Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

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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Life resumes…..

It’s been an intense 11 days  since the Queen died.

For many people, a national bereavement takes a similar pattern to any other. The adrenaline gets you through to the funeral and it’s only afterwards that you have to adjust to the loss and its consequences. However we may feel about Queen Elizabeth’s legacy or, indeed, the institution of monarchy itself, it will take some time to get used to the new normal, not least because we have a brand new monarch and a brand new Government.

Anyone under the age of about 75 will not be able to remember having any other monarch than Queen Elizabeth. It’s  astonishing that we have had two Queens, covering 134 of the last 185 years. Both reigned during periods of intense social and economic change. I was thinking about this yesterday  as I woke up and looked up exactly how long they had been on the throne. Victoria had been on the throne for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days – and Elizabeth for 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. In all the wall to wall coverage I’ve absorbed since 8th September, I hadn’t heard that mentioned. Or maybe I’m the only one that finds it worthy of note.

We haven’t in any sort of memory had a new Head of State and Prime Minister in such quick succession. Elizabeth had wartime giant Winston Churchill as her first PM. When George V died, Stanley Baldwin was on his third prime ministerial stint. The last liberal Prime Minister, Asquith, had a couple of years under his belt before Edward VII died and Viscount Melbourne was extremely experienced when the 19 year old Victoria acceded.

The new King Charles has had decades to learn his trade and he has acknowledged that he can’t be as vocal on issues close to his heart as he was as Prince of Wales. A climate change denying Government is bound to be a test.

The cost of living emergency has not gone away. It is biting the most vulnerable every single day.  Inflation may have dipped a tiny bit down to 9.9% in August but households are still finding that the basics in life are a lot more expensive than they were last year before you even think about heating your house.

The last big political announcement was Liz Truss’s plan to deal with meteoric energy price rises. She intends to limit price rise so that the average household will pay no more than £2500. It’s likely you will pay more if you live in an energy inefficient, damp house. That includes many people on low incomes in private lets and social housing.

Ed Davey called Truss’s plan a “phony freeze” saying:

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Martin Thomas reflects on Royal Deeside

When I was a student, my Summer job was as a youth hostel warden in Braemar. In July, I wandered round the gardens of Balmoral when they were open to the public. In August, if I was off on a Sunday morning, I’d take the bus to Crathie Kirk to see the Royal Family go to Church and was actually able to attend the service myself.

I was used to seeing members of the Royal Family in the village. Locals were keen to give them privacy on their much needed break.

Martin writes of his own love of Royal Deeside. He’s felt the benefit of its restorative qualities for decades, in good times and bad. I have my own reasons to be grateful to this beautiful part of the world. I met my husband there. He walked into the hostel for a night, stayed for a week and a half and left with a lot more than he had bargained for.

Anyway, back to Martin’s tribute:

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Dick Newby: The Queen championed community, generosity, kindness and service to others

The next in our series of tributes to the Queen comes from our Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby. He talked of her serenity in times of trauma and the values of

My Lords, it is only a matter of weeks since your Lordships’ House met to pay tribute to the Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee. On that occasion, we knew that the Queen was already in frail health, but nobody contemplated that her reign had such a short period ahead of it. Because the Queen is the only monarch most people have known and was a permanent, reassuring presence in a challenging and rapidly changing world, her death has clearly come to millions as a great shock. For all but the oldest among us, a hitherto ever-present feature of British life has been removed and a deep sense of loss is felt not just by my generation, but by many of our children and grandchildren, for whom one might have thought that the Queen was a distant and possibly irrelevant figure.

What was the basis of this universal appeal? I suggest that it is because she demonstrated qualities that appeal across and down the ages. She was constant. As the world changed, as Prime Ministers and Presidents came and went, she exuded a sense of serenity and calm and, in times of national trauma and tragedy, a sense that these difficulties were surmountable, that they should be met with fortitude and that they would pass. She was unwavering in her commitment to the service of the nation and to her duty to represent its traditions and values, but she was sensitive to changing times, realising that the monarchy too had to change—had to be more open, more accessible and more accountable for everything it did. She was empathetic. For someone whose daily life was as different as it is possible to be from that of the vast majority of her subjects, she had an ability to communicate with them as individuals, to put them at ease and to make them feel truly special.

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Autumn Conference is cancelled

This afternoon, Federal Board met to discuss a recommendation from Federal Conference Committee that our  Autumn Conference should be cancelled. It was due to take place in Brighton from 17-20 September. The sad death of the Queen, and her funeral on 19th September, on the penultimate day, meant that  FCC had to think about what to do. They spent a lot of time looking at all sorts of options, working with party staff.

Both Federal Board and Federal Conference Committee are made up of people who love going to Conference. It’s one of the great loves of my life. There is nothing like the joy of being amongst the Lib Dem family. It’s not something I would take away from anyone lightly. And that is exactly the same for everyone else involved in the decision.

At the heart of our discussions was the impact on members, emotional and financial and the Conference Access Fund will be pressed into operation to help those with unrefundable costs. The more donations it gets, the more people it can help. Had I been going, I’d have been going out for dinner and drinking in the bar, so I will certainly be donating some of that money that I would have spent anyway to help others.

Nick Da Costa, the Chair of FCC, sent this email to members registered for Conference earlier. The text is below.

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Layla Moran’ shares constituents’ memories of the Queen

Next up in our parliamentarians’ tributes to the Queen is Layla Moran. She shared some memories of the Queen sent to her by constituents, including her response to a wee girl who asked her why she wasn’t wearing a crown.

 

The full text is below:

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“Phony Freeze” – Ed Davey calls out Government as bills double from last year

Ed Davey has accused the Conservatives of bringing in a “phony freeze” on energy bills, after it emerged the average family will see their heating costs almost double this winter compared to last year.

Here he is challenging the Prime Minister:

Under the plans set out by Liz Truss today, energy costs will be capped at £2,500 a year for the average home, almost double the £1,277 the cap was set at last October. It is also an increase of over £500 on the current price cap.

Liberal Democrats were the first to call for energy bills to be properly frozen by keeping the current cap in place, funded by a tougher windfall tax on the record profits of oil and gas companies.

Ed said:

This phony freeze will still leave struggling families and pensioners facing impossible choices this winter as energy bills almost double.

Liz Truss and the Conservatives are choosing to allow this huge hike to people’s heating costs, while refusing to properly tax the eye-watering profits of oil and gas companies.

This is a deliberate choice and it is the wrong one. People are furious that once again the Conservatives are on the side of oil and gas giants making record profits rather than families struggling to make ends meet.

The point about a cap being funded at least in part by a windfall tax is an important one. Why should huge energy companies get an unexpected £170 billion bonanza and not have to contribute at all, yet a household on the average wage gets a huge hike in their bills this Winter?

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Lord help us all….Lib Dems react to new Cabinet

So Liz Truss is now ensconced in Downing Street appointing her new Cabinet. And it looks like it is going to be one of the most socially as well as economically conservative governments in over quarter of a century. This is somewhat surprising given that she is the first Prime Minister of my lifetime who is younger than me.

After a 1000 mile round trip to see the Queen, she went  to her private Commons office  to send Rishi Sunak supporters Grant Shapps, Steve Barclay and Dominic Raab packing.

Every time a new Conservative PM announces their top team, you think it couldn’t get any worse. Remember when Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary? And then when Boris in turn made Priti Patel Home Secretary.

So far, Liz Truss has made some very worrying appointments.

First of all, someone who opposes abortion and same sex marriage to health:

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Another day, another new Conservative Prime Minister to muck up our lives

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are in for an absolute treat today. It’s more of a faff to get to Balmoral than a quick spin up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, but the journey from Aberdeen through Royal Deeside is absolutely gorgeous. The heather in the hills round about Aboyne is particularly stunning, even if it is, as forecast, tipping it down.

I am so glad that they are going north to see the Queen. The 96 year old monarch has earned the right to say that they should come to her.

I wonder what arrangements have been made for Boris and Carrie to get back from Balmoral. Normally the outgoing PM gets a taxi from Buckingham Palace. Will the estate manager drop them in Ballater so they can get the bus back to Aberdeen to catch the Easyjet back down south? Probably not, but it’s an amusing thought.

Much has been said about the new Prime Minister’s bulging in tray. Competing economic, energy, international and health crises require urgent action. I don’t think we are emphasising enough, though, the extent to which all these issues have been made worse by the foolish actions of the Conservative Party in Government since 2015.  From David Cameron’s ill-advised pledge to hold a referendum on our EU membership, to Theresa May’s and Boris Johnson’s choice to pursue the most extreme form of Brexit, they have helped create much tougher economic circumstances than in similar economies.

Sectors like social care are falling apart because of their anti-immigrant ethos. As care workers went back to the EU, our disabled and elderly friends and family found that the help that they relied on disappeared.

Boris Johnson’s boasterish farewell speech this morning didn’t mention this. He didn’t get Brexit done. He left a predictably impossible situation in Northern Ireland and the new PM intends to take the nuclear option of breaking international law rather than find a more pragmatic solution.  Deaths from Covid in the UK are the highest in Europe and the long term consequences of their pretence that the pandemic is over are being felt by too many people.

It takes some brass neck to deliver such a bullish speech when you have been forced from office in disgrace after the resignation of half of your government. Tim Farron summed it up this morning:

Jo Swinson said back in 2019 that the worst thing about Boris Johnson was that he just didn’t care. He simply couldn’t be bothered to understand how his Government’s actions affected people. Liz Truss, similarly, shows no sign of giving a damn and she doesn’t have anything like the charisma of her predecessor.

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Your last chance to put in a question for Party Leaders at Conference

Do you fancy putting Party President Mark Pack on the spot? Or any other party committee chair?

Or asking Ed Davey something important to you in his leader’s question and answer session?

Maybe you want to ask Federal Conference Committee about making Conference more accessible, or affordable.. Maybe you want more information about the party’s diversity strategy from the Federal People Development Committee. Or perhaps you want to ask Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain about what MPs are doing on a particular issue.

You only have until 1pm tomorrow to submit your question. Do so here.

One of the advantages of asking a question is that you get the chance to do a follow-up actually in the Conference hall. This can be a really good way of getting the feel of speaking at Conference.

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Tributes to paid to former Brentwood Councillor Karen Chilvers

The world has lost another brilliant liberal. Former Brentwood Lib Dem Councillor and Parliamentary candidate Karen Chilvers died on Wednesday at just 51 years old. She had a stroke at the end of July and subsequent complications were just too much for her body to deal with.

We never met in real life, but for over a decade she has been a cheerful, supportive, friendly presence on Facebook and I loved reading about her adventures with her dogs Louis, Bailey and Tiffany.

Karen had had many health issues over the years and she would often talk about her frustrations about trying to get round an inaccessible world.

Karen was a much-loved Councillor in Brentwood between 2007 and 2021. I remember how devastated she was when she lost her seat in 2011, but she won it back the following year.

Her colleague David Kendall paid tribute to her in The Echo

Karen was a driving force of energy in the Brentwood Liberal Democrats over many years and encouraged a number of people to stand for the Council and helped to get them elected.

She was a champion for many vulnerable people in our community particularly on disability and equality issues.

She also helped many people on planning, housing and environmental matters.

“She led the campaign with residents to stop the housing development in Honeypot Lane and was a key figure in the campaign to stop “Go Ape” from changing the face of Thorndon Country Park.

Back in 2012, she appeared on ITV quiz show The Chase, as I wrote here:

Karen, pictured here with her dog Louis, was incredibly calm and cool as she answered the quick-fire questions. I was very impressed with her performance. She has written about her experience here.

She wrote for us back in 2013 when the BBC discovered her dog Bailey’s Twitter account. For Karen, her beloved dogs helped her become closer to her constituents. Being an approachable councillor was incredibly important to her.

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Sweet 16: Happy Birthday to LDV

Sixteen years ago today, a new website appeared on the scene. Liberal Democrat Voice’s first piece suggested Simon Hughes was “certain” to be challenged for the Party Presidency.

Word reaches the Voice that weeks before the position had been advertised in Lib Dem News, party officials in Cowley Street received a call requesting a copy of the nomination papers for party President – the caller was not acting on behalf of Simon Hughes.

Word also reaches us that one potential candidate is positioning himself to blitz Autumn Conference with an army of supporters bearing nomination papers, to seize the momentum.

A Presidential contest is no bad thing – though there is an argument that there are better ways to spend the money. The Voice has been told that a proposal is being put to the Federal Executive to double the campaign expenditure limit – to  £5000 per candidate.

Since then, we have been there in excellent, good, bad and absolutely bloody awful times. We’ve published 34033 posts and 491588 comments.

The make-up of the team has changed a lot over the years, but it has always put a huge amount of time and effort into bringing you a flavour of liberal ideas and news about what’s going on in the party. I am particularly grateful to the current team, Mark, Mary, Andy, Charley as creative, imaginative and eloquent day editors, Tom Arms our insightful foreign affairs editor and Ryan and Alex who keep the site running and bills paid. I’ve not been well this past wee while and they have been brilliant at keeping the site going.

Thank you, too, for reading and contributing to the site. If you haven’t written for us before, check out our guidelines for writers here.

Here’s a highlight from each year to mark our Sweet 16.

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“I can’t have her starving to death” – Carer Clare describes energy bill terror

We’ve mentioned several times before on this site about the impact of rising fuel bills on disabled people. It’s not just that if you are less mobile you need more heating, it’s about charging up wheelchairs, and running life sustaining equipment like feeding pumps.

Clare Steel* is a Labour Councillor in West Dunbartonshire. She cares for her 15 year old daughter Katie, who has complex medical conditions which mean she can’t walk, talk or swallow.

Katie depends on nine separate pieces of electrical equipment to keep her alive and make sure she can get washed and go up and down the stairs and move around and communicate- the very basic things required for human dignity.

Yesterday Clare spoke to Radio Scotland about her absolute terror about how she is going to pay the bills after 1st October. Right now I want to bundle up every single Conservative MP and put them in a room and make them listen to her. And I also want every person in the country to hear it so that they can understand the reality carers and disabled people are facing. You can listen here from about 20 minutes in.

Clare talked about the sort of equipment Katie has:

“Katie requires 24 hours care. That involves lots of medical equipment. Because Katie can’t eat, she has a pump which pumps high calorie milk into her bowel for 16 hours a day.”

She also has an 18 stone electric wheelchair which has a massive energy gobbling battery pack to get around as she can’t walk, a chairlift to get her up the stairs to her bed, an electric bath chair so that she can get in and out of the bath safely, a special bed and aids which enable her to communicate.

Every piece of equipment in Katie’s life allows Katie to be alive and function daily. I don’t have a choice about having these on charge constantly.

Clare was in tears when she asked:

How am I going to be able to keep Katie alive day in day out and not worry about how I am going to pay my energy bills. It’s just the reality. My worry is paying my electricity bill to have Katie’s machines. That’s not even including the cost of heat.

We don’t have options. There is no options. I was looking at a bath chair online which I could blow up so I might not have to use the bath chair, but that is only one thing. Katie’s wheelchair is 18 stone with a massive battery pack. Do I tell her she can’t have independence?

She needs her suction machine. I can’t have her choking to death. She needs her feeding pump, I can’t have her starving to death.

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Misogyny laid bare – Laura Bates and Winnie M Li at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Imagine if, in the wake of the shocking murder of a woman Police went door to door in the area telling men that they could only go out in pairs, telling them that we know that one of you is murdering women, but we don’t know who.

It would be utterly absurd, wouldn’t it? And the outrage in the Daily Mail would probably melt the polar ice caps in seconds.

After Sabina Nessa was killed last year, Police went round telling women in Camden not to go out alone. Why should women constantly have our lives restricted because of the behaviour of men?

At the Edinburgh Book Festival, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates challenged us to think creatively about how we can get rid of the injustices faced by women.

She was talking about her book Fix the System, not the women, in which she highlights how society’s structures reinforce each other in failing to recognise and tackle that unfairness.

It tends to be the pretty, white, middle class women who hit the headlines, but, as Laura pointed out, a woman is murdered every three days in this country. We don’t hear about them. If we did, it would be impossible to ignore the pattern of behaviour and institutional bias that puts them in danger.

Apparently the top Google search about Sabina Nessa’s murder was “what was she wearing?” As a society, Laura said, we are prepared to believe that murders and rapes are isolated incidents, which happen because of something some silly woman did wrong, whether it was her attire, the amount she had to drink or who else she had ever consented to have sex with and in what circumstances.

The media reinforce these attitudes, leading to a situation where a third of jurors believe that if a woman was drunk, she was complicit in her own rape. This environment is not conducive to bringing perpetrators to justice.

She looked at the language often used when reporting about rape:

We don’t see discussions of theft described as non-consensual borrowing yet they call rape non=consensual sex.

Nobody would say to a victim of arson that because they went to s bonfire party 3 years ago they maybe they secretly enjoyed a good fire.

And then there’s the fear kicked up by the media that good men are losing their jobs because of false allegations of sexual assault. That fear, Laura said, is completely unfounded. A man is 230 times more likely to be raped himself than to be falsely accused of sexual assault.

She talked about how the Metropolitan Police were so quick to dismiss the murderer of Sarah Everard, at that time a serving officer, as one bad apple. However, we know of the awful culture of misogyny throughout its ranks.

We therefore have  media, law enforcement and justice systems all stacked against women, so you turn to politics to help and find a chronic under-representation of women in positions of power and a disproportionate number of men accused of sexual misbehaviour.

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Jardine: As nationalist anger overflows, old fears return

The 2014 campaign for Scottish independence was grim in so many ways. One of the most awful was the febrile atmosphere and the friendships and families torn apart. Some of those rifts have never been healed.

A few weeks out from the poll, I wrote about how worrying and awful it was at the time.  This is what happened when I put up a pretty benign Facebook post:

A friendly and thoughtful discussion ensued on it and then a real life friend who isn’t a party political activist but who supports independence commented that the “names of the traitors have been duly noted.” Because I know hime well, I knew he was trying to be funny, but in the current febrile atmosphere, his words may appear threatening to some. I felt it necessary to tell everyone that he was a nice guy and not a nasty cybernat but is that the sort of language we should be using at all?

I’ve been talking to people who are ardent “No” voters who are scared to stick their heads above the parapet and display any sign of their allegiance because they are scared of attracting unwelcome attention from the more excitable nationalists.

This atmosphere is horrible and we need to find some ways of  making things better because we can’t go on allowing our politics to be conducted by abuse and intimidation.

With the Scottish Government’s stated intention to hold a second referendum year certain to be denied by the UK Government who have the power in this matter, Christine Jardine uses this week’s Scotsman column to look at what that might mean.

She wrote it just after the disgraceful scenes in Perth last week outside the Conservative hustings where nationalist supporters threw abuse, eggs and had a right go at BBC journalist James Cook who was just doing his job. Again that “traitor” word was used.

Christine recalls some frightening moments during the 2014 referendum:

Anecdotally I’ve heard of a comedian at the Fringe describe 2014 as a friendly affair.

They must have been in a different referendum from me because my experience was certainly not that, but was instead a constant barrage of bitter divisive comments and actions.

I was one of many campaigners followed by nationalists who photographed us or posted horrible tweets about us.

On one occasion, on the eve of the vote itself, I found myself surrounded by a crowd or around 100 Yes campaigners waving flags and shouting.

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Carmichael: Ministers must explain themselves over Jagtar Singh Johal allegations

The BBC reports that UK intelligence services have been accused of tipping off Indian authorities about a British national, leading to his abduction and alleged torture. Jagtar Singh Johal was detained on a visit to India in 2017 and says that he has been tortured. But how did the Indian authorities catch up with him?

The BBC cites a claim from human rights organisation Reprieve that the information may have come from UK intelligence:

Reprieve says it has matched several details relating to his case to a specific claim of mistreatment documented in a report by the watchdog that oversees the intelligence agencies.

“In the course of an investigation”, says the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) report, “MI5 passed intelligence to a liaison partner via the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

“The subject of the intelligence was arrested by the liaison partner in their country. The individual told the British Consular Official that he had been tortured.”

Mr Johal is not named in the report, but Reprieve’s investigators are adamant the facts match his case due to the dates concerned, the lobbying by British prime ministers and supporting evidence detailed in the Indian press.

Human rights are hardwired into the DNA of liberals, so as you would expect, Alistair Carmichael, our Home Affairs spokesperson, has demanded that ministers explain themselves:

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We should not let Scotland’s period dignity law be overshadowed by unnecessary controversy

Scotland led the world this week as the Period Products Act, which requires councils and educational establishments to make free period products available, came into force.

Although the measure was passed by the Scottish Parliament, the bulk of the credit for this has to go to Labour MSP Monica Lennon. She set the ball rolling by introducing a Members’ Bill and fought so hard to persuade the Scottish Government to back the measure. It took them longer than it should have done, but they got there in the end.

From Holyrood Magazine:

Labour’s Monica Lennon, who campaigned for the provision, said councils and partner organisations have “worked hard to make the legal right to access free period products a reality”.

She said: “This is another milestone for period dignity campaigners and grassroots movements which shows the difference that progressive and bold political choices can make.

“As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, the Period Products Act is a beacon of hope which shows what can be achieved when politicians come together for the good of the people we serve.”

Back in 2017, Scotland’s  feminist organisation, Engender, held a roundtable discussion on period poverty. Later their response to the consultation on the Bill highlighted the barriers to accessing period products.

It is vital that the provision of free period products not be linked to, for example, the social security system. Poverty is not the sole reason behind women’s lack of access to sanitary products. For example, the link between access to sanitary products and domestic abuse was made by a number of roundtable participants, who explained that the denial of access to products can be a method of control by an abusive partner.

Income and other resources are often not controlled or shared equally within the household. In many cases, women take on the role of acting as the buffer between their children and the impact of household poverty. Put simply, mothers forego their own consumption to meet the needs of their children.

Whilst income level may be one of the contributing factors to period poverty in Scotland, the solutions developed to meet women and girls’ menstrual needs must recognise that slightly increasing household income (e.g., by the cost of menstrual products) will not directly result in women gaining greater access to period products.

Soaring living costs put even more pressure on household incomes so this measure is more needed than ever.

However, this Scottish success story was overshadowed by controversy. There was a huge furore over the appointment of Jason Grant as Period Dignity Officer to Dundee and Angus colleges. Even Martina Navratilova got involved, calling the appointment absurd.

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Lib Dems uncover massive fall in permanent contracts for new teachers

Children in Scotland go back to school this week. You would think that after three hellish years of pandemic related disruption and a widening attainment gap, the SNP Government would want to make sure that there were as many permanent teachers in the classroom as possible.

Every year the Scottish Liberal Democrats at Holyrood look for the number of newly qualified teachers being offered permanent posts rather than fixed term or supply contracts. In the past 5 years, that has fallen from 56%, which was low enough, to just 23%.

On the back of those figures, STV News has spoken to three teachers about the impact that this uncertainty has had on them. Heaven knows we need more girls doing STEM subjects, and here is a woman teacher in those subjects who can’t get a permanent job:

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Layla on Salman Rushdie’s “Beautiful pieces of literature”

The news of Salman Rushdie’s stabbing at an event in upstate New York is profoundly shocking.

My first thoughts were with those police officers and a doctor in the audience who put themselves in harm’s way to help the author and no doubt give him the chance of survival. At the time of writing he is still in surgery and I know that everyone reading this will hope that he pulls through and our thoughts will be very much with his loved ones.

We don’t know the motivations for this particular attack, but we are well aware that Salman Rushdie had to spend a decade in hiding after the Iranian Government issued a fatwa against him in 1988 after they decided that his book, The Satanic Verses, was blasphemous.

Rushdie has had to live with this threat for decades for doing nothing other than challenging orthodoxy. For using his considerable creative talent to make us think.

Tonight, Layla Moran described how the threat to Rushdie encouraged her to read his books:

She said:

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Young Liberals head to Birmingham for their Summer Conference

About a million years ago I travelled from Aberdeen to Birmingham to attend my first ever SDP Students Conference. It was held in the Birmingham University Guild of Students and we all slept on the floor in our sleeping bags.

It was a great learning experience. I remember it was the first time I had done public speaking training and it scared the life out of me. It really helped, though.

I really enjoyed the experience and it obviously dug me deeper in to the party. Not even the SDPS “Have you got the guts to vote SDP” campaign the following year could put me off.

I met some lifelong friends in those early days.

So it warmed my heart a bit to see Young Liberals heading to Birmingham for their Summer conference. And they even have beds to sleep in in the 2020s.

Got to love Callum’s suitcase:

And it’s great to see that there are loads of new people heading to Conference for the first time:

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Ron Waddell’s funeral to take place on 16th August – livestream available

You may remember we brought you the sad news that much-loved former Scottish Lib Dem Chief Exec died suddenly on 17th July.

As I wrote at the time:

In every single conversation I have had with people about Ron in the past two days, the words kind and gentle have featured very highly. He was a lovely man, always wise and one of those people who could instantly calm a frazzled situation or, dare I say, bruised egos.

He was one of the best humans, gone way too soon.

Ron’s wife Sandra Grieve would like us to share details of his funeral, which will take place next Tuesday, 16th August, at 1pm at Holy Trinity Church in Mapperley.

Sandra is aware that not everybody who wants to be there will be able to travel so the service will be livestreamed. Sandra and Ron moved to Derbyshire to be closer to their family in 2016. They lived in Lanark for a long time before that and the service will be conducted by their minister from there, Rev Bryan Kerr, who has helped organise the streaming.  Details of how to join are at the end of this post.

Jim Wallace, former Scottish Lib Dem Leader, Lib Dem Lords Leader and Scottish FIrst Minister knew Ron for many years. He said to me:

On Tuesday, we shall gather in Mapperley and online to pay tribute to Ron, a great Liberal, and to offer to Sandra and the family our comfort and support.

I knew Ron from days of Scottish Young Liberal conferences in the late 1970s. He served both the Scottish Liberal Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats in many different roles and ways, but always with enthusiasm and commitment. What a number of his party acquaintances may not know, is just how well respected he was in his other career as a teacher and education administrator. Talking to people who were Ron’s colleagues in politics or in education, similar comments re-echo: “wonderfully kind”, “caring and compassionate”, “loyal”, “unflappable” and “a good sense of humour”.

Ron’s was a life cut short all too soon, but through his contributions to politics, education and in the communities where he lived, it was a life well lived.

The details of the live stream are as follows;

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Cancel October energy price rise says Ed Davey

Just last Friday I was saying that while we were saying some good things about the cost of living emergency, we needed to come up with something bolder to deal with such a massive economic shock.

I should have been more patient. Ed Davey has stepped up to the mark, calling for October’s energy price rise to be cancelled, with part of the cost covered by a windfall tax on the energy companies. Given that some of them are making quarterly profits larger than the GDP of some countries, that is entirely justifiable.

Under our plans, the 70% increase in the energy price cap expected to be announced by Ofgem later this month would be cancelled, with the Government instead paying the shortfall to energy suppliers so that they can afford to supply customers at the current rates. The party estimates that this would save a typical household an extra £1,400 a year.

This is not cheap, but the party says that the estimated £36 billion cost should be met by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas company profits, and using the Government’s higher-than-expected VAT revenues as a result of soaring inflation.

The party is also calling for more targeted support for vulnerable and low income households. This would include doubling the Warm Homes Discount to £300 and extending it to all those on Universal Credit and Pension Credit, while investing in insulating fuel poor homes to bring prices down in the long term as well as reinstating on permanent basis the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift introduced during the pandemic.

Ed said:

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LIb Dem Councillor assaulted while delivering Focus leaflets

Up and down the country, councillors and campaigners from all parties will be spending their sunny Sunday out and about delivering leaflets or knocking on doors talking to residents to find out what is on their minds.

At this time of year, quite often you’ll have a chat with people in their gardens. Most people are lovely and friendly even if they don’t vote for you. A few can be a bit grumpy but it is relatively rare that someone is downright abusive. And, thankfully, even less frequent that they actually resort to violence.

This morning Edinburgh Lib Dem Councillor Kevin Lang was delivering his regular Focus in Almond ward when a resident grabbed him by the throat. Kevin recounted what had happened on Twitter:

I’ve been doing politics a long time so I’m used to shouty, angry people but today is the first time I’ve ever been physically assaulted.

Was simply out delivering my councillor newsletter when a man came out of his house, grabbed me by the throat…

and stuffed the newsletter down my shirt, using all kinds of profanity as he did so. I’ve obvs reported to the police.

No matter what divides us, this kind of intimidation and abuse of people you disagree with has no place in a free and democratic society.

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Lib Dems highlight Home Office incompetence which leads to £70 million compensation payments

Good work by Alistair Carmichael and the Lib Dem researchers and press team in working out and highlighting that the Home Office paid out £70 million in compensation to people it has wronged in the past year. They have calculated that this would amount to an extra 1700 Police officers who could have been employed.

That’s a big number but behind it are people whose lives were ruined, damaged, who were put through absolute hell by Home Office injustice and incompetence. That is unforgivable.

From the Guardian:

The payouts, highlighted by the Liberal Democrats, are believed to be the highest amount for

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Lib Dems comment on dire economic news – but we need to say more

This week has had more than its fair share of dire economic news. The prospect of a deep, prolonged recession at a time of soaring prices means that people on the lowest incomes are really going to suffer. Let’s think about what that looks like. It means that people on the lowest incomes will simply not be able to afford the basics that they need to survive. If they don’t face the prospect of losing their home, heating it to an adequate level will be a challenge.  Putting food on the table will be tough.  Even if they just manage to get by, an unexpected car repair bill, or a washing machine breakdown, could be problems that they can’t cope with. It is quite likely that we will see levels of poverty and suffering that we thought were gone for good.

It’s the most terrifying economic landscape since 2008. And with recession comes the prospect of people losing their jobs. We didn’t have energy and living costs on a steep upward curve then.

I remember only too well the recession of the 1980s. That ITN Jobs round up every Friday showing so many jobs being lost every week. Soaring unemployment as, one by one, our key manufacturing industries crumbled.  Remember UB40’s One in Ten?

At that point though the welfare state met more of your living costs if you lost your job. You at least had some chance of getting by. And students could get help with Housing Benefit and could sign on during the long Summer holiday if they couldn’t get a job. Now, benefits are less generous, and woe betide you if you dared have more than two children since 2017 because you won’t be able to claim any Universal Credit for them.

During the 90s recession, I worked in the civil courts in England and it was heartbreaking to see the huge rise in both mortgage and rent possession cases. Each one of those meant that someone was in danger of losing their homes, and many did.

As interest rates rise, so do mortgages. Already high private sector rents are likely to increase as landlords pay more on their buy to let mortgages.

It all seemed terrible back then, but now the prospects and the pressures on incomes are even worse.

Inflation on its own is bad enough but then you have a nearly £1300 rise in energy costs from their already high level from October with the prospect of further rises every three months. If you are on a low income you are more likely to be on a prepayment meter and will find it more difficult to access help while you pay proportionately higher prices.

And all the time prices continue to rise with the Bank of England warning that inflation could hit 13%.

There is not much in the way of respite coming your way. The extra money already announced isn’t going to go very far if you are low paid.

All of this comes at a time when the Conservative Government have been cutting public services for too long. So where councils might have been able to provide much needed help in the past, they are not able to do so now. Advice agencies also need investment so that they can help people find their way through and advocate on their behalf.

Senior Liberal Democrats have been talking about the crisis. Here’s Ed Davey on the news of the energy price cap rise:

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Women’s Aid highlights impact of cost of living crisis on women experiencing domestic abuse

Steep rises in the cost of food and energy are hard enough to deal with if you are on a low income. If you are in a situation where you are not safe at home, the impact is so much worse.

Women’s Aid have published the results of a survey of women who have experienced domestic abuse and the results make terrifying reading.

They found that:

Almost all survivors (96%) responding had seen a negative impact on the amount of money available to them as a result of cost of living increases. 

Two thirds (66%) of survivors told us that abusers are now using the cost of living increase and concerns about financial hardship as a tool for coercive control, including to justify further restricting their access to money. 

Almost three quarters (73%) of women living with and having financial links with the abuser said that the cost of living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder for them to leave. 

It is hard enough to leave an abusive partner and it is awful to think that there are even more barriers to women reaching safety because of the current economic situation.

Women’s Aid call for the following:

An Emergency Domestic Abuse Fund to support  survivors of domestic abuse through this crisis period, to pay for essential items and energy bills. 

Reduced energy costs for all refuges during the cost of living crisis, for example by extending the remit of Warm Home Discount Scheme to include refuges;

Better provision of legal services for survivors; reduce the impact of legal aid costs for survivors; fairer access to legal aid and other advocacy services and interest-free loans for legal support where necessary.

Their Chief Executive, Farah Nazeer, said:

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Updated, with fury: Conference Agenda: Keynote speeches

As we reported yesterday, the Autumn Conference agenda is now out

To help you with Conference planning, here is a list of when the keynote speeches are happening.

Update: I wrote this last night while watching the Commonwealth Games, trying to get ahead of myself in Conference prep. And it is just as well I did. I noticed something odd:

There is one person who isn’t giving a speech that I’m quite surprised about. Usually the Scottish and Welsh leaders both get to do a keynote speech at Autumn Conference. Unless I’ve missed it, Jane Dodds doesn’t seem to be doing one this year. I wonder why that is. I shall make enquiries before deciding how livid I am about this. Watch this space.

When I say that “usually the Scottish and Welsh leaders both get to do a keynote speech at Autumn Conference” I meant that usually there was some attempt by The Powers that Be to cut these contributions. There would then be a barney and both leaders would be included, as they should be.

Except this time that didn’t happen. Apparently those Powers that Be have decided that there is only one slot for the devolved nations which on this occasion has gone to Alex Cole-Hamilton. This is odd, given that there are two devolved nations, each with their distinct political environments.  If we believe in a federal UK, we believe that our nations have equal standing. It follows, therefore, that both leaders should have their chance to tell Federal Conference – and the Welsh, Scottish and UK medias  beyond – where we stand on the key issues of the day.

I do hope that this can be resolved for this Conference. All it would take would be for FCC to ask Conference to add a speech for Jane in as an additional agenda item. I can’t see Conference turning down such a request.  And then in the future, a slot for each leader should be incorporated as standard.

Anyway, here are the rest of the keynote speeches.

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Autumn Conference agenda is now live!

One fo the delights of the beginning of August is always the publication of the Autumn Conference agenda. It came out today and you can read it here. There are clear print and plain text versions too. Conference takes place in Brighton between 17 and 20 September. For the first time in many years, I can’t go and I’m really gutted about that. It really is one of the highlights of the year and the first time in 3 years that the Lib Dem family will be getting together.

You can see when all the debates and keynote speeches are taking place. Details of training and fringe meetings will be published in the Directory separately.

It’s important for all party members to have a good look at it. Even if you aren’t going to Conference, you can still influence our policy. If you think a policy motion has a bit missing or you think we should take another direction, you can put together an amendment.

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Ruth Coleman Taylor’s Funeral Details

It’s two weeks since liberal legend Ruth Coleman-Taylor died.

Ruth was a Council leader, six time parliamentary candidate, mayor and a kind and wise presence at Conference. I am missing her so much.

Her husband Mick Taylor has asked us to let you know her funeral details.

The Quaker Service will take place on Thursday 18th August at 2:30 pm at a venue steeped with Lib Dem history. It’s at the Birchcliffe Centre in Hebden Bridge which many of you will recognise as the home of ALDC until a few years ago.

Mick is asking for donations in Ruth’s memory for a cause close to her heart, the Abortion Support Network. ASN provides accommodation and support for pregnant people travelling from places such as Northern Ireland, Malta, Gibraltar and Poland, where safe, legal abortion is not available.

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