faced during the 80s.

The Bill was a simple one – designed to give ministers leave when they have a baby, something that our Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott did not benefit from when they had their babies. There was a concerted effort by socially conservative peers to change the Bill’s gender neutral language. In the first of two speeches, Sal explained why it was important to be as inclusive as possible. It is good to see our peers arguing that extending rights to trans and non binary people does not diminish women’s rights.

My Lords, I too support this Bill, even though it does not go far enough in giving Ministers who are parents the same rights that other workers have now come to expect. As others have already said, these include adoption leave, sick leave and shared parental leave. The last is particularly important and affects any Minister who becomes a parent and who is still missing out on the rights to share in the care of their new baby with their partner. I hope the Minister will remedy this urgently.

There is one other parental benefit that has not yet been mentioned—statutory parental bereavement pay and leave. I worked with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for a number of years to win this right for parents, but it is omitted from this legislation for Ministers. I urge the Minister to ensure that it is added to the other forms of parental allowance and leave for future discussion. One hopes that it is never needed but it is vital to have it in place to cover such awful circumstances.

My former colleagues, Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott, both had their first babies while they were Ministers. No arrangements were made for them. They had to cover for each other without maternity pay at exactly the time when they were working in government for better rights for women and parents in the workplace.

I agree with my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece about the lack of equality impact assessments. We need to remedy this and to reflect on why, as a society, we have moved over the years to gender-neutral language. The gender-neutral language in this Bill is inclusive. Changing it, as many speakers have asked, would make it exclusive—perhaps not to many, but to some people for whom it matters a great deal. No one is trying to erase women but rather to accept that, over recent years, there have been advances in medicine. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for referring to trans men in Brighton. We also have to remember that non-binary and intersex people who were born women would be excluded. Both equality law and clinical care have kept pace with them and their circumstances. Medical care, in particular, has adapted in order to provide the best possible care for them in rare and difficult circumstances. That is why I would gently correct the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, in her reporting of the Brighton hospital trust introducing “chestfeeding” and “pregnant people” and removing “breastfeeding” and “women” from its documentation. It is not. Snopes, that excellent debunker of myths, explains this carefully:

“A maternity department at a U.K. hospital announced in February 2021 that it was expanding terms it used in maternity care to include, for example, ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘pregnant people’, in order to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary patients … To be clear, the NHS said that such language—like referencing ‘pregnant women’ and ‘breastfeed’—will not change for those who identify as such … Adding terms like ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘birthing parent’ was not intended to take away from women-oriented language already in use. Rather, the move was meant to be additional support that offers more inclusion for trans and nonbinary individuals.”

Posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Derek Barrie dies at 77

The Lib Dems lost a much loved friend, mentor, agent and campaigner yesterday.  Derek Barrie gave six decades of service to this party and the Liberals before it. What he didn’t know about campaigning simply wasn’t worth knowing. As recently as the 2019 election, the advice that he gave was a valuable part of Wendy Chamberlain’s election as MP for North East Fife.

He had become increasingly frail in recent years, but he died quite suddenly having been admitted to hospital last weekend.

He was a brilliant friend to me and we worked so well together back in the early 2000s when I was Scottish Campaigns and Candidates Convener and he was the Party’s Chief of Staff. Together with then MSP Iain Smith, we ran the ground campaign in the 2005 election and jokingly took all the credit for our party’s best General Election performance which saw us gain Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson as MPs.

Later that year, he and I ran the Livingston by-election campaign after Robin Cook died, maintaining our vote with candidate Charles Dundas and stopping the SNP from gaining the sort of momentum that might have given them the Dunfermline by-election.

For years our Campaigns and Candidates meetings would start in the Haymarket Bar across the road from Scottish Lib Dem HQ with dinner and usually some wine before we went back across the road to do the business.

There are not very many people I would let introduce me as the Wicked Witch of West Lothian, though I replied that he should never forget that I could turn him into a toad at any moment. To me, he was Grumps.  When we adapted the English candidate approval system for Scotland in 2002, we had to get a lot of people approved very quickly. This we did over many weekends with a wonderful team of assessors and facilitators. Obviously it was all very professional, but we had a huge amount of fun with the role playing exercises. Derek, John Lawrie and George Grubb often had Rae Grant and I in tears of laughter. There was one notorious time when Rae was laughing so much she had to leave the room.

But all this was pretty late in Derek’s career. He started out as the candidate for East Fife in the 1966 General Election. I think this was the one where he didn’t have a phone in his house and would call his agent from a phone box at pre-arranged times. He came fourth  back then, but in the 70s, a determined group of campaigners, led by Derek, decided they were going to win the seat. It took more than a decade of slog, but they did it when Menzies Campbell was elected at the third attempt, having gained 10% in 1979 and 14% in 1983. They turned the local party into a formidable campaigning machine and it has gone from strength to strength.

Derek was the first Liberal Councillor elected in North East Fife in 1977 and went on to lead the Council.

After he retired from paid party work in 2009 we used to meet up at Conferences and for long lunches where we would reminisce and put the world to rights.

He remained an active part of North East Fife’s campaigning machine, though, and served for several years as clerk to the Scottish Executive where he continued to be a fount of wisdom. He was secretary of ASLDC until a couple of years ago and had become the organisation’s Honorary President.

Derek had been married to Lesley for more than 50 years. They were such a team and he so appreciated her sacrifices for the Lib Dem cause. My husband said this morning that Derek never forgot the campaign widows and widowers who held the fort while their other halves were out working for the party from dawn till well after dusk. Our love and thoughts are with Lesley now.

These are just a few random thoughts and memories from over 20 years of working with Derek. I’m sure many of you will have your own, so please add them in the comments.

On Facebook, people have been paying tribute and their words are repeated here with their permission.

Sheila Ritchie, Scottish Party Convener

Derek has been friend, mentor, campaigner, rock. It was typical of him that, on hearing I was to be Convenor, he summoned me- there is no other way of expressing it- and gave me my orders.

I cannot tell you how much I will miss his wisdom and counsel, but much more, his fellowship and humour.

North East Fife 2019 campaign manager Kevin Lang

Very sad. I learned so much from this man when it comes to campaigning (don’t forget, it’s all about PIG)
I ran a committee room from his house in North East Fife at the 2019 General Election. Even then, and looking frail, he was so engaged and excited about the election and the prospect of winning the seat back.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Review: Charles Kennedy: A good man speaking

As Paul highlighted earlier, a major new documentary on the life and career of Charles Kennedy will be broadcast tonight on BBC Alba.

There is much to love in this programme. I have to say it brought a fair few of my emotions out to play – from the joy of hearing about his tactics at psyching out the opposition in school debating competitions and the fun of his election campaigns, to the anger at his treatment in his later years and the sadness of losing him way too soon.

Friends from school, university, family and politics recall the events that shaped him and the reasoning behind his key decisions. Among the interviewees are his brother-in-law and  friend James Gurling, Catherine MacLeod, a colleague at BBC Highland who was later Alastair Darling’s Special Adviser when he was Chancellor, Jim Wallace and Celia Munro, one of the stalwarts of the Liberal Democrats in Ross-shire and wife of Charles’ mentor John Farquhar Munro. Enjoy this trailer.

The programme has some rarely seen gems, like a clip of him broadcasting during his short BBC Radio Highland internship in the early 80s.

Charles always thought of himself as a Highlander first. The programme shows the influence of the Highlands on his actions and thinking throughout his life, including  opposing the war in Iraq, on which he was ultimately proven right.

But just 8 months after an election in which we won our highest ever number of MPs, Charles was ousted as leader. It was not an edifying moment in our history and I am sure that many of us have wondered what might have been if another way through the challenges of that time could have been found.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • David Raw
    Having done a bit more research, I stand corrected percentagewise. The party got the following : 0.7 Glasgow East 2015 0.8 Glasgow North East 2015 0.8 ...
  • expats
    David Evans 14th May '21 - 11:30am..............Tony Blair now knows that his failure to deliver a fair voting system post 1997 has enabled a Tory party that is...
  • David Raw
    Super elections ? Nothing to say about the Airdie & Shotts Westminster by-election (former seat of John Reid) yesterday, Mark ? It’s possibly gone unnotic...
  • Barry
    Losing 50 deposits in Scotland has shown how far the party has fallen, Willie Rennie needs to go...
  • Meral Hussein-Ece
    A very good round up of the Commons debate following Layla Morans Urgent Question. It’s disappointing the U.K. governments position remains weak & consist...