Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Keeping prisoners safe – and discussing these matters responsibly

There has been screaming controversy in the media for days now about a Scottish transgender woman who has been convicted of rape. Many misleading media reports have suggested that she would have to be accommodated within a women’s prison. There was outrage when she was initially taken to Cornton Vale women’s prison where she was held away from other prisoners while initial risk assessments were carried out over a 72 hour period.

Once that risk assessment was completed, unsurprisingly, she was moved away from Cornton Vale to HMP Edinburgh. There are few clearer statements of the obvious  than that anyone convicted of sexual assault, violence or raping women should not be incarcerated alongside women.  It was never going to happen in this case or in any other with such a record. There are procedures in place to protect prisoners from other prisoners who might harm them.

The Scottish Prison Service did its job properly.

In all parts of the UK, every prisoner is risk assessed for all sorts of things when they enter prison. Do they have a history of violence? Is there anyone in custody who might be a danger to them? Are they a danger to anyone on the prison estate? Is it safe to allow them to share a cell? That assessment determines the safest place for them and everyone else.

Unfortunately, the media has not missed an opportunity to print scare stories about trans women and the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. As this has been unfairly blocked by the UK Government, it clearly has no relevance in this case. But even if the prisoner had a Gender Recognition Certificate under the current system, it would have absolutely no effect on where she will serve her sentence. Conflating the two issues, and suggesting that trans women are a danger to other women is wrong and irresponsible.

Scotland’s Equality Network has a very useful Twitter thread explaining the issues involved in this case.

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Jardine challenges Scottish Secretary over Gender Reform

Women and Equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine challenged Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to come up with a single clause in Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which undermined the provisions of the Equality Act. Spoiler, he couldn’t. She accused him of playing fast and loose by the Union by attempting to block the Bill.  Watch her comments here.

Later he issued a flimsy Statement of Reasons for issuing the Section 35 Order. In a later speech, Christine said that to call it weak would be to flatter it. There certainly is much in the way of conjecture within it and absolutely zero evidence to back that up.

At this point it is worth remembering that, not only was a Labour amendment stating the primacy of the Equality Act on the face of the Bill, but even before that every major feminist organisation in Scotland supported it. I can’t see how they would have done if they had thought for a second that it would harm women’s rights. They have certainly not held back in criticising government legislation before. This is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation ever, with several consultations, a draft Bill and, finally, the Bill that has been passed.

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Four ways you can help Liberal Democrat Voice

The Voice is only a success because of the interest and support from our readers. For many people just lurking and reading the site is all they want to do – and that’s fine, we’re grateful for people taking the time to read the site.

You can though help us continue to produce interesting content for a growing audience. Here are four simple ways:

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BBC acknowledges Clarkson omission

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Laura Kuenssberg should have questioned the editor of The Sun, Victoria Newton, over the paper’s publication of a horribly misogynistic column about the Duchess of Sussex.

But what really annoys me is that Laura Kuenssberg had the editor of the Sun sitting right there in front of her on her show this morning and she didn’t challenge her on why she had allowed such a piece of violent misogyny to be published. And nor did any of the other panellists. No wonder the right wing press get away with so much when they know that they will not come under any scrutiny.

Instead, Kuenssberg chose to ask the editor of The Sun whether Harry’s claims about the collusion between the royals and the media were true. She took the obvious denial at face value but didn’t take it any further. It was a valid question, but she should have followed up with something on this article.

Harry and Meghan says that the racist and misogynist attacks on Meghan in the British press, and the failure of the Royal Family to protect her, led to them basically fleeing the country. Clarkson’s article, published by one media outlet unscrutinised by others, makes their point for them.

Since then, the Sun has removed the article and apologised. 

At the time, I complained to the BBC in a bit of a triumph of hope over experience. I have complained many times over the years (usually about under-representation of Lib Dems) without getting a satisfactory outcome.

However, this week, I was surprised that their reply acknowledged the omission:

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Davey: Sunak asleep at the wheel

Listening to Rishi Sunak speak today, you wouldn’t think that the country is in the grip of economic turmoil and crisis in the NHS. You don’t have to go far to read of NHS trusts and boards calling major incidents, or London Ambulance saying they will only wait 45 minutes before leaving patients in hospital corridors. Everywhere there are accounts of traumatised, stressed nurses, doctors and patients in A and E departments up and down the country.

It is all very grim.

Sunak’s five priorities would fail the SMART objective test on any work training day.

He could claim he had done them without alleviating much suffering. I mean what does “NHS waiting lists will fall” actually mean for someone who has been told that they can have an appointment for their hernia in mid 2024? What does “the economy will grow” mean? A tiny decimal point which makes no measurable difference? Reduce national debt – to what, how and what will that mean for public services? And a piece of red meat for the xenophobic right about getting rid of asylum seekers. The one specific pledge, to halve inflation, seems to be going to happen anyway according to the Bank of England forecasts.

It’s all very cynical.

Ed Davey was unimpressed, saying:

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Popcorn at 5pm – Will the House of Representatives elect a Speaker today, and at what cost?

If you thought that 2023 might be a less wild political year, you would have been proved wrong just 3 days in – at least on the other side of the Atlantic.

The first act of any new session of Congress is for the House of Representatives to elect a new Speaker. Usually this is straightforward, with the leader of the party which holds the majority getting the job. Not this time. For the first time in a century, Republican Kevin McCarthy failed to achieve the required 218 votes. Which is a bit of a worry for him, seeing as he …

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Lunchtime debate: What do you think about Maths to 18?

Rishi Sunak is setting out plans to force everyone in England to study Maths until they are 18.

The BBC quotes the PM:

In a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills than ever before,” he will say.

And letting our children out into the world without those skills, is letting our children down.

Just half of 16 to 19-year-olds study maths, according to Mr Sunak – but this figure includes pupils doing science courses and those who are already doing compulsory GCSE resits in college.

Apparently no new qualifications are planned, and students will not be forced to do the A Level, so this seems at the moment to be more soundbite than policy. It’s designed to appeal to older Conservative voters who think that education has gone to the dogs since they stopped making you recite your times tables every morning.

I was thrilled to be able to ditch Maths for my final year at school, but I had to do the Scottish Higher in 5th year (when I was 17). I managed to scrape a B for my Higher, but it was pure hell. While I was always good at arithmetic, I really struggled with Calculus and anything other fairly basic Trigonometry and Geometry. Forcing me to take Maths for an extra year, when I was going to be studying languages and social sciences would have been completely counter-productive.

I am all for encouraging numeracy and analytical skills, especially in girls, but it seems to me that a one size fits all policy wouldn’t work. For some people, forcing them to study Maths all the way through school might be at the expense of a qualification that enhances their career and life chances.

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Honours for trio of Lib Dem Women

Three brilliant LIb Dem Women have been honoured for their work in the New Year’s Honours list. There may be more Lib Dems, but I can’t find any on searching the list, which was published at 10:30 pm last night.  Please let us know in the comments if you find any ore and I’ll add them into this post.

Sheila Ritchie MBE

Sheila Ritchie (pictured here with her predecessor Elspeth Attwooll) was, for now at least, one of the last contingent of Lib Dem MEPs, representing Scotland from May 2019-January 2020, but her involvement with the Lib Dems, and the Liberals before, goes back much further. I first came across her nearly 38 years ago as a student. She was so keen to involve the Liberal students in Aberdeen in the local party. She taught me and many others pretty much everything we know about campaigning and politics. As a councillor, campaigner, and more recently Convener of the Scottish Party,  she is a total liberal legend.

She is unafraid to deliver a good kick up the backside when it is needed and she inspires you to do more than you had intended.

Ed Davey said

Sheila is literally one of the greatest forces of nature I have ever been lucky enough to work with. Whether she’s coordinating volunteer activists across Scotland or fighting in the European Parliament for stronger support for agricultural and rural communities.”

The Liberal Democrats are so much stronger as a party thanks to indefatigable campaigners like Sheila. She rightly deserves this accolade, and we are so proud of her.

She took on the convenership of the Scottish Party at the beginning of 2018, at a tricky point for us. She travelled the length and breadth of the country helping local campaigns with enthusiasm and sorting out a lot of the admin stuff that had been building up as the party had fought 2 general elections, 2 Scottish elections, 2 council elections and 2 referenda in 7 years. She left the party in much greater shape when she stepped down at the beginning of last year.  She was a passionate and articulate advocate for Scotland on the Federal Board and, my goodness, she spoke truth to power when needed. She was also instrumental in developing the new disciplinary process as a member of the Disciplinary Sub-Group.

The last year has been horrible for her. In May, Keith, her husband of 43 years,  died of Cancer. A few weeks later, though, she was up in the Western Isles campaigning in a by-election and more recently supported our candidate in an Argyll and Bute Council by-election. She’s also been leading efforts to grow our membership in Scotland.

She has devoted much of her adult life to the party, often at pretty huge personal cost, and I am so delighted to see her work being recognised.

Cllr Helen Belcher OBE

Wiltshire Lib Dem Councillor Helen Belcher has been awarded an OBE for her services to the transgender community.

Helen was the Lib Dem candidate in Chippenham at the 2017 and 2019 General Elections and has written several articles for us.

In an article for Transgender Awareness Week last year she said:

I think that we, as a party, should be building a society where, to quote Paris Lees, “everyone feels safe, valued and respected”, not one that is giving in “to visceral prejudices”. Freedom to be yourself is at the core of liberalism. Without that, we have nothing to offer.

She is chair of Trans Actual UK, an organisation which aims to improve health care, recognition and media representation for trans people. In an increasingly toxic climate, Helen is one of the few trans people who gets an all too rare chance to put her side of the story. She is always reasonable, clear and persuasive in the face of often hostile questioning.

On receiving the honour she said:

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Scotland finally passes Gender Recognition Reform Bill

After 6 years of consultations, draft bills, more consultations and, finally, 3 days of debate with over 150 amendments, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill by 86 votes to 39. The Conservatives opposed the Bill, although two of their MSPs voted for it.  There were 9 SNP and 2 Labour rebels opposing it. That must be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, SNP rebellions ever.

Although the debate was often fractious, there was a lot of cross-party working on amendments to develop consensus.

Here’s Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton speaking in the debate:

All Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs voted for the measure which had the backing not just of LGBT+ organisations in Scotland, but also feminist organisations like Engender and organisations which support survivors of rape and domestic abuse. In its briefing to MSPs ahead of Stage 3, they said:

Another feature of the debate we are concerned by relates to the inference that trans inclusion, and as such trans people, pose a threat to women’s safety and experience of services. These claims are not borne out by evidence of women’s experience of services or violence at the hands of men, here in Scotland or internationally. They also risk stigmatisation and associated harm to trans people; a group who are already at increased risk of discrimination and violence.

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The question Laura Kuenssberg should have asked the editor of the Sun

Late on Friday night, the Sun published a column by Jeremy Clarkson.

You wouldn’t expect him to say anything nice about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to be honest.

Most of the article was merely his opinion on Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary. I think he’s wrong, but, again, no surprise there. He’s allowed to be.

But there was one part of that article which didn’t merely stray over the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, it stuck two fingers at them from outer space.

He described his hatred of Meghan as being deeper than his hatred of two other women, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and serial killer Rose West. These are not two women you would normally compare. Then he said that he dreams of the day when Meghan is paraded naked through the streets of every town in Britain while people chanted “Shame”at her and chucked crap at her.

Words matter and too often in the right wing press, they fuel a toxic culture which makes life less safe for every marginalised group in this country, from disabled people, to immigrants to women to trans people. This vivid description of humiliating violence to a woman, presented as an aspiration, has no place on the pages of a newspaper in a civilised society.

Most reasonable people will think that Clarkson is just being a twit again, but it will intensify the hatred of a few. We just have to hope that nobody takes his words too literally.

Jeremy Clarkson has always been obnoxious. It is what he does. The first time I wrote to him was in response to an article he wrote on women drivers a quarter of a century ago. I actually got a quite funny and self-deprecating reply from him. But that was a world away from what he wrote about Meghan.

Harry comes in for criticism too, deliberately misnamed for comic effect and portrayed as Meghan’s puppet. It’s a typical misogynist trope to assume that any woman you don’t like is somehow controlling those around her, usually with some sort of sexual temptation. And in this case there is no somehow about it. Clarkson says that explicitly.

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The Lib Dem connection to the Harry and Meghan Documentary

I was more surprised than I should have been when I watched the first episode of Harry and Meghan’s eponymous Netflix documentary. I jumped (and cheered a bit, not going to lie) when I saw someone I know being interviewed.

James Holt is now the Executive Director of Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation, which aims to “unleash the power of compassion to drive systemic cultural change.”

Liberal Democrats may remember him as the party’s former Head of Media and as a special adviser during the coalition years. He was always one of the most positive and hilarious people to work with. I knew he’d gone off to work in the office of Princes William and Harry but had missed that he had continued his work with Harry and Meghan when they moved abroad.

His old local paper, for which he once worked, the Shropshire Star, reported that he was “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new right hand man” last year:

He previously served as the couple’s UK spokesman, and has also worked with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

He also worked as head of communications for Sir Nick Clegg during his term as deputy prime minister.

The 38-year-old, who grew up in Shrewsbury, joined as a trainee reporter with the Shropshire Star in 2004, having graduated with a BA in Journalism at Lincoln University. He went on to write for the Star’s sister title, the Shrewsbury Chronicle, and during that time he spent six days embedded with the British Army in Basra.

Writing for both the Star and the Chronicle, he described coming under fire 10 times during his short stay, and learning about the deaths of two soldiers from Shropshire.

I wonder if James is the reason behind Meghan’s endorsement of Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s brilliant charity Inspiring Girls on her Spotify podcast. . Back in August, Miriam expressed her gratitude to Meghan for doing so. Writing on Instagram, she talked about how difficult it could be to get much needed celebrity endorsements for the charity:

…publicity for the charity is enormously important for us to get as many (and especially as many diverse) role models as possible – and endorsements from famous women bring publicity that translates into many more role models for the girls. But I despair that if I ask a busy nurse or teacher for their support, they normally do it there and then, even though they have little time and resources – and yet if I ask a famous woman with huge teams and endless resources, I often need to beg them for it!

It is super-unusual in the world of social causes to find somebody with international projection who, as Meghan Markle did this week in her podcast website, will showcase a charity like Inspiring Girls without having even been asked for it. British newspapers have criticised her podcast as per usual. But I take my hat off to her for her generosity – if only other women at her level would act more like her on this!

I am sure it will surprise none of you that I have a lot of time for Meghan and Harry. What is not to love about a fellow liberal minded feminist? I think the way that Meghan in particular is being demonised in the press is disgraceful and rooted in misogyny and racism. Honestly, if you think that Meghan is our biggest problem at the moment and not the divisive, demonising, witch-hunting political culture stoked by the worst government we have had in our lifetimes then I seriously question your values and priorities.

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186 days – my misadventures with Long Covid

186 days. Not far off half a year. That’s how long it’s been since I first had Covid symptoms.

We had tried very hard to avoid it for 26 months, but our son going to a Marina and Diamonds concert in Dublin at the end of May was always going to be a high risk endeavour. Within days we were all suffering. At first I was the best off of all of us so I was running round after everyone else. Then on 5th June, I could barely get up.

The salutary tale from my experience is that if you are election agent for multiple wards in your local area, get your expenses done immediately after the election. Mine were all done and signed by the candidates before I became ill. I just had to print off my declarations, sign and submit before the deadline on 10th June. I could, thankfully submit them online, but that simple task was herculean and broke me on several occasions before I finally managed it.

Since then, I haven’t got that much better. The cough may have disappeared after a month, but I have yet to manage to spend a whole day out of bed, and if I overdo it, the punishment is vicious. Eight days ago, I went out for a special family lunch. I did get home a couple of hours  later than I’d planned but I didn’t recover from that until midweek. I had a meeting to attend online on the day after but I couldn’t speak reliably. Words were getting lost somewhere between my brain and my mouth.  I had to message someone else and ask them to make the point I needed to make.

The crushing, all-encompassing fatigue is the absolute worst, but it has a backing chorus of pain, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness and gastric issues which, seemingly randomly, throw themselves into the spotlight on any given day.

I reckon that on a good day, I’m operating at about 25-35% of my pre Covid capacity. On a bad day, I am flat out.

Being able to do something one day is absolutely no guarantee that you will be able to do it the next. Some days I can write well in small bursts, but there was one day recently when it took me an hour to put up a relatively simple post on here.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton presses Sturgeon for action on violence against women

On Sunday 20th November, Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post outlined the most horrific failures of several public services towards Adrienne McCartney, a victim of domestic abuse who died by suicide earlier this year.

The paper reports how the Police dismissed her calls for help and then arrested her, holding her in dreadful conditions, over a social media post.  Then prosecutors  did a deal with her husband to drop the most serious charges before failing to ask for a non harassment order. And then when she tried to get help for her deteriorating mental health,  the NHS could not provide it.

Adrienne’s lawyer told the paper:

“In all my years working in the field of domestic abuse, this case is the worst. Adrienne was let down by every agency she turned to. It is unforgivable.

“She should be here today and the fact that she is not is an indictment of the system and how it addresses domestic abuse. What happened to Adrienne keeps me awake at night but tragically she is not the first and, unless there is dramatic change, she will not be the last.”

He also described his frustration on the night Adrienne was arrested:

“She eventually ­managed to get a phone call to me. When I told officers that I would happily bring Adrienne to the police station myself to answer any questions they had, I was told to ‘f*** off’. That is also currently the subject of an official complaint.

“So a young mother is taken from her home late at night, in front of her children, handcuffed, only to be released after several hours without any charge and this, it has to be stressed, is a ­documented victim of domestic abuse.”

This week’s Sunday Post had details of a letter Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton wrote to the First Minister after reading Adrienne’s story, alongside calls for action from MSPs from all parties. Alex repeated our call for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms:

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Lib Dems mark Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today we join organisations around the world in honouring those trans and gender diverse people who have lost their lives in the past year as a result of violence on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

327 trans people murdered. Most of them from marginalised groups. You can read their names and some details about their lives and what happened to them here. Half came from just three countries, Mexico, the US and Brazil. Read each one of their names and think of that life needlessly lost and then go and do your bit to create a world where this doesn’t happen, where trans people can live without fear.

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.

There are very few names from Europe on this list and none from the UK. However, this does not mean that we are off the hook. Figures released last month showed that hate crimes against transgender people recorded by Police in England and Wales had soared by 56% in the past year.  It’s hardly surprising in a toxic atmosphere where here are daily anti trans stories in the media.  Then we had the revolting spectacle this Summer of Conservative leadership candidates falling over themselves to be the loudest anti trans voice.

Here’s how some Liberal Democrats have marked the day, starting with our official group for LGBT+ people:

(Photo of lit candles with liberal democrat bird in trans colours with text:
Today marks Trans Day of Remembrance, a deeply poignant observance for the LGBTQ+ community as we recognise, reflect and honour the lives of our trans siblings who were sadly taken from us too soon, particularly the 390 recorded lives lost since last year.

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It’s Equal Pay Day – the financial double whammy facing women

Today is the year when, because of the gender pay gap, women are effectively working for free for the rest of the year. Data from the Fawcett Society shows that the gender pay gap this year is 11.3%, slightly down on last year.

This arises for several reasons. Despite legislation outlawing this being passed more than half a century ago. women are often paid less than men for work of equal value.

Women also suffer from unfair barriers to career advancement because they are more likely to have caring responsibilities. This could be addressed by requiring employers to allow more flexible ways of working.

The Fawcett Society has produced a briefing which outlines the extent of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to reduce it. They call for:

Improve pay gap reporting by:
Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for employers
Requiring employers to publish action plans to tackle their pay gaps, so that
real action is taken toreduce pay inequality with accountability and
transparency built in

Lowering the threshold for pay gap reporting to 100 employees, bringing the UK closer to the standards set by other countries

Require employers to offer flexible work arrangements as default and advertise jobs with flexibility built-in

Reform the childcare system to increase affordability whilst ensuring our children get the best start in life

Ban questions about salary history during recruitment and require salary bands to be displayed on job advertisements

Introduce a free standing and legally enforceable ‘Right to Know’ what a male colleague is paid for equal work

Not only are women at the sharp end of the Gender Pay Gap, but they are also being disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis. Scottish feminist organisation Engender has produced a report on this, calling for targeted support for women on low incomes, particularly those with caring responsibilities who are likely to have higher energy needs. They explain why this contributes to greater inequality between men and women:

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Gavin Esler and Dominic Grieve at Unlock Democracy AGM

Unlock Democracy is an organisation which has many of the same aims on reforming our political system as we do. In fact there are some familiar faces in high positions in the organisation. Tom Brake, former Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington, is their Chief Executive and our former Director of Campaigns Shaun Roberts, is their Head of Campaigns and Digital.

Today they held their AGM which was opened with a session on the dire state of our democracy and the future of Britain with former Conservative MP Dominic Grieve and former BBC journalist Gavin Esler. IF you take nothing else away from this article, remember this from Dominic Grieve:

Lib Dems were an important moderating factor during the coalition. Civil servants were saying that this was the first time in years there had been evidence based decision making.

In his opening remarks, Dominic Grieve concentrated on how we had got to the mess we are in, saying that the fundamental irrationality of current state of politics is depressing.

In his day, he said, the Conservatives used to anchor on principles of rationality but have abandoned that over the past 6 years, leading to Liz Truss fantasy economics.

He looked back over the past three decades and argued that when things have gone wrong it’s when politicians have done things which in hindsight look irrational

Thatcher started to undermine our role in EU and opened door to brexiteers to persuade us to vote to leave – a massively irrational decision.

He said that the SNP’s commitment to independence is similarly irrational and will not deliver what they aim for.

Politicians, society, media engage in displacement activity rather than tackle the real issues. Neither Government nor opposition can properly articulate the underlying problems that need to be fixed, crucially around the mess of Brexit.

He now favours PR, but says that electoral reform needs a culture change. People accept that politics is about compromise and adjustment rather than delivering set out programmes

He concluded that the current situation is making us poorer, threatening our future and our ability to influence the world in a positive way

Gavin Esler broadly agreed with this analysis. He compared UK failure to face up to Brexit by using distraction to Trumpism.

He looked at how clearly incapable people thrived in our system How do you get to be Gavin Williamson, forced to resign by 3 Prime ministers in 4 years.

He quoted our Layla Moran, saying that Williamson was the 80th minister to resign or be sacked in 2022 and if this was a school it would be in special measures.

He argued for systemic change to stop the situation where in his home county of Kent it takes 33,000 votes to get a Conservative MP, and 250,000 to get a Labour one.

They were asked how to bring about change.

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Caroline Pidgeon to step down as London Assembly Member in 2024

Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon announced today at the London Regional Conference that she will not stand for re-election in 2024. Later she tweeted:

Caroline will be greatly missed by colleagues from all parties, including London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom she stood against when he was first elected in 2016:

Similar praise came from Conservative and Green Assembly members;

And Liberal Democrats were keen to thank her for all she has done over the years:

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Hamilton highlights – reflections on a much needed in-person Conference

For the first time since Spring 2019, the Scottish Liberal Democrats had a proper Conference where we all met in person.  The snap General Election put paid to our Autumn Conference that year.

It was indescribably brilliant to see everyone. I feel a million years older than I did in 2019,  but nobody else seems to have aged at all.

The party was in incredibly good form. The Council elections saw us gain twenty councillors, with 255,000 new people represented by a Liberal Democrat. On Friday, four of them, Sally Pattle, our first ever councillor in West Lothian, Aude Boubaker-Calder from Fife, Desmond Bouse from Aberdeen and the irrepressible Jack Caldwell from Edinburgh Leith Walk gave presentations about their first five months in the job.

Here are some of the highlights from BBC’s Reporting Scotland

Alex Cole-Hamilton, in his first Conference as leader, pushed his plan to get us 150 councillors in the 2027 council elections, 150 rising, in a take on Liam Neeson’s speech from the film taken:

I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. I will look for you, I will find you and I will make you into a Liberal Democrat Councillor.

The first debate was on giving children in poverty a fairer start in life and eradicate the feeling of exclusion many feel. The motion included a wide range of measures from providing study space in libraries to a voucher scheme to give them access to the extra curricular activities which build skills and improve wellbeing.  Usually the chairs of the early debates frantically descend on the cafe and exhibition to try to dragoon people into speaking in them, but this time they were all over-subscribed.

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Boris Johnson’s statement is full of poison

If I were Rishi Sunak, I wouldn’t feel too happy about Boris Johnson’s statement tonight. The disgraced former PM said that he had 102 MPs willing to nominate him, though only a few shy of 60 have been willing to own that publicly. However, he said that he was not going to submit his nomination because:

You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

There’s an undercurrent of “and neither can you, Rishi.”

He is showing the likely soon to be PM that he is going to have some shenanigans to deal with in the parliamentary party.

And look how he puts in people’s minds that Rishi is a wee bit short of democratic legitimacy:

I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

Whether his group of acolytes would actually force a general election remains to be seen, but he’s making sure that Rishi knows that he could if we wanted to.

Some will think that this was his cunning plan all along – to show off his own power.

This way he gets to lie on Caribbean beaches when he should be in Parliament, and make a fortune on the speaking circuit in the States, while being a thorn in the side of his successor. He might consider that a good position to be in.

For the rest of us, it signals more political chaos and distraction from what the people of this country need.

Our Deputy Leader, Daisy Cooper, has repeated our call for a General Election now, calling the Tory leadership contest a farce:

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David Gauke suggests cross-party action to force a General Election

Until the 2019 General Election, David Gauke had been Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire for 14 years. One of the voices of reason on Brexit, he ended up losing the Conservative whip just before Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament when the opposition seized control of the parliamentary timetable to pass Hilary Benn’s Act aimed at preventing a no deal Brexit.

Like most of the country, he recognises the dangers of allowing Boris Johnson to return to Number 10 and has come up with an idea. He wants Ed Davey and Keir Starmer to invite Johnson’s opponents amongst Conservative MPs to force a General Election. In return, Labour and the Lib Dems would not oppose those Conservative MPs with majorities over 10,000 in that election if they stood as Independents against new Conservative candidates.

Mr Gauke set out his thinking in a Twitter thread:

If Boris Johnson became PM again, given the views of many Tory MPs, this is what I’d be tempted to say if I was Keir Starmer or Ed Davey: “The PM is not fit for office. Nor is the Tory Party. We know that many honourable Tory MPs feel the same way. Now is the time for all MPs who put the national interest first to come together & force a General Election. It is a lot to ask Tory MPs to do this but, because this is a national emergency, we are prepared to make a bold & generous offer. We say to those Tory MPs with majorities bigger than , who are motivated by national interest & not just saving their seat, that if they vote with us in supporting a GE, we will not stand against them in their seats if they run as independents.

This offer might just persuade a sufficient number of Conservative MPs – who cannot face being led by Johnson again – to leave the party & back a GE. The other parties might be foregoing some seats they’d win but they’d get their GE (and plenty more seats).

I get where he is coming from.   Between us, Lib Dems, Labour and Greens took over 14,900 votes in South West Herts in 2019. Gauke, standing as an Independent, was beaten by the Conservative by 14,200. We are agreed that we must have a General Election now, but Lib Dems would argue that  whoever is the Conservative leader, not just Boris.

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Ed Davey: Country wants a General Election

“I have just publicly congratulated a lettuce.” Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would write. But after six weeks in which the Government had descended into a destructive and self-destructive parody, it seemed appropriate. The Daily Star’s “Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce” livestream was childish, but appealed to our sense of the ridiculous as our politics became more absurd.

My plan for yesterday evening was to watch the Doctor Who Easter special. I knew it would shred my emotions, so I’d been putting it off, but the thirteenth Doctor’s tenure ends on Sunday so I’d better get on with it.  Anyway, Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon started to explain the bizarre events in the Commons voting lobbies and I ended up binging on the news channels until I fell asleep.

Of all the weird things about last night, the strangest was that the vote didn’t even matter. It was on an opposition motion, which the Government usually just ignores. What on earth possessed them to make such a big deal out of it when the Parliamentary Party was already in a highly sensitive state? Apparently making it an issue of confidence would nullify any of the rebels’ letters, but chucking them out of the parliamentary party would surely reduce the threshold and invite more letters from disgruntled MPs.

Not content with crashing the economy with the binfire budget, they turned in on themselves.

The Conservative Party is in so much pain that it is not capable of governing. It really needs to go and lie down in a darkened room for a few generations until it sorts itself out. Yet they are about to inflict their third PM in three years on to us.

I am not convinced that the 1922 Committee has thought through its high nomination requirement, which has presumably been set to keep out Boris Johnson. There is every possibility that you have one person with the backing of 100 MPs, and two others just short of that. They will be just as split as ever and we have seen how they behave when they all hate each other.

The country shouldn’t have to deal with this. Every household in the country on low and middle incomes will be paying more for borrowing, energy, basic costs of living because of Liz Truss’s folly. And the folly of MPs who allowed her to go forward to the members.

Ed Davey, Daisy Cooper and Christine Jardine have been commenting on various aspects of the Conservative chaos

Ed  has been doing the media rounds this afternoon making the case for a general election so that the country can finally get some decent government. Here he is on the BBC, Sky and ITV:

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Happy 100th Birthday to the BBC

The BBC turns 100 today. We’ll all have our special memories of it. For me, my first ever favourite tv programme was Play School which I wanted to watch every single day. One of my favourite presenters was Floella Benjamin, now of course a Lib Dem peer. The BBC shared a video of her singing Happy Birthday with Hamble, my favourite of the toys

Blue Peter was such a big part of my life as a child, and particularly the annual appeals which gave everyone a chance to help others.

It was watching Roots in 1976 and seeing the appalling depiction of slavery that started me off on the journey to being a Liberal. The Doctor encouraged me along that road with his curiosity, respect for others and eccentricity.

The BBC World Service has kept people informed in good times and bad.

It is revered across the world, for the quality and range of its programmes. We need to protect its funding model and status as a unique public service broadcaster.

Senior Lib Dems have marked the centenary.

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Olney: PM’s apology brings nothing but cold comfort

Yesterday afternoon, Penny Mordaunt was given an impossible job – defending the indefensible. She was asked to deputise for the Prime Minister in the Commons for Labour’s urgent question on the sacking of the Chancellor.

Mordaunt did much better than Truss ever could have done. She had a reasonable balance of “**** you”, humility, and even a bit of sincerity in the face of quite an onslaught from opposition MPs. It is hard to imagine anyone having a go at the opposition when they were part of a government that had made a crap economic situation much worse.

Labour missed a trick …

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Olney: Jeremy Hunt expects people to pay for Conservative mistakes

Jeremy Hunt’s media round this morning was sobering stuff. Tax rises and public spending cuts seem to be the order of the day.  While he might talk about protecting the most vulnerable, Conservatives have never been good at understanding how to do that.

Our Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney had this to say:

This may be a new Chancellor but it’s still the same old Conservative party whose failed economic experiment has cost this country billions.  Now Jeremy Hunt expects struggling families and pensioners to pay the price for those mistakes.

Thousands of families are facing increased mortgage costs and rising prices at the checkouts while our struggling public services will have their spending slashed.

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Ed Davey calls for General Election after Chancellor leaves office

We know now that Kwasi Kwarteng is out as Chancellor just hours after Downing Street told the BBC’s Chris Mason that he and Liz Truss were “in lockstep.” Whether he jumped or was pushed is for the journalists to work out.

I would be very surprised if we see them leaving Government in lockstep together, which seems unfair given that he was basically implementing the policies she put forward during her leadership campaign. In fact, he blinked first when the markets first went wild, putting out a statement after what was described at the time as a heated row between him and Truss.

It’s going to be interesting to see who she appoints as Chancellor – and who would be willing to do the job. Could we see Penny Mordaunt in No 11, or some  have suggested Jeremy Hunt.

We just have to wait to see what Liz Truss says at the press conference later this afternoon. She’s not a great one for humility and if there was ever an occasion that called for that in huge amounts, this is it.

While a u-turn, or partial u-turn (a j-turn?) on the Budget of Chaos will likely calm down the markets, the damage has been done to people’s mortgages and they will be feeling that for years to come.

Ed Davey has called for a General Election to get this lot out of office:

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Liam McArthur wins right to bring forward Assisted Dying Bill to Scottish Parliament

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has earned the right to introduce a Members’ Bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people in the Scottish Parliament.

His proposal is supported by 36 out of the 129 MSPs.

Last month Liam  published the outcome of his public consultation on the proposals.  Out of 14,038 responses, 76% of individuals who responded expressed full support with a further 2% partially supporting a change in the law.

Mr McArthur will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit to draft the actual bill which he hopes to introduce in Parliament next year.

Liam said:

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all MSPs who have put their names behind my proposed change in the law. The support among colleagues has been deeply heartening, and demonstrates the growing recognition that there is a need to end the ban on assisted dying in Scotland.

“The Scottish public has long been ahead of the parliament on this issue. The public consultation on these proposals, published last month, demonstrated that there is strong and passionate support for offering people more choice at the end of their life.

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Cabinet Minister suggests tax cuts for women who have more children

One thing that we have all learned in recent years is to be wary of saying that the Conservatives have jumped the shark because they will likely do something even worse the next day.

However today’s Sun report, that an actual current Cabinet Minister has suggested that women be given tax cuts to persuade them to have more children in order to “wean the country off its addiction to immigration” is a definite contender for the shark jumping accolade. This is an idea that comes from Orban’s Hungary, where women with more than four children don’t have to pay any tax for the rest of their lives.

Where do you begin with this one?

Let’s start with the fact that a series of unfortunate  Conservative Government actions,  culminating in the recent crashing of the economy, has made it increasingly difficult for any young person contemplating having a family to either buy a house or rent one that is suitable for a family. I was talking to a family member who had been hoping to buy a house next year. Their predicted mortgage payments had almost doubled, making the prospect impossible.

This also from a Government whose actions have ensured that 27% of children in the UK are living in poverty – and that was before the cost of living crisis. Three quarters of those children have parents who are in work. A perfect storm of benefit cuts (including the despicable removal of benefits for third and subsequent children), soaring childcare food and energy costs are about to make their completely preventable suffering much worse.

Not only that, but women already pay most of the price for having children in terms of lost earnings over their working life and pensions after as well as facing maternity discrimination in the workplace.

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Just deserts at Conservative Conference

Last week Ed Davey called on the Conservatives to cancel their Conference and sort out the economic mess they had created.

After days of rebellion, doom and u-turns, I bet they wish they had listened to him.

They aren’t getting the best press, that’s for sure, but then they don’t deserve it.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s feeble attempts at humour in his speech belie any contrition. And I doubt many of those who are now condemned to years of high mortgage payments will feel that either he or Liz Truss truly do get it.

The u-turns on the 45p tax rate and the publication of the OBR forecasts, although major events, are not the only things that need to change.

The Conservatives are showing themselves up as way nastier than they were when Theresa May gave her warning to Conservative Conference a whole twenty years ago.  This generation of leaders seem to have taken it as encouragement to become even worse.

For example, party Chairman Jake Berry had this to say to people struggling to pay their bills this Winter:

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Day 1 as lab rats: some views of the Budget

We knew yesterday’s budget was coming. Most of its measures had been trailed. Gone are the days when MPs find out what the Government is doing actually in the Chamber, even though that is what is supposed to happen.

The reality still came as a shock, though. You would expect me as a good old fashioned tax and spend liberal to be horrified by a reckless spending spree that made the rich richer and some of the poor very much poorer. I lived through the 80s when the last iteration of trickle down economics failed miserably. Mary Reid looked at the theory yesterday and found no evidence that it has ever worked.

This budget is exactly the last thing you want to see when we are on the precipice of recession. I believe in a state that uses its power to ensure that everyone’s basic needs to shelter, food, healthcare at the very least are met. We should not be tolerating hunger and poverty in this day and age and the measures announced yesterday will make life much harder for those on low incomes, particularly if they are working part time and are on Universal Credit.

But don’t just take my word for it. The way the markets tumbled and the pound crashed to its lowest level against the dollar for nearly three decades showed that they had no confidence in this either. The Guardian reports Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies as saying that the Chancellor was betting the house:

Today, the chancellor announced the biggest package of tax cuts in 50 years without even a semblance of an effort to make the public finance numbers add up. Instead, the plan seems to be to borrow large sums at increasingly expensive rates, put government debt on an unsustainable rising path and hope that we get better growth.

Former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, who first joined the Treasury in 1979 said the budget was “not ideal.”

And Conservative columnist Tim Montgomerie welcomed us to our new lives as lab rats:

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Scottish Conference to debate a 4 day working week and nuclear power

Regional and national conferences will give Liberal Democrat members a much needed chance to get together over the next couple of months.

Last week, the preliminary agenda for Scottish Conference was published. The three day event will take place in Hamilton between 28 and 30 October.

There are going to be some controversial debates.  Proposals to reverse our long standing opposition to new nuclear power stations,  backing a 4 day working week, and a new model requiring local authorities to provide new homes for social buy sit alongside  more classical liberal fare on restricting employers rights to snoop on employees working at home and giving more powers to local government.

Conference will also debate a constitutional amendment, proposed by current leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, that future Scottish leaders should be allowed to be either an MP or MSP and future deputy leaders could be councillors as well as parliamentarians.

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