Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Unforgivable choices – Lib Dems respond to the Spending Review

For the second time in three days, Christine Jardine pressed the Government to do more to help those who have thus far been excluded from Government support. Three million self-employed people have had nothing since March and some have had no income at all because they work in areas that aren’t yet open. In March they were stressed. Eight months on, they are desperate.

Rishi Sunak was dismissive, but not as egregious as Boris Johnson had been the other day when Christine questioned him.

“I hope we haven’t excluded anyone” said the PM. If he doesn’t know that there is a massive All-Party Parliamentary Group fighting for these people, if he hasn’t been aware of the many questions that have been asked in Parliament, then that shows unforgivable ignorance. If he did know of the plight of the three million, his remarks show callous disregard.

Later, Christine talked to BBC News arguing against the public sector pay freeze and the abandonment of the 0,7% aid target.

On that international aid issue, Wendy Chamberlain highlighted how the Government had gone back on its word:

Ed Davey said that the Chancellor had made some unforgivable political choices:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

Scotland passes landmark bill aimed at ending period poverty

It is unbelievable that in the third decade of the 21st century, people have to miss out on education because they can’t afford tampons or sanitary towels during their period.

In a 2018 survey, a quarter of respondents said they had struggled to access period products.

Yesterday, Scotland became the first country in the world to pass a law putting an obligation on local authorities to provide period products free of charge to anyone who needs them.

From the BBC:

The scheme will need to be operational

Posted in News | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

Wendy Chamberlain on winning back N E Fife and her first 10 months as an MP

I had held off publishing Wendy Chamberlain’s speech delivered to Scottish Conference the other weekend because I had heard that it might be put up on You Tube.

However this hasn’t happened yet and I wanted you to have the chance to read it.

Heartfelt and honest, it’s one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen a parliamentarian deliver at Conference. Wendy talks about how she’s trying to help her constituents through some pretty complex problems and it’s clear how driven she is to get results for them and how much she cares about the injustices they face.

Here is her speech in full. Enjoy.

October 31st, 2019. 

The Early Parliamentary General Election Act was given Royal Assent by the Queen. Parliament was to be dissolved, and the campaign began. 

It’s hard to believe that it was only a year ago today.  A year ago since we all donned our coats and wellies – and headed out for one of the hardest, and certainly the coldest, campaigns of our lives. 

I cam to this office to start my campaigning. North East Fife was the most marginal of marginal seats – I’m sure I don’t need to remind you: just two votes between us and the SNP. It did mean that we had the best bar chart in Lib Dem history!

But it wasn’t just the bar chart. Because it wasn’t just two votes we had to make up. 

In 2019, the SNP vote went up by 7 percent. The bar was as high as it will ever be. I received as many votes as Ming (who I am privileged to follow on from as a Liberal Democrat MP for the seat) did in 2005. His majority was 33% – mine is 3%. 

So how did we get it over the line? There were three key steps. 

First, I was selected early. We had the infrastructure and people in place – and a fantastic team headed up by Kevin Lang and Celyn Ashworth. Celyn is now running Liz Barrett’s Perth by-election campaign and I urge everyone here to support however you can – it’s absolutely winnable. Without them we wouldn’t have won – and we hit the ground running.

That’s exactly the same situation that all of our fantastic candidates who’ve been selected this weekend are in. Many of them have already been campaigning for months. I know they are going to fight an amazing campaign. 

Secondly, we collected lots of data. 

And then, we used that data to be ruthless. We targeted exactly who we needed to – soft Tory and Labour voters. We saw the largest fall in the Conservative vote anywhere in the UK (other than the Speakers seat – which doesn’t really count) and historically low Labour vote too

And that’s how we took back North East Fife for the Liberal Democrats. 

***

Now when you get elected as an MP, the first thing that happens as you leave the stage is that you get handed an envelope with MP on it. 

Inside, there’s a piece of paper with a phone number on it. 

You ring the number, you’re told how to get down to Westminster and you’re informed that your email account is now open for business! 

Immediately, constituents are getting touch – with queries ranging from supertrawlers to dangerous dogs; from Dominic Cummings to trespassing cats.  

In the last ten months, my team have dealt with over 5,000 pieces of casework, ranging from helping the St Andrews Aquarium access funds, to mobile caterers with no income or events to attend, to visa issues for seasonal workers and families; and constituents stuck abroad during the pandemic’s early stages. You name it. 

It’s one of the most important things about being an MP. Making sure that your constituents are given a voice – because if you’re contacting your MP for help, it’s probably because you’ve exhausted every other option. 

So much of what I and my team do is trying to ‘unblock’ things where people are not getting anywhere with the council, or the Scottish Government, or Westminster. 

And sadly, for a lot of my constituents who get in touch, it’s the welfare system that’s the problem. They’re trying to navigate and they are, through no fault of their own, hopelessly stuck. The welfare system is meant to be a safety net – but it’s leaving too many people tied up in knots. 

These people aren’t just any people – they’re our most vulnerable. Our society has to be judged on how it treats the disadvantaged. And so it is a total failure of our government that a great deal of the people who contact me about the benefit system are people with disabilities, who patently should be receiving disability benefits – PIP or ESA – but the Department for Work and Pensions has cruelly denied them.   

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

How bullying casts a long shadow…a post updated with reflections on Priti Patel and Dominic Cummings

It is ten years since I first wrote this, and I share it every year during Anti-Bullying Week. I could write something else, but it took some emotional energy to write the first time and I’m not really up for putting myself through that again. 

Let’s not put up with anyone being treated like this, whether at school, in the workplace or within politics. It’s important that anyone in any sort of leadership role in any organisation has the skills to recognise and intervene to stop bullying and support those affected by it. It casts a very long shadow and destroys lives. Its costs are massive in terms of wellbeing. Also, if you are bothered about the money and the economy, happier people are more productive.  It’s entirely preventable and we should do all we can to eradicate it.

It is ironic that I share this during this year’s anti bullying week a day after a Prime Minister defends a Cabinet Minister who has been found to have broken the Ministerial Code in the way that she treated her civil servants:

My advice is that the home secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect.

Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals.

I think the report is quite lenient on her, almost justifying shouting and swearing at officials. There is no circumstance in which that is ever justifiable in a workplace. The idea that she gets off because nobody raised it with her in the Home Office is utterly ridiculous. It takes some courage to raise these issues with the person in charge who shouts and swears at you. 

By all accounts, the way the recently departed Dominic Cummings treated people was even worse than the allegations against Patel. This Government has so far been fuelled by bullying. A toxic culture in which people are working in an atmosphere of fear and loathing is never going to be conducive to getting stuff done well. And this is actually costing lives. You can’t perform well if you are constantly fearful and anxious about the behaviour of an individual. You can’t effectively challenge their thinking and ideas. When you are making decisions that are a matter of life and death for many people, you need to make sure that they are properly thought through. A wise person I know says that the most important person in the room is the person who disagrees with you, because their input helps make your performance better. 

If staff in any workplace wake up with that same nausea that I faced when I was bullied, it saps energy that they could be putting into their work. And that is entirely the fault of the bully. 

We have a Prime Minister who clearly doesn’t get the impact of bullying in the workplace, and who is prepared to overlook the most egregious instances of it. 

Priti Patel should have been sacked. Dominic Cummings’ behaviour as Michael Gove’s Special Adviser at Education should have  meant that he never got over the door of Downing Street. 

It is incredibly worrying that the person in charge is willing to let this sort of unforgivable behaviour pass. The example that sets to other employers is extremely unhelpful, to say the least. 

And now on to that 10 year old piece.

I’ve been procrastinating like anything to avoid writing this post because although I know the events I’m going to describe took place a long time ago, they cast a long shadow. Their stranglehold on my life is long gone, but the memories are not. I might have teased my sister for posting something inane on my Facebook wall a while ago when she has important work she needs to do, but how would I know if I hadn’t similarly been wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a very long time, but now is probably the right time. When Stephen wrote so movingly about how his experiences of homophobic bullying had almost led him to the brink of suicide, I thought about telling my story too. His account of standing on the breakwater as a 17 year old brought vividly to my mind those dark occasions I’d stood far above the sea and contemplated jumping as a young teenager myself. I wasn’t bullied for homophobic reasons. In fact, it was made very clear to me that no man, woman or even beast would ever find me attractive.

The bullying started in earnest when I went to secondary school. I was in a very dark place as a 12 year old. This isn’t the right place to explain why but when I experienced those feelings again in later life, the doctor called it Depression. To add to that, we’d moved so I was far away from the emotional bedrocks my wonderful grannies provided. I was vulnerable, alone and, let’s be honest, not very likeable. I certainly didn’t like myself much anyway.

During the first three years of high school, I was primarily known by two names, neither of which had been given to me by my parents. In English one day in first year, we were taking it in turns to read out a scene from a play. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what it was but as fate would have it, the line I had to read was “I want a yak.” Quick as a flash, the boy in front of me yelled out “I always thought you were one……” Cue the entire class, including the teacher, to collapse in laughter. That spread like wildfire, and before long it became my name to the entire pupil body.

If we’d had Google images then, I might have discovered pretty quickly that yaks are really kind of cute, but I never really saw it that way at the time and I really don’t think that the name was an affectionate one.

The other name came from the fact that, yes, I do have weird eyes. For that reason, people would hiss like a cat when they saw me coming, and spit out “Cat’s Eyes” as I passed.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much, but when you hear one or other of those things round every corner every day, you do feel less than human.

I became adept at varying my route to and from school to try to avoid the bullies who were there to pull my hair, or steal my stuff or point, or laugh, or kick or trip me up. They liked to mix it up a bit so I never really knew what I was walking into. I know it’s all quite low level, but it wore me down. I lived in perpetual fear and carrying that around everywhere was exhausting.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

Reflections on the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Cross posted from the Scottish Lib Dems website

A few years ago, I took a trip to London with some young people. 

They had the choice of any West End musical we could get cheap tickets for on the Saturday night. 

They chose instead to go to a vigil remembering victims of hate crimes . 

So, instead of being in a warm theatre, we spent several hours in rain and freezing cold. It was an incredibly moving  event. The most sombre part was when the names of people who had lost their lives was read out. 

Each one of these names was a human being with hopes, interests, emotions, ambitions. All they wanted to do was get on with their lives in peace. Those lives were cut short because of prejudice and hatred.

A year or so after that trip to London, one of those young people came out as transgender. They were only too well aware of the sort of prejudice they faced if they revealed their true self. To do so in those circumstances takes incredible courage. 

Fortunately, they had supportive family and friends and are now doing very well.

November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance when we remember transgender people across the world who have been murdered because of who they are. This year, the number is 350, not far off one person every single day. 

For several years now, trans and non binary people in this country have been constantly marginalised, the target of well-funded misinformation.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

LISTEN: Ed Davey on Any Questions

Ed Davey was on Any Questions last night. The other panelists were Kim Darroch, the UK’s Ambassador to the US until last year, Diane Abbott and Prisons minister Lucy Frazer

The first question was on the various comings and goings at No 10. Ed pointed out how awful it was that in the middle of a huge public health and economic crisis, the people around the Prime Minister were jockeying for position.

He also reminded us how Dominic Cummings was the biggest opponent of free school meals during the coalition years when he was Michael Gove’s Special Adviser. Obviously that situation has parallels today with the Conservatives being so set against the very sensible step of providing help with meals during the holidays to those who need it most.

When Lucy Frazer tried to defend the indefensible, he was pretty effective in demolishing her argument, telling her that the Government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into taking the half hearted measures that it has.

Kim Darroch made the point that the best advisers tend to be invisible, drawing from his own experience working in No 10 under Blair and Cameron.

The next question was about when Trump’s rantings become an attempted coup rather than the rantings of s sore loser.

Darroch said that Trump has a genius for creating a different reality that he genuinely believes. Trump, he feels is signalling to his supporters that the election has been stolen and this is about maintaining his relevance and base when Biden gets into the White House. He highlighted how popular Trump still is within Republican voters. He raised the spectre of a second Trump run for the presidency in 2024.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 6 Comments

Heartbreaking report on the effects of housing insecurity on children

The Children’s Society has produced a report, Moving always Moving, on the effects of housing insecurity on children.

What does that actually mean in practice?

For the purpose of this report we define it in a way that most closely reflects the experiences of relevant participants, and there are three main elements to the way we conceptualise it: with reference to multiple moves, to those moves being involuntary, forced or reactive, and to those moves being related to poverty.

When I was Scottish Housing Spokesperson, every Christmas we would do a freedom of information request on the number of children in temporary accommodation at that time of year. Imagine what that must be like, not having your things around you, not knowing whether you might have to move at a moment’s notice and often being accommodated away from your support network and friends.

The effect of this on  physical and mental health, behaviour and educational attainment is profound:

It is clear that however it is labelled, poverty-related housing insecurity is associated with potential harm to children in terms of physical

and psychological health, health behaviours, risk-taking, ‘delinquent’ behaviour, emotional and social well- being, and education. The vast majority of the literature that paints this overall picture is quantitative. While statistical analyses are crucial to understanding the prevalence of broad trends and the strength of their effects, they are necessarily limited in terms of the depth of understanding they can enable about the lived reality of housing insecurity experienced over time.

If you are living in private rented accommodation, your landlord may decide to sell up for all sorts of reasons meaning you have to find somewhere else to live. If you have pets, it can be really difficult to find another private let and social housing is so difficult to get.  I spoke to someone who had had to move twice within ten months because of landlords selling up. And moving is not cheap, even in the best of circumstances. If you are living in poverty, the costs associated with constant moves are even more damaging and impact on your ability to provide even the basics.

Some of the stories in the report are absolutely heartbreaking.

All the moving that Tiffany had done, and in particular this latest move far from the things that structured her everyday life, affected her. It meant that currently she had a really long journey between ‘home’ and school, which in turn meant that she had relocated herself outside of her nominal home a temporary two bedroom flat where she had been placed with her mum) for more than half the week. It also meant that she felt stuck at school, unhappy
but trapped because moving schools would require knowing where home was.

Tiffany also felt a certain tension around where it was she belonged – she didn’t feel a strong attachment to her new area and still identified strongly with the place where she had lived before, but she knew it wasn’t really hers to call home anymore. When we asked if she was hoping to move again, she responded by talking about her mum – about how her mum was going to be moved because her current place was only temporary and they could move her at any time –
and she absented herself from the narrative completely, suggesting a lack of attachment to the area where she now officially lived (albeit temporarily).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Festival of Politics discusses racism, impact of Covid on people with disabilities, digital threats to democracy, Brexit and much more

One of the very few upsides of this terrible year is that many festivals have gone digital and are free to access. I had a wonderful time at the Hay Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival earlier this year without leaving my sofa.

The weekend after next, from 19-21 November, the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics goes online and it, also, is completely free. Politicans and experts will mull over the issues of the day.

There are discussions which are relevant across the whole of the UK covering a huge range of topics. I’m looking forward to the discussions on racism and how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on people with disabilities, particularly after reading this article on BBC News this morning in which one young woman says that she has had difficulties getting supplies for essential breathing equipment.

As well as the topics in the headline, there are also discussions on gender equality, the US elections and what we want to see in Scotland in 2030 and much more.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

ICYMI – Biden and Harris offer comfort and joy in first speeches

I did sigh a bit when it was announced that Kamala Harris and Joe Biden would be speaking at 8pm local time that night. After four days of sitting up till the wee hours waiting for that count to move off 253, I could have done with an early night.

There was no way I was going to miss it though. Especially as I’d sat up on Thursday to listen to Trump’s outburst. I had planned to go to bed at 11pm but at 10:50, he outgoing President (how lovely it is to write that) announced a press conference at 11:30.

I knew I’d regret if if I missed it almost as much as I’d regret it if I watched it. It was worth it for the reaction of the media. I don’t think we’ve talked about how huge a thing it was for MSNBC to actually pull away from him, saying that they weren’t going to broadcast his speech because what he was saying was false. CNN’s banners basically saying that he was alleging electoral fraud without evidence were a delight to see.

I knew that the Biden and Harris speeches would be much more edifying. Friday night’s hilarious episode of Gogglebox helped me stay awake and I poured myself a weird cocktail of maraschino cherry liqueur and amaretto. It’s kind of like a cherry bakewell… Strangely, I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even find out the Strictly spoiler.

Harris and Biden did not disappoint.  Kamala Harris’s speech which I mostly sobbed my way through brought so much joy. Her touching reference to Joe Biden’s son Beau, a friend of hers who died in 2015 was particularly poignant, as was the way she talked about the history she was making and how it should encourage girls to ‘dream with conviction and lead with ambition.

But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message:

Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.

Watch here:

Read the whole text here.

Joe Biden was much more inspiring than I expected, reaching out to all of America, including those who supported Donald Trump. We haven’t seen any of that these past four years. He has a good idea of what he wants to do at this challenging point in history:

Folks, America has always been shaped by inflection points, by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be.

Lincoln in 1860, coming to save the union. FDR in 1932, promising a beleaguered country a New Deal. JFK in 1960, pledging a new frontier. And 12 years ago, when Barack Obama made history, he told us “Yes, we can.”

Well folks, we stand again at an inflection point. We have an opportunity to defeat despair, to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can.

I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail.

Tonight, the whole world is watching America. And I believe at our best, America is a beacon for the globe. We will not lead … we will lead not only by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

I’ve always believed — many of you’ve heard me say it — I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: Possibilities.

That in America everyone should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.You see, I believe in the possibilities of this country.

Watch the whole thing here.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

A strange Remembrance Sunday

It was so strange watching the Festival of Remembrance from a virtually empty Albert Hall last night.

This will be a very strange Remembrance Sunday. Most of the usual services have been cancelled.

I normally buy my poppies in the supermarket, but as they are out of bounds at the moment for me, and I’m sure for many of you, here is the link to the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal in case you want to make a donation to support the work that the Legion does to support veterans and their families.

I took this photo at the Tower of London in November 2014. Between July and November 888,246 filled the grounds gradually, one for each British soldier who died during the First World War.

Here is Ed Davey’s message for Remembrance Sunday

Round the country other  senior Liberal Democrats have made their own reflections:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

Thank heavens for that! Tears all round as Harris and Biden finally win

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

When I went to bed at 4:30 am on Wednesday I was so utterly miserable and depressed. It was looking like Trump might actually have won a second term with all the suffering and irreversible damage to the planet and division that would entail.

But, since then, it’s been looking like it was increasingly a matter of time until Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared the victors. That moment happened just before 4:30 pm this afternoon. I turned on the telly after an afternoon of delivering leaflets and dog walking just as the declaration was made. I would like to thank all my friends in various WhatsApp groups for helping me to say sane. The Scottish Lib Dem Women chat and the  chat which Steve Jolly set up must have had 3 million messages by now at least, and all of them have been therapeutic.

I’m not going to lie, the tears have not stopped much since then. And every time they seem to be about to stop, something like this happens:

Like many others, I’ve been addicted to CNN for the past 4 days. What a brilliant team they are. They are not afraid to call out the bullshit when they see it. John King, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Abby Phillip, Alisyn Camerota and many others have all managed to make sense of what is going on. We are all more familiar with places we had never heard of. I feel like I need to visit Maricopa County, Eyrie County, Fulton County and the like, as the places where history was made.

One of the most powerful moments came from Van Jones this afternoon. Someone who has been on the sharp end of Trump’s divisive, racist actions over the past four years. It makes you realise the damage Trump has done. President and Trump are two words which should never have gone together.

Ed Davey has sent his congratulations to the winners

People around the world will now be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Over the past four years Donald Trump has fed a new divisive form of politics, testing American democracy to its very limits. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory isn’t just democratic, it may have saved US democracy.

“I’d like to congratulate Joe Biden and urge him not only to deliver on his promise to restore liberal values in the United States, but also to ensure the US will play a constructive role in the international battle to beat Coronavirus. The virus, like all of the world’s biggest problems, can only be solved if we work together as an international community.

“I hope Joe Biden will be a president who fights alongside progressives for social justice and climate action at home and abroad.”

Other Lib Dems also welcomed the news:

Typical Jamie

This day belongs not just to Kamala and Joe but to people like Stacey Abrams. Narrowly beaten in the Georgia governor’s race two years ago because of voter suppression, she served her revenge cold by trying to bust down the barriers Republicans put up. And she’s helped secure not one but two Georgia Senate run-offs on 5th January. One of the Democrats, Jon Ossoff, is a mate of Alistair Carmichael’s from his days trying to save Troy Davis from execution. And there’s also the Crooked Media team, former Obama staffers whose media and activist network has given us hours of pleasure over the past four years since they formed in the wake of Hillary’s defeat.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 17 Comments

Alex Cole-Hamilton hails law giving children equal protection from assault

Today is an important day in Scotland.

The law giving children equal protection from assault becomes law.

It’s always seemed very strange to me that if I were to slap a 6 foot 4 adult, I’d find myself on an assault charge, but it would be fine for me to slap a 3 foot 2 child. It’s a pretty gross abuse of power and people can retain the memories of these incidents for years after. They cast a very long shadow.

It’s an important step because it sets out very clearly that hitting anyone to make them submit to your will is an abuse of power that we will not tolerate.

And one of the strongest advocates of this measure is our own Alex Cole-Hamilton. I spent ten years trying to get that man into Holyrood for one major reason – because he would be a brilliant advocate for young people. And he has been. On the smacking issue, on campaigning for a much greater rise in the age of criminal responsibility than the SNP Government was prepared to implement, on calling for care leavers to be properly looked after and many other issues, he has been the young person’s best friend in the Scottish Parliament.

On today’s milestone, he said:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

Lothians candidate Jill Reilly talks about her experience of volunteering to help homeless people during lockdown

Yesterday, Scottish Conference discussed a motion which called for the party to adopt the Housing First model to help the most vulnerable homeless people.

This means that people with addictions, mental ill health or  prison leavers, for example, are given somewhere to live. Housing First projects set up in Scotland have been successful – with no tenancies failing and incredibly positive feedback from those who have been helped.

It is an important tool in making sure that the most vulnerable homeless people are properly looked after. If they have somewhere to live, then everything else that is going on in their lives is easier to fix, whether that is trauma, addiction or mental ill health. 

And look what the tenants have to say:

Housing First is the best thing ever. To have the chance to start a new life. 

The Housing First support has been amazing and coming into prison into my own tenancy has made a huge difference as I am away from negative influences. With Housing First Support I feel I can remain in my tenancy and stay out of prison

You have to wonder how on earth has it taken so long to the point where we actually make sure someone has somewhere to live when they leave prison.

While I think we must build on the success of Housing First, we have to make sure that we tackle all forms of homelessness. While Shelter support the Housing First model they are concerned that we don’t make people experiencing different forms of homelessness. 

There was a lot of support for the Housing First model at the Conference, but there was concern that the motion called for a new government agency to administer the model. The movers of the motion wanted that because the councils in the biggest cities have more homeless people, who have come from all parts of the country to deal with. It is counter-intuitive, though, for party that doesn’t like centralisation and when we can see how SNP centralisation has ruined most of our public services.

So the motion was referred back for further discussion, with a stronger motion coming back to Spring conference.

Lothians candidate Jill Reilly talked about what she had learned from her experience volunteering to help homeless people during the pandemic. Here is her speech:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

WATCH: Partnership for recovery: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Lib Dem Conference

Willie Rennie’s keynote speech to Scottish Conference today was one of the best I have ever seen him make.

Brimming with ideas – more power and pay to teachers, a career path for carers, ideas for a green recovery, an emphasis on partnership as an antidote to the division we’ve seen in recent years.

He delivered the speech from the Conference hub, at Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh.

The text is below.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

In full: Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference

Scottish Conference is taking place this weekend in that wonderful resort of Hopin.

Yesterday, Ed Davey gave his keynote speech. He was introduced by Molly Nolan, our fantastic candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. Here’s his speech in full:

Good afternoon Scotland.

And thank you Molly for that kind introduction.

One of the things that gives me great hope for our party is seeing so many brilliant rising stars – and there’s no doubt that Molly Nolan is one of the brightest.

That’s why we must get Molly elected to the Scottish Parliament in May, so she can put her energy and dedication to work for the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

So thanks Molly. We’re all behind you 100 percent.

It’s a huge pleasure to speak to you today – even though we sadly cannot be together in person.

I did get the chance to spend some time in Scotland a few weeks ago, when I visited Fife Zoo as part of the Listening Tour I’ve embarked on since becoming leader.

I met Briony and Michael, who took over the zoo in 2015 and have built it up into a successful small business.

A place where children and adults can meet zebras, lemurs and meerkats – and learn about the importance of biodiversity. A sanctuarfor endangered species.

Lockdown wasn’t easy for this young couple and their young zoo. With no visitors – no income – but all the usual costs of feeding and looking after the animals.

But they kept going, getting the zoo ready to reopen – Covid-safe – at the beginning of July.

But just days after they opened their gates, Briony and Michael were dealt another blow, when the indoor soft play area was destroyed by a fire.

They evacuated the zoo and got all their animals to safety. But they had to watch, powerless, as a crucial part of their business went up in flames.

It would be enough to break anyone’s spirit. But not Briony and Michael’s.

They reopened – again – and have worked incredibly hard to save their zoo in the face of both a devastating fire and a global pandemic.

It’s not over yet, of course.

Listening to them and so many others describe the enormous challenges and uncertainty they are facing, it is clear that the UK and Scottish Governments must work together to give far more support to small businesses – especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

This urgent need for working together, is why Willie Rennie and I, along with Jane Dodds and Stephen Farry, Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party, our sister party in Northern Ireland, wrote this week to the Leaders of the Governments of the 4 nations of the United Kingdom, calling for a 4 nation summit, to deliver a joint approach on the pandemic in the run-up to Christmas.

Coronavirus is causing terrible hardship and anxiety for families and businesses. For everyone we need to rescue a festive period as near normal as possible. And given millions of people usually travel at this time, across our family of nations, a more co-ordinated approach is desperately needed ahead of Christmas.

And I am determined that not only will we get through this, together, but also that the Liberal Democrats will lead the way to a fairer, greener, and more caring society as we do.

A country that offers real hope and opportunity for everyone, wherever they live. With Governments across the UK working together to support businesses and create jobs.

An economy boosted by new green industries, with hundreds of thousands of good green jobs.

And a society that for the first time properly recognises the vital role played by carers.

At our Federal Conference last month, I pledged to be the voice of the 9 million carers in our country.

This is very personal for me. You see, I’ve been a carer for much of my life:

First as a teenager: nursing my mum during her long battle against bone cancer.

Later for my Nanna: organising her care, trying to make her last few years as comfortable as we could.

And now, as a father. As Emily and I care for our disabled son John.

I know just how rewarding and full of love life as a carer can be. But I also know that it is often relentless and exhausting.

So I do understand the challenges that millions of carers face. Challenges that have been made even harder by coronavirus.

And I know that, for far too many politicians and policymakers, carers are all too often an afterthought.

Just look at the abject failure of both the UK and Scottish Governments to protect people in care homes.

The lack of tests and PPE.

The way hospital patients were moved into care homes to free up space, without being tested for coronavirus.

Care homes and carers: too often an afterthought.

But not for us.

I’ve been proud of the leadership Willie Rennie has shown, pressing the First Minister to provide testing and support for care home visitors.

Trying to make it possible for family carers to spend quality time with their loved ones after months of separation.

And Alex Cole-Hamilton’s work championing Scotland’s 800,000 carers – almost nine out of ten of whom say that the pandemic has made their lives harder.

Liberal Democrats standing up and speaking up for carers – in Edinburgh, in London – across our family of nations.

This is a great example of one of the biggest strengths of our party: our federalism.

We are all united as Liberal Democrats through our principles and our values.

Defending individuals. Nurturing community. Protecting civil liberties. Championing the environment.

Staunchly patriotic. Internationalist. And always pro-European.

And we work together – in close partnership.

I benefit hugely from Willie’s wisdom and experience, just as I do from Jane Dodds in Wales and Liberal Democrat leaders in local government across England.

But we also understand that each nation, region and community must often respond to its own challenges in its own way.

Not pulling away from each other or constantly battling, as if for one part to prosper another must fall.

But also not pretending that there is some one-size-fits-all solution to be handed down from Whitehall or Bute House.

Unity does not mean centralisation.

Devolution does not equal division.

And yet, one of the things that has made me angriest in recent weeks is the way our Governments – in Westminster and in Holyrood – have sought not to bring people together to solve this crisis, but instead to use the pandemic to divide our country.

Tory Ministers versus Labour Mayors.

Nicola Sturgeon versus Boris Johnson.

Matt Hancock versus reality.

It’s a truly unedifying spectacle.

I’m sure it serves their egos and their narrow political interests, but it certainly doesn’t serve the families and businesses who are struggling just to make ends meet.

“A kingdom divided in itself cannot stand,” the saying goes.

That’s why – in times of national crisis like this – it’s the job of true leaders to bring people together, not push them further apart.

Since March, we have seen countless examples of the people across the UK pulling together:

neighbours bringing food and medicines to those who are shielding or self-isolating.

The heroism of NHS staff, carers and key workers in the face of extraordinary challenges.

sacrifices we have all made, every single day to keep each other safe.

Just imagine if our Governments had demonstrated that same sense of unity, of common purpose and co-operation. Imagine how much better their responses would have been.

The truth is – this pandemic has exposed that the way the United Kingdom currently runs, is not fit for purpose.

But the answer cannot be to tear it apart.

Friends, I can understand why people would seek any alternative to life under Boris Johnson’s cruel and incompetent Tory Government.

But whether it takes four months or four years, Boris Johnson will be gone. The shared history and values of our family of nations – fashioned over centuries – will endure.

And so it falls to us, as Liberal Democrats, to offer a better way forward.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Daisy Cooper’s first PMQ – standing up for hungry children

This week, Daisy Cooper had her first chance to question the Prime Minister at PMQs and the issue she chose was one close to Liberal Democrat values – helping children in poverty by providing them with free meals during holidays until next Easter.  This can only be sensible when many of their parents will be struggling to make ends meet because of the current situation.

Here she is, highlighting how Welsh Lib Dem Education Secretary Kirsty Williams was the first to do this:

And here’s the exchange in full:

Daisy Cooper

On 16 June, the Prime Minister agreed to provide free school meal vouchers to hungry children over the summer holidays after claiming just 24 hours beforehand that he was completely unaware of the campaign that was calling for it. Last week, the Liberal Democrat Education Minister for Wales, Kirsty Williams, guaranteed that free school meal provision during school holidays would continue until at least Easter 2021, and yesterday the Scottish Government committed to do the same. Can the Prime Minister confirm that he is indeed aware of these announcements, and, if so, when does he plan to do the right thing?

The Prime Minister

Governments of all stripes have supplied free school meals since 1906, and I am proud that it was this Conservative Government who extended universal free school meals to five, six and seven-year-olds. The Labour party was in power for 30 of the past 100 years and never did anything like that. We support kids of low incomes in school, and we will continue to do so, but the most important thing is to keep them in school and not to tear off into another national lockdown, taking them out of school. We will continue to use the benefits system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well.

Boris Johnson was very keen to take credit for the policy of free school meals which the Liberal Democrats pushed through in coalition to the consternation of the right wing press.

Last week, Daisy and other Lib Dem MPs wrote to English Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to  guarantee meal provision during holidays:

When this was debated later on Wednesday, Daisy made a very powerful speech saying she felt ashamed to be an MP when the government drew the red line at hungry children:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

WATCH: The West Wing is coming back (briefly)

I am a massive fan of The West Wing. There are several episodes (The Midterms, for example) where I am almost word perfect. So you can imagine how excited I am that it’s very briefly returning in an HBO Max special on Thursday. It’s being done for When we all vote, an organisation chaired by Michelle Obama to:

increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American.

The cast will reunite to perform the 2002 episode Hartsfield’s Landing. It’s the one where Josh and Donna try to make sure that there as many Bartlet votes as possible in a small village in New Hampshire that votes at midnight. I love it.

The trailer, published this week, gave me goosebumps. If you haven’t seen it, enjoy.

I’ve heard that a lot of fans have this week been rewatching the episodes at the end of Season 4 which involve the invocation of the 25th Amendment for reasons that I can’t imagine.

It comes at a time when Democrat House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed legislation on the subject of the 25th Amendment, looking in more detail about when a President is unfit for office.

From the Guardian

The office of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced a Friday press conference about the bill after she expressed concern that Trump, who is under treatment for coronavirus at the White House, is suffering a “disassociation from reality”.

The president has unleashed a barrage of erratic and self-contradictory tweets and declarations in recent days that have left staff scrambling and raised concerns over his stability.

In a zig-zagging interview on the Fox Business channel on Thursday, his first since being hospitalised, Trump, 74, boasted: “I’m back, because I am a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young. And so I’m lucky in that way.”

If Aaron Sorkin had put forward scripts for the West Wing which outlined what is going on now, he would have been laughed out of the tv studio.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Reflections on World Mental Health Day

Back in 2007, when Nick Clegg made mental health the focus of his first major speech as Lib Dem Leader, it was pretty groundbreaking. And we walked the walk as well as talked the talk. Arguably the most successful part of our time in coalition was Norman Lamb’s work as mental health minister. Not only did he do so much to talk about mental ill health and so challenge the stigma, but he improved mental health services for people.

I often wished Scotland had a Norman Lamb. It took years for the SNP Government to update its mental health strategy and even now young people have to wait for such a long time to be seen. The pandemic has made that even worse. I know a young person who was seriously self-harming who had to wait for over a year for an appointment with a consultant. The impact that can have on education is seismic. If you have to wait a year to be seen and then another year at least before you actually start to feel like you can function, that is a third of your secondary education gone, just like that.

Over the past year and a half, my mental health has ricocheted between terrible and just about getting through the day with a smile on my face. The election campaign and its aftermath broke me and I ended up having two months off work at the beginning of the is year because I had reached the end of my ability to cope. In reality, I’d had nothing in the tank for a good while but kept ploughing on regardless, relying on adrenaline to get me through. That heaps on its own special kind of exhaustion. Sure, you can do your job and get through the day but it is so incredibly tiring until  eventually you just can’t.

What helped me earlier this year was my GP taking one look at me and sending me off to a community wellbeing hub where I had someone help me untangle all the stress, classes to help understand what was going on, a stress management course which took up my Wednesday evenings for a couple of months and, for the first time in my life, I went to a Yoga class. Believe me, I am terrible at Yoga, but it is very good at calming me down.

I’ve always thought that peer support is an essential part of recovery from anything, whether it’s breastfeeding problems or Cancer or stress. Meeting other people going through the same thing and listening to their experiences and what had helped them was invaluable.

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

Hobbes and Hattie compete to be Westminster’s top cat

We’ve just got through the leadership election and now two of our other MPs are facing off against each other.

Well, their cats are.

Wendy Chamberlain’s Hobbes and Jamie Stone’s Hattie are taking part in Purr Minister 2020, run by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Lib Dems have been successful before. Annette Brooke’s Billy won in 2015.

Wendy and Jamie have both taken to Twitter to drum up votes for their gorgeous cats.

And Hobbes posed a slight dilemma for Scottish Lib Dem Women

His manifesto is:

I’m named for the cartoon character and not the philosopher, but the social contract is purrly on my

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Willie Rennie calls for recall process to be used for Margaret Ferrier if she doesn’t resign

What on earth was Margaret Ferrier thinking when, having had a test for Covid-19, she left home and got on a train to London, potentially putting at risk everyone on the train, everyone on whatever method of public transport she used to get from Euston to Westminster, everyone she encountered at Westminster, including Commons and parliamentary staff?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, what on earth was she thinking when she left her London base and got on a train home to Glasgow when she knew she had the virus and was actually putting everyone she met at risk from contracting a potentially deadly disease?

I feel furious because it’s despicably reckless behaviour like this that is basically keeping me at home at the moment. Because my husband and I are at high risk from this disease, we are keeping our interactions with other people to a minimum. We know we are going to have to do that many months to come. We might feel better about going out to shops and restaurants if we knew that everyone was taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously, but we just don’t have the confidence that they are. And when we see things like Margaret Ferrier wandering the length of the country while knowingly infected with Covid, it is a reminder of why we are having to make our world smaller.

I do know that it is easier for us than for many others. All of us can do everything we need to do from home and we do all generally like each other and get on well. I am struggling a bit, though, with not being able to see my friends in person as much as I am used to doing. It’s great to catch up online, but it can never replace actually being with people.

Nicola Sturgeon was understandably livid about Ferrier’s actions and took to Twitter to say that she should resign as an MP. They have thrown her out of the SNP group but they can’t force her to resign as an MP. She certainly will come under pressure to do so from both within  the party and beyond.

However, there is one way she can be forced to resign. The recall process. This was introduced in 2015 by the Liberal Democrats in coalition government. It provides a mechanism for forcing a by-election where an MP has been found guilty of some wrongdoing, either in court or by being found in breach of parliamentary standards. It’s a two stage process which is triggered in these circumstances:

  • If they are convicted in the UK of an offence and sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned or detained and all appeals have been exhausted (and the sentence does not lead to automatic disqualification from being an MP);

  • If they are suspended from the House following report and recommended sanction from the Committee on Standards for a specified period (at least 10 sitting days, or at least 14 days if sitting days are not specified).;

  • If they are convicted of an offence under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (making false or misleading Parliamentary allowances claims)

A petition can then be activated and operated by the Returning Officer for the seat. If 10% of the electorate sign it, a by-election, in which the MP can stand, is held. You can find out more in this Commons Library briefing.

The process has been used three times, resulting in two by-elections. The most recent, in Brecon and Radnorshire last year, was won by Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds. Unfortunately she lost the seat just over four months later in the General Election.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Munira Wilson gets another PMQ – and calls for removal of “draconian” Coronavirus law

Some MPs never get to ask the Prime Minister a question at the most hotly contested parliamentary event of any week.

Munira Wilson has been an MP for just 9 months, and has had two opportunities in the path month to ask a question at PMQs.

This week she asked him to work cross-party to get a consensus on the laws and powers around Coronavirus, calling the current measures “draconian.”

His response was as dismissive as you would expect:

We are making sure that everybody in our society gets all the protections they need. I am aware of the easements in the Care Act 2014 that the hon. Lady refers to. It was necessary to put them in temporarily, and we now need to make sure we give everybody the protection that they need. That is what this Government will do.

And here’s a reminder of Munira’s debut at PMQs last month when she took Boris Johnson to task over his government legislating to break international law.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Lib Dem Councillor Julia Ogiehor “devastated” at acquittal of men accused of racially harassing her on tube

Last year we reported on Haringey Liberal Democrat Councillor Julia Ogiehor’s description of being racially abused while she was travelling on the London Underground.

At the time, she said:

“One of them called me uneducated, and looked like I didn’t go to university,” Ogiehor said. “I had my hands up saying I do not want to speak to you any more, then one of the guys tried to pull my hands down and demanded I get out of his sight.

“I recoiled and said please do not touch me, as he kept saying I had no common sense and that I was uneducated at the top of his voice. I was the only black person in the carriage and he seemed to expect everyone would be on their side. They seemed to be a little taken aback when that was not the case.”

She added: “They had such a sense of entitlement and sounded offended that I refused to go into my heritage and did indeed come from London.”

And Julie talked about the importance of showing solidarity when you see others under attack:

The fact I was helped is what gave me the courage to defend myself,” she said. “Hate crime is under-reported, so please speak up. They are the minority, and we need to stand up to bigotry.

Yesterday, Julia wrote on Twitter that she was devastated after the two men responsible had been acquitted of racially aggravated harassment.

She said that she felt that justice had not been on her side “How could it be when nobody on the jury looked anything like me?” She added that she had no regrets about reporting the incident and would continue to report racism every time.

The Ham and High reported on the court hearing:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 5 Comments

WATCH: Ed Davey’s speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


Ed’s first Leader’s speech took place not in a packed hall but broadcast as he stood at a lectern in LDHQ.

You would have to have an incredibly hard heart not to be incredibly moved as he described caring for his terminally ill mum, his Nana and his 12 year old son John.

We know that there are around 700,000 young carers in the UK today,  but how much thought have we actually given to the reality of their daily lives.

Ed described giving his mum tumblers of oral morphine before heading to school to help with her agonising cancer pain.

I spoke to a friend of mine who cared for their mum and they told me how they had learned to do all sorts of medical things, including giving injections by the time they were 11.

The first time I nursed someone who was terminally ill, I was 20 and there was a whole family team of us. That was incredibly stressful and I will never forget the heartbreaking toughness and the heartwarming lovingness of that time. Ed was so much younger when he was in that situation.

It was an incredibly moving section of the speech. My WhatsApp was going mad as he was speaking.

Anyway, watch the whole thing here and read the words under the cut.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

So how was Virtual Conference for you?

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


I am feeling a little delicate this morning. The Conference may have been virtual, but the hangover certainly isn’t. At my age, you would think I would know better than to sit up drinking with my friends in a virtual pub until 4am, but it certainly gave an authentic feel to the last night of our virtual Conference.

A week ago, I felt really gloomy as Facebook reminded me of Conferences past. I was really sad that I wasn’t packing up …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Lib Dems back long term aspiration to rejoin EU

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


Well, that was tense!

Of all the votes to have technical issues, it would just have to be the one between two hotly contested amendments, wouldn’t it?

Thankfully, the outcome wasn’t even close with 331 backing the more emphatic “Rejoin now” Amendment 1 and 1071  backing Amendment 2 proposed by Duncan Brack and eventually accepted by the leadership. It’s a huge number of people taking part and was the outcome I thought most likely but at times did not seem assured.

The debate was at times a bit fractious, with speeches on both sides going a bit over the top.

However, there were some very thoughtful and measured contributions which probably did more to persuade people.

There was a small moment of drama when Wera Hobhouse MP was called. It had been reported that she would support Amendment 1, but she confirmed straight away that she was supporting Amendment 2.

So what have we passed? You can read the main motion on page 11 here.

It’s as you would expect, pointing out the problems with Brexit, the Government’s appalling handling of it and affirming our support for freedom of movement, EU Citizens and all manner of food and environmental and security co-operation.

The contentious bit was this:

In the longer term, conference resolves to keep all options open for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including membership at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms.

The amendment passed changed that last bit to:

In the longer term, Conference resolves to support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms.

So here are some of the highlights of the debate in tweets:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 54 Comments

Fringe reports: Generous Society

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


I feel slightly guilty because I haven’t found time yet to write about the beautiful and joyful Generous Society pamphlet that Julian Huppert wrote about recently.

This is a wonderful contrast to our recent habit of being as nuanced as we can to try to avoid upsetting people. It’s an antidote to the paint by numbers, soulless, brand based, dull centrist mush that we have been prone to cling to. Maybe one day we’ll learn that subtlety never won anything and that we need the sort of liberal heart and sprit that The Generous Society contains.

It has some superb illustrations and does not pull its punches:

No economist can calculate the beauty and wonder lost from our world because of the restrictions our society has placed on the freedom to create and contribute. We must reduce the burden on those who want the dignity and peace that comes with a secure, well-paid job – but instead find themselves ripped off, spied on, or otherwise mistreated by their employers. In a liberal society, you will not have to spend excessive physical and mental energy on basic needs.

I also liked the acknowledgement that in a liberal society, we recognise that there will be a small amount of  abuse of social security systems, but that the wider aim of ensuring that people have enough to meet their basic needs is more important.

In a fringe meeting on Friday, Julian Huppert chaired a discussion between Polly Mackenzie of Demos, Ailbhe Rea of the New Statesman and Generous Society author Tom King.

You can watch it here.

Ailbhe Rea said that her experience of her first Lib Dem conference was that we had a whole stack of policy but no underpinning vision.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 7 Comments

Ed’s first Q and A as leader

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


Ed did his first Leader’s Q and A yesterday afternoon. Under normal circumstances, he would be wandering around the stage, addressing a packed hall. He was at the podium in LDHQ taking questions from menbers in a way that you don’t often find from  other party leaders. We allow supplementaries to pre-submitted questions which mean that he can be faced with just about anything, from the random to the policy to the personal.

You can watch it here from around 5 hours in.

Here are some of the highlights:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Speeches of #ldconf: Layla Moran’s first as Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


Layla Moran made her first keynote speech since taking over the Foreign Affairs spokesperson and showed that she has mastered her brief very quickly. She was as passionate and compassionate as you would expect and called out the Government on its failure to do enough to support human rights around the world.

 

Here is her speech in full:

And the text is below:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Have you tried the #ldconf Networking function?

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


You know how when you are at a physical conference and going from event to event you randomly bump into people and end up chatting? There is an alternative to that at the virtual Conference.

There’s a Networking tab on the left hand side of the screen. If you click it, you will end up talking to a random conference attendee.

I had a few minutes to spare between fringe and this afternoon’s debate so I tried it out – and ended up chatting to an old friend, Lucy Care from Derby, who gave me her permission to take our pictures to share.

Why not try it out?

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Lib Dems pass motion calling for constitutional reform and a Federal UK

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home


The UK is in danger, said Wendy Chamberlain in her proposing speech for today’s motion calling for a federal UK. We’ve already seen one union disintegrate on the basis of divisive nationalism, she said, and we need a liberal offer to fix the union and give power back not just to state governments but to communities. The motion was about building a collaborative, constructive and consultative relationships between the nations of the UK and we will end the current structural inequalities of the Union.

Federalism has been a key part of our constitutional reform plans for as long as I have been involved in the party, but we haven’t been very good at showing how this would work in practice.

One of the biggest issues has been about how England would fit into a federal structure. The motion before Conference didn’t address this and it led to calls for it to be referred back for that to be resolved. They certainly do need to be resolved and the people who raised concerns were justified in doing so. The issue is that time is not on our side. WIth elections in Scotland and Wales less than 8 months away, we have to have something to counter the pro-independence argument.

In the end, Conference chose to pass the motion today by an overwhelming majority of 681-96 on the understanding that the Federal Policy Committee does the work on sorting out how this would work for England.

It was a very good debate, but only two women were called. Session Chair Geoff Payne said that reflected the balance of the cards submitted. So what is it about constitutional issues that causes that sort of imbalance and how do we talk about them in a more inclusive way?

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , and | 17 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.