Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

The irony of the Tory Voter ID plans

Our democracy in this country is pretty much broken.

On one hand we have a government that constantly bangs on about the will of the people, whilst simultaneously doing its damnedest to undermining it.

The irony of that is not lost on me.

A Government that actually did care about the will of the people would make sure that the people got the parliament they asked for, for a start, by introducing a proportional system of voting. This is not boring constitutional stuff – we should be doing more to frame it as a fundamental issue of trust.

In recent years, the introduction of individual electoral registration has led to a severe democratic deficit. Just last month, Electoral Commission research showed that 17% of voters were not correctly registered.

That’s not far off one in five people, who are more likely to be young or from marginalised groups – and least likely to vote Conservative.

That is, surely, a much bigger problem than some confected spectre of “voter fraud” which is being used as a justification to bring in this measure.

The Electoral Reform Society has this to say on that subject:

Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK. Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated and therefore is best tackled locally.

Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%. Adding a major barrier to democratic engagement off the back of this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

And our Tom Brake said that this measure was a blatant attempt at voter suppression and rig future elections:

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Jo: A politics of hope and inclusion, firmly set on a better future

Jo made us all look up today.

Wearing a dress the colour of sunshine, she showed the country a brighter future away from the relentless grind of Brexit.

Certainly, she told Boris Johnson in no uncertain terms how damaging Brexit would be for the country and exactly why the Liberal Democrats would not be supporting his Queen’s Speech. But she went beyond that and painted a picture of much more pleasant future once Brexit has been stopped.

She drew a parallel every woman in politics, or, for that matter, who ever goes to meetings, will recognise:

She had some special words for EU nationals – after she had cited some examples of the stress people had to go through to get settled status.

You can read her whole speech over on the party website. This is my favourite part:

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Jo on Ridge on Sunday: Lib Dems could win General Election

In a clear and confident interview on Ridge on Sunday this morning, Jo Swinson staked her claim to be Prime Minister.

Any Brexit deal, she said, would be as bad for the country as the financial crash in 2008. This is why Lib Dems would be supporting amendments to give the people the final say:

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Are you marching with the Lib Dems to stop Brexit next Saturday?

Next Saturday, as Parliament sits for the first time on a Saturday in 37 years to try and sort the Brexit mess, a massive People’s Vote march will be taking place. MPs will be able to hear the end of the rally in Parliament Square.

The Lib Dems will be marching in support of a People’s Vote with the very clear aim to stop Brexit.

We will be meeting at 11 am at the Duke of Wellington Memorial Statue at Hyde Park Corner.

In October last year, I made the 800 miles

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Layla about to be on Have I got News for You

And it looks like it’s going to be a treat.

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Vince, Luciana and Norman write about mental health

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Three of our MPs wrote articles on different aspects of mental health.

Vince Cable wrote for Times Red Box (£) about his mother’s post natal depression and the impact on their family.

When I was aged ten, shortly after my brother was born, my mother had a breakdown. She had to go into a mental health unit for the best part of a year. My brother was fostered. When she returned from hospital a year later, she was somewhat better, but her confidence had been shattered.

Today it is still young mothers, or children and young people, who because of the underlying problems in mental health services, are often those who are struggling to get help. Even generally, over half of adults with a diagnosed mental health problem have to wait four weeks to see a specialist. These long waiting times can only make the mental health crisis worse.

And what did he learn about what helps people to recover?

One of the things that really helped my mother improve, both in terms of her mental health and in terms of confidence, was adult education.

Engaging with others, having a supportive structure, did wonders for her wellbeing. That is why the Liberal Democrats will deliver mental health support, not just through the NHS but through communities and throughout society.

By creating a reward scheme for employers who invest in the mental wellbeing of their employees, restoring funding of ‘early help’ services that were cut by the Conservatives, and improving training for health professionals in spotting signs of postnatal depression, the Liberal Democrats will deliver better mental health support for everyone, and ensure help is there before problems becomes crises.

Luciana Berger has long campaigned on mental health issues. For Rethink Mental Illness, she wrote about suicide prevention at a strategic and an individual level:

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Why we need #worldmentalhealthday

“I’ve got the headache from hell.”

“I’m full of the cold”

“I feel incredibly anxious today”

“My stomach is killing me.”

One of these is not like the others.

We are generally pretty comfortable about sharing when we’re feeling physically unwell, but not so if we are feeling mentally unwell.

I’m not going to lie, I have found these last few months really difficult. I’ve often felt overwhelmed and anxious. In fact, earlier in the Summer, I thought my mental health was going to collapse completely.

The last thing I was expecting from my campaigning trip to Brecon and Radnorshire was to come back feeling restored, refreshed and energised.

I’m not better, though. More days than not, I feel anxious.

And just like many people with physical ill health, I go to work and edit this site and go about my daily life.

The Winter months are generally more difficult than the Summer ones. A fall on ice quarter of a century ago has cast a very long shadow. Going outside when it’s snowy and icy is so exhausting that I’m often fit for nothing by the time I get where I’m going. I have to get used to operating on empty and living in a near permanent state of high anxiety.

And when people diminish what that is like, and laugh about it, it makes life so much more difficult. When people tell you to pull yourself together, they have absolutely no idea how much you are already doing that.

I also think that it is getting easier to talk about things like Anxiety and Depression. Try and say you are suffering from Psychosis and you will often realise very quickly that stigma is thriving.

So that’s my take on World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is suicide prevention, in particular the acronym WAIT, as Christine Jardine describes:

Alex Cole-Hamilton mentions the importance of listening:

Jo talked of the importance of being able to talk openly:

Jane Dodds has long championed measures to end loneliness and social isolation:

Luisa Porritt and Layla Moran shared their struggles with Anxiety and Depression:

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YouGov’s poll of polls shows that the Government has no mandate for any Brexit, let alone catastrophic no deal

You know if you’re about to do make a really major change to your life, like, for example, get married or divorced, or leave your job, or pack up and move to run a bed and breakfast in the northern highlands (I wish), you should have a sense of certainty that it is the right thing to do. You might feel nervous, but you should also feel a bit excited about the opportunities of your choice.

This country is far from excited and optimistic about Brexit. In the face of overwhelming evidence that any form of Brexit is going to damage our economy, and that a no deal Brexit will put lives at risk from food and medicine shortages, polls suggest that the people have thought again.

A YouGov poll of polls conducted over the past two and  lib years provides conclusive evidence that most people want to remain in the EU.

From City AM:

So far this year, only one poll came out in support of Leave, compared to 74 for Remain.

“The polling evidence is concrete,” Anthony Wells, director of political research at Yougov, told the newspaper. “The overwhelming majority of questions asking people if Brexit is right or wrong, or if they would now vote Remain or Leave, show a lead for Remain, and have done for over two years.”

The results appear to fly in the face of the government’s strategy of framing the Brexit question as parliament versus the people.

“The characterisation of the situation as people vs parliament doesn’t really stand up when the public are split over Brexit. It is more a case of half the public vs half of Parliament,” Wells added.

The poll-of-polls showed that Leave began 2017 with a lead of 51 per cent to 49 per cent, a marginally narrower gap than the referendum result.

Britain Elects draws similar conclusions:

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The Lib Dem Lowdown – our guide for new members – the Welcome Heidi edition

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Liberal Democrats in the last few weeks, and a special mention to our newest MP, Heid Allen.

 

We haven’t actually re-done this post since Chuka joined, so we should formally welcome Sarah, Angela, Philip, Sam and Luciana, as well as our by-election winner Jane Dodds.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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Heidi Allen joins the Liberal Democrats

You kind of know when you get a WhatsApp message inviting you to a Federal Board briefing at 9pm that someone is about to be joining us.

I think most of the Board guessed right this time:

Heidi becomes the 19th Liberal Democrat MP.

To be honest, when I’ve heard her talk about people who are really struggling with compassion and empathy, I’ve felt like she’s one of us.

In an interview with the Independent, she says that another 20 want to follow her:

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Election countdown: Candidates selected in Scotland

Everyone is expecting a General Election in the next few months. Liberal Democrats have been preparing for this and have selected candidates in most seats. 

Here’s the current state of play in Scotland:

Held seats

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross: Jamie Stone MP

East Dunbartonshire: Jo Swinson MP

Edinburgh West: Christine Jardine MP

Orkney and Shetland: Alistair Carmichael MP

Formerly held seats

Argyll and Bute: Alan Reid (former MP)

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk: Jenny Marr

Dunfermline and West Fife: Rebecca Bell

Gordon: James Oates

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Denis Rixson

North East Fife: Wendy Chamberlain fights the most marginal seat in the country where the SNP and his wife make up the majority.

Ross, Skye and Lochaber: Craig Harrow

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine: John Waddell

Elsewhere, the following candidates are now in place with other selections still to come.

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Learn about Northern Ireland’s only Liberal MP – event tomorrow in Belfast

A book has just been published by the Ulster Historical Federation telling the story of Sheelagh Murnaghan, Ireland’s only Liberal MP.

‘In Northern Ireland politics, I don’t know which is the greatest obstacle: to be a WOMAN, a CATHOLIC or a LIBERAL. I am all three.’

Sheelagh Murnaghan was a remarkable person. She was the first female barrister to practise in Northern Ireland; a talented sportswoman who played hockey for Ulster and Ireland; the only Liberal Party MP 1961-9) in the 50-year history of the Northern Ireland Parliament.

In a country riven by sectarianism, she was consistently a voice of reason and humanity, endlessly challenging the widely-held assumption that it was normal and right to ‘look after one’s own people’ and ‘do down the other side’. A patriot in the most genuine meaning of the word she tried to save her country from its demons. Her efforts were spurned and Northern Ireland paid a terrible price for that rejection.

However, time would prove Sheelagh to be right, as a torchbearer for human rights, non-violence and respect for the dignity of others, she proved herself to be decades ahead of other politicians and political parties, as many of her original ideas have come to be enshrined in law in Northern Ireland.

I know that this is very late notice, but if any of you find yourselves in Belfast at a loose end tomorrow, there will be a talk on Sheelagh’s life between 1 and 2 pm. The details are here.

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Could you be Jo’s party liaison person?

There’s an interesting job advert coming up today if you fancy being the person who is the link between Jo and the party.

You need to get in quick, though – closing date is a week on Tuesday.

I like the emphasis on two way communication in the job description:

To advise the Leader on all issues relating to the internal workings of the Liberal Democrat Party, and work to ensure the Leader has a strong relationship with the wider party.

Regular interaction with state and EU Liberal Democrat parliamentary groups and their staff to ensure a two-way flow information with the Leader. Maintain a close working relationship with members of Party HQ based staff, especially the campaigns, fundraising, communications and membership departments, and the policy team.

Regular interaction with Liberal Democrats in local government – LGA, ALDC, council group leaders – to ensure a two-way flow information with the Leader.

Regularly interact with SAOs, AOs and other relevant party organisations to ensure a two-way flow information with the Leader.

Representing the Leader of the Liberal Democrats at relevant party committees, including the Federal Board.

Have a close working relationship with target seat Parliamentary candidates.

And as you would expect, the person needs to have “fabulous” communication skills and emotional intelligence.

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A Lib Dem GAIN, a strong hold and a couple of mini surges in last night’s by-elections

Some good results in last night’s by-elections.

First of all, a gain for the party in Somerset for new Councillor

Clarence ward in St Albans is a stronghold for us anyway, but we managed to increase our vote even further with this strong hold. Congratulations to the St Albans team and new Councillor Josie Madoc.

To put it mildly, Clacton is not an area of strength for us, yet Callum Robertson few the flag and saw a 2% vote rise.

It’s really important to have a presence in by-elections like that to build our support and getting people used to voting Lib Dem.

In Cardiff, our vote grew by over 6%. Well done to Sion Donne and team.

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Cole-Hamilton’s pride as Scotland passes smacking ban

If Alex Cole-Hamilton were to slap me, he would, rightly, face the full force of the law. If he were to slap his 5 year old daughter Darcy (which would never happen), he could do so with the full support of the law, which allows “reasonable chastisement.”

That is an inconsistency that he has been campaigning against for years. Today his work and that of many others was rewarded when the Scottish Parliament voted to give children the same protection from assault in law as adults, becoming the first country in the UK to do so.

I’ve known Alex for almost two decades. In that time I’ve teased him on many occasions, always with justification. But there have been many more times when I have been proud of him and today is one of the biggest. One of the reasons I spent a decade trying to get him elected was that I knew he would be an amazing advocate for Scotland’s children.

He’s been working to change the law on physical punishment of children for a long time. And he had an uphill battle trying to change party policy. In 2013, we lost by just 9 votes. Three years later, the result went the opposite way – and overwhelmingly. The proposer of the amendment in favour of keeping the law as it is changed his mind during the course of the debate, persuaded by the arguments. This move ensured Lib Dem support for the Bill today.

Today’s Bill was originally brought by Green MSP John Finnie but it had cross party support across Holyrood – except from the Conservatives, of course.

Here is Alex’s speech in favour of the Bill.

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Jo Swinson’s message for Black History Month

Today sees the start of Black History Month.

Over on the Black History month website, Jo Swinson celebrates the achievements of black women, whose achievements, she ways, are often massively diminished.

The contributions of black Britons are rich and varied, yet for too long we have ignored the legacy of black pioneers and accepted a narrative that confines the history of black people to that of slaves and colonial subjects. This is not good enough.

Worse still, when we do celebrate black Britons, the contributions of black women are massively diminished. Yet, despite having to contend with both racial and gender oppression black women continue to drive social, political and cultural change. This year let us celebrate the women of the past, such as Olive Morris, a feminist who dedicated her life to equality and activism. The women of the present, like Olivette Otele, who in 2018 became the UK’s first black female history professor. And let us empower the next generation of activists and trailblazers and do all we can to ensure that their achievements will never be absent from the history books.

The Liberal Democrats will never be silent or indifferent in the face of discrimination. It is our goal to fight for a country where every person, regardless of their background, is able to live freely and fulfil their potential without fear of hate or prejudice. That’s the world we strive for and that’s the world we must work every day to make possible.

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New seats for our new MPs

This afternoon it’s been announced that Phillip Lee will be taking on John Redwood for the Liberal Democrats at the General Election. He will move from his current seat in Bracknell to Wokingham, which is considered winnable for the party.

According to the Wokingham Paper:

THE Liberal Democrats have announced that their candidate for Wokingham will be one of its newest MPs, Dr Phillip Lee. It sets up a Leave v Remain contest against the incumbent, Sir John Redwood.

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats deputy leader, announced the news to a packed meeting of Wokingham party members held at the Hilton St Anne’s Manor hotel in London Road.

The seat is one that polling by ComRes suggests could switch to the Lib Dems.

A projection suggests that the party would have a 37% vote share, compared to 33% for the Conservatives and 14% for Labour.

However, it also lists the Brexit party as 9% – the party is unlikely to field a candidate in Wokingham constituency as Sir John Redwood is a committed Leaver.

This move will be more controversial than Chuka Umunna moving to Cities of London and Westminster or Luciana Berger moving to Finchley and Golders Green. Both of these moves were widely welcomed in the party.

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Former Lib Dem Islington Council leader Steve Hitchins has died

Steve Hitchins, who transformed the lives of so many people for the better in Islington when he was Council Leader, has died very suddenly at the age of 68.

In a heartbreaking tweet, his wife, Lib Dem Peer Sarah Ludford announced her loss.

Many of us saw him last week in Bournemouth. I managed a quick hello as we passed in that great whirlwind.

You can see the difference he made to people from the replies to Sarah’s tweets.

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Lib Dems condemn Home Office treatment of LGBT Christians

One of the Laws of the Universe is that, just when you think the Home Office can’t get any worse, any less humane, it does.

This weekend, Pink News reported on the appalling treatment of LGBT Christian asylum seekers.

One respondent said Home Office officials asked her questions including: “How can you be lesbian and Christian?,” “Isn’t the Bible against being gay?”, and “Doesn’t that contradict with your Christian belief or your belief?”

The report was based on 33 interviews with LGBT+ asylum seekers – 31 of these came from a Christian background and two were Muslims.

Another participant said: “‘In the application process, in my case, everything that I was doing I was doing it in secret, so I got to a point that Home Office is asking me ‘Where’s the proof?’ And it’s very difficult for me to come out with proof, because I’m doing this in a way that my will not find out who I am… I don’t have the right to work.

LGBT+ Lib Dems, Lib Dems 4 Seekers of Sanctuary, the Lib Dem Christian Forum and Lib Dem Immigrants issued a joint statement:

We condemn this ignorance and insensitivity of the Home Office.

We also note that the Home Office’s culture of disbelief has impacted both Christian people and LGBT+ people in the past and that this in turn is just a small part of the injustices that have led to the Liberal Democrats to call for the Home Office to be stripped of all immigration and asylum responsibility.

And Christine Jardine was furious in a piece on the Lib Dem website. 

Earlier this month, Liberal Democrats revealed that over the last three years the Home Office has refused over 3,100 asylum claims on the basis of sexuality, even though the people making them were from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised.

Now, a report on LGBT African asylum seekers has found some being accused of “contradiction” by Home Office interviewers, because they are LGBT and Christian. One person even reported being asked, “How can you be lesbian and Christian?”

This Conservative Government is letting down every LGBT+ person

Imagine being forced to leave your home and making it to the UK, only to be told by Home Office officials that your very identity is a “contradiction”. Imagine having your religion used against you, to discredit your claim to asylum.

That is the culture of disbelief that both LGBT+ people and Christian converts face in the Home Office. Officials too often deny them asylum without any evidence; they simply assume that they are lying about who they are.

This Conservative Government is letting down every LGBT+ person and every individual in this country who cares about human rights.

The UK should be leading the campaign across the world against homophobia and transphobia. Instead, we have a Government that is turning its back and looking the other way.

Liberal Democrats demand better for LGBT+ people wherever they live.

We will establish a new, dedicated unit to handle asylum claims, free of political interference and without the Home Office’s culture of disbelief.

Liberal Democrats will fix our asylum system so that the UK provides sanctuary to those who need it.

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Labour’s own polling suggests losses in London and wipeout in Scotland

I think the Lib Dems need to declare the cost of staging Labour Conference as an election expense

So said a Labour friend of mine on Twitter in deep frustration at his party’s failure to unequivocally back Remain in chaotic scenes yesterday.

I genuinely feel for my friends in Labour who are horrified at what their party is doing. Some, like Alastair Campbell, voted Lib Dem in the European elections. I hope that they will feel able to do so at the forthcoming General Election, even  if they don’t want to say so out loud.

When a party gets it as badly wrong on the major issue of the day, the chances are that it will be punished at the ballot box and two reports suggest that this is exactly the fate awaiting Labour candidates.

And what is more bizarre is that it’s Labour’s own internal polling that is predicting the disaster.

The Scotsman reports that we and the SNP will be the beneficiaries of a Labour wipeout in Scotland:

Across the UK, only 58.7 per cent of 2017 Labour voters would stick with the party under those circumstances. The Lib Dems would take 19 per cent of the 2017 Labour vote, with 7.4 per cent going to the Greens, 3.5 per cent to the SNP, and 0.7 per cent to Plaid Cymru.

The figures are even worse in Scotland, where just 49.2 per cent of 2017 Labour voters would stick with the party. The SNP would take a fifth of Labour’s vote at the last election, with 15% going to the Lib Dems, 6% to the Brexit Party, and 3% to the Conservatives.

And the Evening Standard suggests that we will benefit from Labour’s losses in London:

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WATCH: Sal Brinton marks the International Day of Sign Languages

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Willie Rennie’s speech to Federal Conference: Lib Dems stand for the majority of Scots

Willie Rennie made a keynote speech to Liberal Democrat Conference on Tuesday. It was the best speech I have ever heard him make. A very clear statement of why the Lib Dems stand up for the majority of Scotland’s people – along with some literary advice for David Cameron. Jenni Lang’s introduction is worth watching too for a wee secret.

It’s becoming a tradition to spill some beans about Willie when introducing him for a speech. Borders candidate Jenny Marr told Scottish Conference how he’d turned up to a Wintry canvassing session in Aberdeenshire wearing pyjamas underneath his clothes to keep warm.

Enjoy.

The text is below:

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Party awards for Lizzie Jewkes, Roderick Lynch, Alice Bridges-Westcott and Bernard Greaves

One of the best bits of Federal Conference is that bit just before the Leader’s Speech (before the bit where they pass round buckets and demand all your money like you have any left at the end of Conference) where the Party President announces the winners of the Party Awards.

It was great to see some fantastic people honoured this year:

First up was the Patsy Calton Award, awarded by Liberal Democrat Women in honour of Patsy Calton, our much loved MP for Cheadle who died in 2005.

Sal said:

The winner has been a party activist, parliamentary candidate, and member of a number of party bodies, including Lib Dem Women.
She has achieved what few do. She challenged UK government policy in relation to tax, through her speeches and work in the Liberal Democrats.

At one conference she spoke about the potential to lift ordinary men and women out of poverty, by changing the income tax threshold, persuading Conference to make it party policy, and it was also in the 2010 Manifesto.

David Cameron famously mocked the idea until, in coalition, the idea was taken up through meetings with Conservative Ministers, who eventually agreed to make the change.

For ordinary people, particularly low-paid women, this has been an amazing and effective way to help families and part-time workers.

For her outstanding contribution, the nomination for the Patsy Calton Award is made to the amazing Lizzie Jewkes.

The Harriet Smith Award is open to any member who has never achieved elected office, but has served our cause with excellence and commitment.

I was thrilled to see Roderick Lynch, Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality win.

This year the winner of the Harriet Smith Award is a nationally recognised businessman/entrepreneur and was nominated by many people this year due to his tireless work fighting against racism. .

He reaches out to diverse communities that are under represented and has successfully launched a black history month campaign that went viral, passed diversity conference motions and transformed our party’s approach to race equality.

Described by those who nominated him as a man of integrity and candour who works very hard. He is a man with infectious passion, a role model for members of colour, and particularly for future MP’s. One person described how he is ‘helping others flourish and find their path in the party as a black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic person’.

Our winner is the Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality. So Conference please, welcome to the stage Roderick Lynch.

The President’s Award went to someone who has arguably done more than anyone else to establish us as the party of LGBT rights.

Here is how Sal introduced him:

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Edinburgh march for Europe: Worrying news about EU negotiations and Alex Cole-Hamilton speaks

People took to Edinburgh’s streets today to protest about Brexit and climate change. The European Movement in Scotland organised the event which was very vibrant and well attended.

Our Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton gave one of the keynote speeches. As he finished, someone behind me (name redacted to protect the guilty) muttered “Understated as ever.”

Alex condemned the shutting down of Parliament and said that we would continue to fight Brexit on the streets, in the tv studios and at the ballot box.

Also speaking at the rally was the author of Article 50, Lord Kerr.

He was intensely critical of the Prime Minister, saying that Johnson and the truth were strangers and that even if shutting down Parliament wasn’t found to be technically illegal, it was definitely improper.

He also revealed that Boris Johnson’s negotiators had asked for everything relating to workers’ rights, environmental standards and social policy to be removed from Theresa May’s deal. This should not be surprising given that the agenda of the right wing Brexiteers is to turn this country into a Singapore style deregulated  economy where hard won  safety standards, workers’ rights and human rights are minimised.

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WATCH: Jo Swinson’s interview with Alastair Campbell

Jo Swinson has talked to Alastair Campbell for GQ magazine. They met twice. Once on 27th August and then after the Parliamentary drama on 3-4 September.

You can watch the whole thing on You Tube:

The written transcript is here. but you need to watch the video to get the whole thing.

It’s well worth 47 minutes of your time to see a thoughtful conversation which ranges from Brexit to Scottish independence and why people are turning to the Liberal Democrats:

Tens of thousands joined the Lib Dems since the start of May because people want someone that speaks to those small “l” liberal values for opportunity, internationalism, equality, fairness, treating people as individuals.

The biggest reason she can’t deal with Boris:

I don’t think he cares! I think he really doesn’t care. What he did in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe just makes me furious. He doesn’t seem to show any kind of remorse or feel bad about it – he says he feels anguish, but he shows no evidence of it whatsoever. All he cares about is Boris Johnson and becoming prime minister and he was prepared to say whatever it took to get him into Number Ten. One of the reasons I have stood for leadership of my party is that I think the public needs a better choice. At the next election, the offer of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is not good enough. That’s why I’ve set out ambitious plans for the Liberal Democrats, that we are aiming for government and I am a candidate for prime minister, because I think the country needs us to be doing that.

And why she thinks she is the best candidate for PM:

When I joined the Liberal Democrats I didn’t think that I would be sitting here today and talking about potentially becoming prime minister and running for that, but when I look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, hand on heart, I am very confident I could do a better job than either of them. We have got a no-deal Brexit around the corner; we have a climate emergency that we have less than 12 years to tackle; we have got poverty in our communities; we have real problems with our politics more generally. I genuinely feel we need to make sure that the Liberal Democrats can be that home for people with liberal values who want and demand and deserve something better than either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn.

Alastair then makes the mistake of mentioning how difficult it must be for her because she has young kids:

AC: That feels very hard to me. Two young children, including your baby, taking on the leadership of a party.

JS: Hang on, did Tony Blair not have a baby when he was prime minister, I seem to recall?

AC: He did.

JS: Yeah. I mean, men do do this. It has been known.

When they met on 6th September, Alastair asked Jo if she thought Boris Johnson had fascist tendencies:

I am not going to put that label on him. You have to be careful with language. But I found the imagery of that speech in front of police officers, where he was effectively saying he might not obey the rule of law, very worrying. The juxtaposition was quite sinister. It felt rather authoritarian.

There was an interesting discussion about the risks of splitting the opposition vote:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Spreadsheets and vicious beasts – the not very secret lives of Lib Dem #dangerousextremists

So, Emily Thornberry said the Liberal Democrats had “gotten kind of Taliban” in an interview with The House magazine.

Now, hang on a wee minute here. There might be another Taliban, who have a woman leader who talks about creating a more loving country, who state clearly what they are going to do if they win a majority in an election because, you know, democracy. But Google hasn’t heard of THAT Taliban. It only knows about the murderous, misogynistic  brutes who terrorised Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Thornberry’s comments show how Labour have really lost the plot. Maybe she is jealous that her party can’t have as clear a policy to stop Brexit because Brexiteer Jeremy Corbyn wants it to happen.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this was an actual question on Question Time last night:

So, a party that is threatening to crash us out of the EU on 31 October, “do or die” risking food and medicine shortages is not as extreme as us who have said we’ll put a stop to this nonsense by democratic means.

Sarah Olney started something this afternoon when she took the BBC to task:

Others piled in to say talk about their dangerously extreme habits:

There was definitely a few common themes around animals and cheese

 

I did wonder about the tanks thing. That could be a bit dodgy. And I got a bit more than I bargained for.

That cat is the height of a the story building!

Do feel free to add to the #dangerousextremists meme with what makes you these things.

You can always count on Cole-Hamilton to show off:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 20 Comments

So that is why the fringe meetings were so jam packed

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

What Boris Johnson should have said to Omar Salem

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

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

I know.

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

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

That is simply not safe – for her, mostly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 10 Comments

In full: Chuka Umunna’s speech to Conference

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

Today he gave a keynote speech to Conference.

Watch here:

Here is the text in full.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What it is to be a liberal

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

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

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

Posted in Conference and News | Tagged , , and | 30 Comments
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