Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Great hold in Durham with increased vote share

I’m on by-election duty for ALDC tonight. And the first result of the night’s six by-elections was a cracker.

Nicely done, Bev. Congratulations to you and your team.

And in Southend on Sea, there was an advance of nearly 10% for Carol White:

And great to be standing a candidate in Thurroci:

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May statement open thread.

Well, the crest is still on the lectern. So no General Election then.

But…

And she said absolutely nothing new. Blaming anyone but herself for the mess.

Basically, no say for the people, no participation in the European elections. She wants to be out by June 30th.

She says that MPs haven’t said what they want. Not sure how much clearer our lot could have been – People’s vote…That at least is achievable, even if the Labour unicorns are not.

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Vince tells Sky that Corbyn walked out of meeting with PM because TIG were there

Vince Cable has just been on Sky News to say that the opposition leaders’ meeting with Theresa May was courteous but just went round in circles.

She was not willing to move at all.

So far so unsurprising.

But what was incredible was his revelation that Jeremy Corbyn was going to meet her with them. But as soon as he saw Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry there, he legged it.

So the country is in crisis and he is not prepared to behave like a grown up. I remember this sort of game playing in student politics days but not when the country is about to crash and burn.

It’s unbelievable.

I can’t actually believe the horrors that we have as PM and Leader of the Opposition.

I could not believe it when Theresa May said at Prime Minister’s Questions today that the Commons should stop indulging itself on Europe. Without a trace of irony.

It’s almost as if she had forgotten that we are in this mess purely because of the self indulgence of her party on Europe. David Cameron called the referendum to face own the right of his party and now we are all paying the price.

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Isabelle Parasram elected as Lib Dems’ first Vice President BAME

Barrister Isabelle Parasram has been elected by the Federal Board as the party’s first Vice President BAME.

I was delighted by this result because I voted for her and encouraged others to do so as I had been really impressed by her clear vision for the role. She talked a lot of sense about how to change the party’s culture. I’ve seen that her previous work, the report into dealing with complaints of sexual impropriety,  has been thorough, clear and fair.

In an email to members, Miranda Roberts, Chair of the Federal People Development Committee, welcomed Isabelle’s appointment.

At our Spring Conference over the weekend, Party President Sal Brinton announced that Isabelle Parasram has been elected as our new Vice President BaME.

This position has been created to encourage more BaME representation and participation across the party.

I am delighted that Isabelle is taking on this new role. Her election is an exciting and important step towards building a more inclusive and diverse party.

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By Friday, we should be talking about revoking Article 50

Dangerous moments are like buses. You have decades free of them and then loads come along all at once. And every day our country’s future is in the hands of a gruesome coalition of extreme right and left  – the ERG, DUP and the Corbynistas – it gets more and more dangerous as Brexit day just a week on Friday looms.

We’ve kind of running out of road as far as Brexit is concerned. As things currently stand, we crash out without a deal in 10 days’ time.

That’s right. The biggest economic catastrophe ever will be underway next week unless someone does something.

We have constantly been demanding a People’s Vote pretty much since the referendum.

Theresa May has made it clear that isn’t happening.

Our policy passed in York last Saturday was clear:

Conference calls for the Government to revoke the Article 50 notification if the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving (relating to) the negotiated withdrawal agreement one week ahead of the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU.

So, this Friday, we have to start talking about revocation, assuming nothing else changes.

And we have to be quite loud about it. It is a nuclear option, but we’re in the most dangerous moment for our country in 80 years.

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London Region recruiting a Development officer to boost local campaigns

Looking back to last May, there was much to celebrate in London’s election results. Winning back control of Kingston and Richmond was very welcome , as was retaining our control of Sutton. And then there were excellent results in Haringey – our group grew from 9 to 15 – and Merton leapt up from just a single Lib Dem councillor to 6!

Looking closely at the areas that make such great progress, we can see how beneficial it is to have full time staff – and volunteers – working on our campaigns over a long period. Their hard work and skills correlates with good results.

The other side of this particular coin is in 22 out of London’s 32 boroughs we don’t currently have any Lib Dem councillors, alongside 4 boroughs with less than a handful. In many boroughs we have keen and enthusiastic campaigners, but many people have full time jobs, family responsibilities and maybe long commutes. There may be little time in the evening to prepare for a weekend activity although actually quite amazing stuff does get done! But It’s clear that it’s very difficult to compete when our opponents have more in the way of resources than we do. We feel that if we make things a bit easier we can help those keen campaigners achieve more.

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Looking forward to our party’s next chapter

I’m just in the door, home from a wonderful weekend in York at Conference.

It is a miracle that I am  able to write this, given that I left the Novotel Bar at 4:15 this morning after a night of great fun with friends. You may or not be impressed to know that when I got back to my horrible little room, I laid out my clothes for the morning and plugged in everything to charge that needed to be charged.

I was back at Conference by 9:15 this morning feeling a lot better than I deserved.

These are anxiety inducing times but there is an excitement too. We know that we are about to enter a new phase of our party’s story.

I am very grateful to Vince for stepping up and showing authoritative leadership for two years.

He has made us the party of Remain and in his speech today he was clear that we will not be watering down our core values to satisfy any authoritarian centrist group that might appear although we will work with them to change our politics for the better.

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What’s on at Spring Conference today?

Today is going to be quite sad because it will be Vince’s last speech to Conference as Leader. He’s been the grown-up of British politics and he’s served us well these past two years. He deserves to be cheered to the rafters for stepping up as he did in 2017.

The Federal Board report at 9:45 is likely to prove controversial. There are some very awkward questions in part thanks to Gareth Epps not being politically restricted any more. He’s making up for lost time.

09.00-09.45 F12 Policy motion: Access to Justice for All

09.45-10.00 F13 Report: Federal Board

10.00-10.45 F14 Emergency motion or topical issue

10.45-11.30 F15 Policy motion: Town Centres for the Future

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What’s on at Spring Conference today?

Well, the most important thing, of course, is the Lib Dem Voice fringe meeting on the impact of homelessness and Universal Credit which is taking place in the Walmgate Room and the Hilton. Join us for a spot of lunch and discussion. I’ll be speaking alongside Dan Dumoulin of Saint Vincent de Paul, our Housing Spokesperson Lord Shipley and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions. Kirsten Johnson is chairing. This week SAMH published a report highlighting the detrimental impact of Universal Credit on mental health

In the main hall, Vince’s party reforms will be the most controversial item of the day. The constitutional amendments need a two thirds majority to pass. That debate happens at the end of the day. You’re going to have to concentrate to keep up with a complex series of votes. I’ll be voting No to most of them. I think the Federal People Development Committee has done a great job in putting the nuts and bolts together but I think there are ways of spending the money in a more efficient and effective way – like on training or winning elections or developing better messaging.

Conference also debates Europe, race equality, clean air and hears from Christine Jardine and gets the chance to question Vince Cable.

Here’s the timetable.

09.00-09.10 F1 Opening of Conference 35

09.10-09.30 F2 Report: Federal Conference Committee 35

F3 Report: Federal Policy Committee

09.30-10.45 F4 Policy motion: Eradicating Race Inequality (Race
Equality Policy Paper)

10.45-11.05 F5 Speech: Christine Jardine MP

11.05-12.50 F6 Policy motion: Europe

12.50-14.10 Lunch

14.10-14.55 F7 Q & A session: Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable MP

14.55-15.55 F8 Policy motion: Cleaning Up the Air We Breathe How to Tackle Road Pollution

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What’s on at Spring Conference today?

Friday 15 March

15.00-17.30 Consultative sessions:

A Fairer Share for All

Crime and Policing

Health and Social Care

You can read the consultation papers here.

If you are thirsty after that, there is a Civic reception at the Barbican at 5:15 and then the rally at 6:30.

Now I was going to ditch the rally and go to the pub with my friends because I was feeling like a bit of a rebel. However, I then discovered that my wonderful friend, Borders candidate Jenny Marr is speaking. Now, when she introduced Willie at Scottish Conference a few weeks ago, she let slip that she’d seen him in his Superman pyjamas… On an exceptionally cold Winter’s day canvassing in the North East a few years back, apparently, Willie showed the assembled crowd that he had pyjamas on under his clothes to keep warm.

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Breaking…Vince to step down in May

Sir Vince said he was announcing his departure now to pave the way for a leadership contest so a 12-week leadership contest can begin in May.

‘I wanted to set it out so that there’s an orderly process of succession and the next generation can come through rather than chaotic power struggles you’re seeing inside the Tory party and Labour party so I wanted us to do better than that,’ he said.

His decision to step down will mean he is able to spend more time with his family, he said, adding: ‘My wife Rachel has been very supportive and doesn’t mind me doing it and has come round the country with me, but she would like to spend more time with me. I think she will see it as a bonus that she sees me more.’

He added: ‘I’ll be continuing as an MP. I want to get back to writing books again in my spare time.’

Sir Vince said he was planning a follow-up to his political thriller Open Arms which was published in 2017, and a non-fiction book about politicians who have changed the way we look at economics, from the US founding father Alexander Hamilton to Margaret Thatcher.

 

Party members got an email at the exact same moment the tweet was posted.

This has been a dramatic week in Parliament with Theresa May’s Brexit proposals heavily defeated, and a very clear statement that a ‘no deal’ Brexit must be avoided. It is now clear that Brexit will be postponed, and very possibly stopped.

The future is very uncertain but despite Labour’s continued prevarication, there is still a real chance of securing a People’s Vote and, indeed, of stopping Brexit.

The fact that these possibilities are still alive is a great tribute to our Party. Unlike the Tories and Labour, we never saw it as our duty to ‘deliver Brexit’.

The tribute is primarily to you as members, for marching and campaigning so energetically. Thank you for securing the progress we have made.

I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation. I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.

So I wanted you, our members, to know that, assuming Parliament does not collapse into an early General Election, I will ask the party to begin a leadership contest in May.

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Don’t get too excited about tonight’s votes…

So, it was quite surprising that MPs backed the stronger No Deal amendment, especially after one of its Tory proposers bowed to the pressure of the whips and tried to pull it.

But John Bercow, who gives zero hoots when it comes to preserving the rights of the House against the Executive, refused to allow her to withdraw it.

The rebel majority was just 4.

It was certainly a dramatic moment and yet another key defeat for Theresa May.

But I wouldn’t get too excited about it.

In fact, while we may be closer than ever to a People’s Vote, the balance might tip in …

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Brexit vote open thread: Government defeated again 242 – 391

Well, more than by I thought.

That was pretty emphatic.

Theresa May is making a statement and is now making the No Deal vote tomorrow a free vote. That means that Cabinet members will be able to vote against no deal and keep their jobs.

She confirms that the No Deal vote goes ahead tomorrow night and if the House declines to leave with no deal, the extension to Article 50 vote will happen on Thursday.

Surely this just shows the need to put this back to the people.

Vince’s first comment:

The Prime Minister’s authority is in tatters while Brexit as a project is also in tatters.

We now need to move quickly to extend Article 50 and for the Commons to consider legislation for a People’s Vote, just as the Liberal Democrats have argued for over two years.

Public opinion now looks to be firmly behind remaining in the EU rather than accepting this friendless deal.

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WATCH: Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton talk about saving his 4 year old daughter from choking

I was heading to my bed on Saturday night when I saw this tweet from Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton:

Scary, scary stuff. The thought of my child choking was probably one of the things that scared me most. I made sure I knew what do do if that happened, but I’m glad I never had to demonstrate the skill.

Thank heavens little Darcy was fine, due to skills learned by her Dad  a quarter of a century ago.

I had a friend who doesn’t do social media and who’s on holiday in Australia contact me to say they’d seen Alex featured in the press so many people across the world will have seen his new found mission to raise  awareness of what happened to his daughter to make sure that every parent is equipped with first aid skills.

His actions will save more lives than Darcy’s.

The very next  morning a member of my family faced a medical emergency at which first aid was required. 

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Our future should be in the hands of the people, not right wing Tories and the DUP

Our country’s fate will tonight be decided by the right wing of the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. That, really, is not a good place for us to be in. And let’s not forget those Labour MPs who will choose to back the deal to get us out of the EU. They are unlikely to face any consequences from their leadership for doing so.

They may take whatever fig leaf Theresa May has begged from EU leaders as the only way to keep Brexit alive. If the deal goes down tonight, the momentum is with those of us calling from a People’s Vote.

Let’s not forget that the deal itself is terrible. So much that has been kicked down the road. We have no idea what our future trading relationship would be like. It’s likely that that will be decided not by Theresa May, but by a future ERG backed Tory leader who wants to turn us into a regulation-light Singapore.

As I wrote in January:

For me, the worst thing is that it kicks so much down the road. We haven’t got a clue about what our future trading relationships with the EU and everyone else would look like.

Failure to reach a trade agreement before the end of the transition period could put us on a dash off the cliff edge at the end of next year. Except at that point we would be out of the EU with nothing we can do about it.

Don’t think the extreme No Dealers in the Conservative Party are going to give up fighting for that calamitous option if May manages to get her deal through. The moment of danger will not pass if we get a deal. That’s one of the many reasons why we need a People’s Vote.

Tom Brake said similar on Twitter

MPs will be expected to vote with just a few hours’ debate on an agreement that was reached late last night. That’s not what you could call acceptable democratic scrutiny. The only fair way is to put it to the people.

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Conference Extra published – see all the amendments and awkward questions

The Conference Extra, containing details of all the amendments selected by Federal Conference Committee, the motion on Europe which will no doubt be hopelessly out of date by the time it’s debated on Saturday and all the questions put to Federal Committees, has been published.

The Europe motion is amendable – you need to get your changes in before Friday at 1 pm. Even though the website at the time of writing says Thursday.  I know conference motions are supposed to be a bit circumspect and detached but I am left cold by it. Not that it necessarily says anything wrong, but, really, at this point, I want it to saying that “Conference is bloody livid that the country has been lied to, cheated, sold a pig in a poke and has a Government that has turned can-kicking into its only competence. Conference resolves to put a stop to this farce as soon as possible.”

The process for the votes on the Supporters’ scheme constitutional amendment and business motion reminds me of the song “The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede” from The Singing Kettle. If you try to consciously re-enact it, you’ll do yourself an injury, but if you do it instinctively and just listen to the session chair, you’ll be fine.

There are some well and truly awkward questions to Federal Committees, too.

So now you have everything you need to plan your speeches.

What are you waiting for? And here’s the thing. You can submit your speaker’s card online. 

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Jane Dodds selected to fight Brecon and Radnorshire

Good news from Wales. The Welsh Lib Dem Leader, Jane Dodds, has been selected as the Westminster candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire. Jane is a brilliant and caring politician who has been championing issues such as tackling loneliness. Last week, she wrote about her wish to see Universal Basic Income trialled in Wales.

We held the Westminster seat until 2015 and Kirsty Williams holds the seat at Welsh Assembly level. We also did well in the last local elections

Jane said:

I am really pleased that members from across Brecon and Radnorshire have put their trust in me to be their candidate for Westminster and I am proud to be part of the Welsh Liberal Democrat team for Mid-Wales.

Brecon and Radnorshire is being let down by our existing Conservative MP. Under the Conservatives, we’ve seen a sharp increase in cases of homelessness, the botched rollout of Universal Credit continues and, with only 20 days to go, we still don’t even know what is going to happen with Brexit.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats demand better than this debacle. We want to see a Wales which is fairer, international and puts a new green economy at the heart of everything we do.

I think I bring a new perspective on the issues which affect people in our communities and I look forward to working with our great Liberal Democrat Councillors and those who share our liberal values to bring about real and effective change which genuinely changes our society for the better.

Her colleague and predecessor as leader Kirsty Williams welcomed Jane’s selection:

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Jo Swinson’s challenge for International Women’s Day

It wouldn’t be Jo if she wasn’t giving us a job to do.

My pledge will be to comfort and encourage others and give them sustenance on their journeys to their dreams.

What will you do to help achieve gender equality?

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Caroline Pidgeon calls for blue plaque for Ealing’s Olympic tennis player Charlotte Cooper

Ealing had a women’s Olympic tennis champion, but I’d never heard of her until earlier this week.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member has linked up with Southfield Councillor Gary Malcolm to support a Blue Plaque being installed to remember  Charlotte Cooper.

The tennis player, who was born in Ealing was the first ever woman to win an Olympic title, when women were admitted into the Games in Paris in 1900. She became the first woman in history to win a First Place Prize in tennis (medals were not given out until 1904).

Charlotte Cooper was five times Wimbledon singles champion, she also won the mixed doubles event, as well as the Swiss, German and Irish titles which were prestigious championships at the time.  Yet despite her numerous achievements there is no Blue Plaque to commemorate her life and her association with Ealing.

Caroline Pidgeon AM and Councillor Gary Malcolm’s nomination of Charlotte Cooper is part of a wider campaign by the London Assembly to ensure more women are recognised by Blue Plaques.

Caroline said:

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Meral Ece: Muslim women need our support to reach their empowerment

In yesterday’s Lords International Women’s Day debate, our Meral Hussein Ece looked at the barriers facing Muslim women, particularly in a climate when senior politicians make ignorant comments.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this important debate and pay tribute to the Government’s work in advancing women’s equality and rights globally, building on the work of successive Governments and the incredible work that has taken place around the world. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, and I pay tribute to all the work she has done as well.

I come to this as somebody who has been involved in gender equality and working with women, particularly women from ethnic minority communities, for many decades. I founded the first domestic violence project ​for Turkish, Kurdish and Middle Eastern women 25 years ago, and I am proud that it is still going from strength to strength. Many of the women who initially came there for support have gone on to become empowered women, much more in control of their lives, and to help other women. That has been something that has followed down the track and been successful.

My contribution today is on the public discourse on black and minority ethnic women, particularly Muslim women. I want to touch on this because I have become increasingly concerned that narratives and stereotypes persist that Muslim women are either victims—subjugated, oppressed, controlled by their families and unable to speak English—or, at the same time, blamed for bringing up children who become radicalised. My contribution may not be popular but it needs to be said, because I have become increasingly uncomfortable. I have been at various events this week with other women from Muslim backgrounds—younger, empowered and educated women—who are fed up with this narrative that persists.

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Highlighting the “invisible” work women do

One of the features of International Women’s Day over the past few years has been Scottish feminist organisation Engender’s Make Work Visible campaign to highlight the work that women do that really makes the world work but that isn’t recognised.

Not only do women work at their jobs, they often have another full shift to do at home looking after children, or parents, doing the housework, organising stuff. Actually, quite often they do the emotional labour in their offices too, keeping the peace, remembering birthdays, supporting colleagues under stress, organising social events, that sort of thing.

This video from 2014 explains it some more.

Here are some of the highlights so far:

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Wera Hobhouse: We must not hold women back

Wera Hobhouse was the Lib Dem speaker in the Commons International Women Day debate yesterday. She concentrated on the discrimination women face in the workplace and the harm it does them and the organisations they work for:

It is an honour to be the penultimate Back-Bench speaker in this debate. We have heard many powerful contributions, including those dealing with discrimination leading to violence against women. I have experienced great solidarity on the issue of fighting discrimination in the past year and a half since I became a Member of Parliament, and if that solidarity continues, I really believe that we can make progress, particularly on the very dark side of discrimination.

Today I want to focus on something slightly closer to home—namely, my own experience as I was growing up. As I grew up in the 1970s, I looked forward to a future of exciting possibilities. The world was my oyster. I could follow my passions, study, develop my skills, build my career and have a family. It never occurred to me that my career options could be limited because I was a woman, that I would not automatically attain the same level of responsibility, pay and influence that my male counterparts would, that I might have to sacrifice my career aspirations when we started a family because I earned less than my husband, that there was an automatic assumption that I would take on the lion’s share of looking after our young children, or that in 2019 I would still have to speak out in this House against the ongoing discrimination and undervaluing of women in the UK. But here I am, and because I have a voice in Parliament, I am using it today to remind ​everybody that we must continue our efforts to fight discrimination—particularly its darker side—and to create a true gender balance in every sector of our society.

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Help elect April in May

I first came across April Preston in, I think, 2016 when she crowdfunded the money to put on a proper feminist fringe at Conference. She got Jo Swinson to speak and it was one of the best fringes I have ever been to. I thought then what a fabulous elected representative she would make, speaking her mind and getting proper liberal stuff done.

So I really hope she gets elected in Withington ward in Manchester this year. Her campaign needs money, though. Here’s why:

Withington Ward Liberal Democrats work to put community back into the Council and with your support we will be able to challenge officials that neglect our beloved city.

Our candidate in this year’s elections is April Preston. April was the first spokesperson for Stockport Young Carers and has been passionate activist from the age of 10 and continues to campaign on a wide on a wide range of issues from mental health to children leaving care.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #544

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 544th  round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator over the last fortnight (17 February -2 March, 2019), as we missed last week because I was knackered after Scottish Conference , together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Happy Birthday to the Liberal Democrats – let’s be bold, confident and radical

The Liberal Democrats are 31 years old today.

Courtesy of my Facebook memories, here is what I wrote on our 30th birthday last year.

30 years of the Lib Dems today! 30 years of having the courage to stand up for what we believe in.

I think what I like best about us is that we have such an optimistic view of people – our citizens are not to be contained and restrained but given power to run their lives and communities as they see fit with a state ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance in life.

I am proud to be part of this movement. You don’t get to 30 without screwing some stuff up, but we have made sure that we have an international aid target enshrined in law, we put mental health on the political map – easy to forget that nobody except us was tailing about it 10 years ago – and we achieved same sex marriage.

I’ve met some of the people who mean the most to me in the whole world through this party. I love all my passionate, curmudgeonly, stubborn, creative, awkward, kind, curious and loving Lib Dem friends.

And I said on here that we needed to spend our next decade being bold, confident and radical.

Our task for the next 10 years is to continue to be right, to be audacious in getting our message across, to be bold, radical and insurgent. We have fought our way back before. We need to be confident that we will do so again.

We are at heart generous-spirited and optimistic. We see the best in people, we want them to have the opportunities to be the best that they can be. That is a joyful and positive message and it even has substance behind it. All the things we want to achieve have their roots in our belief that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

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Support Jo Swinson as she runs half marathon in memory of her Dad

I have some very happy memories of Peter Swinson. He was a lovely man. He was so supportive of Jo’s campaigns, Whether it was knocking on doors in East Dunbartonshire, delivering super human quantities of election literature or dancing with her at her wedding, his pride in her was so obvious.

Peter sadly passed away a year ago. He had had a blood cancer for some time. In three weeks’ time, Jo is running the London Half Marathon in his memory.

On her Just Giving page, she explains why:

When my dad was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2008, we worried a lot.

I remember we worried whether he’d be able to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. Happily back then in 2011 Dad was still in excellent health: cycling for miles, delivering thousands of leaflets in Bishopbriggs and hitting the hills when he could.

In the summer of 2015 it all started to go wrong.  Rapidly Dad’s health deteriorated – in July we were climbing The Cobbler, with its peak just shy of 3,000ft. By August Dad was in hospital. That autumn the treatment started, a mix of steroids and chemo.

Dad had amazing NHS care at the world-class Beatson Institute, but it was a rollercoaster, as anyone who has lived with cancer knows. Positive news then hopes dashed. Bleak outlook then a chink of light.

The end of Dad’s second round of chemotherapy came almost exactly a year ago. He went for a PET scan and his consultant said the results were ‘marvellous’ – for all the gruelling treatment, the response looked really good. She gave him a particular treatment to boost his immunity so he could take public transport for the first time in months, in order to travel to London to watch my receive my CBE at Buckingham Palace.  It was a brilliant day.

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Last chance to submit Spring Conference Amendments and Awkward Questions – deadline 1pm 4th March

It’s just 12 days until we gather in York for Spring Conference.

And tomorrow, at 1pm, is the final chance for you to submit amendments to motions as well as awkward questions to all the party committees and for Vince’s question and answer session.

It’s also the last chance to submit a motion on Europe for discussion at the Conference – although, to be honest, anything submitted is likely to be out of date by the time it happens. Maybe it should just go the whole hog and call for the immediate revocation of Article 50 because the whole Brexit project is such a disaster.

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Some familiar faces amongst the LGBT icons

ITV has produced a list of ten LGBT icons in the East of England. 

There are some familiar faces in there.

Zoe O’Connell

Championing transgender and LGBT issues across Cambridgeshire is Zoe O’Connell’s passion.

The transgender Liberal Democrat councillor, has spoken out about her own experience of homophobia and transphobia while on the campaign trail in Trumpington.

Zoe has co-authored Liberal Democrat policy papers on equality and security. She has also written for prominent titles like The Guardian and The Huffington Post.

and

Sarah Brown

For several years Sarah Brown, a Cambridge city councillor between 2010 and 2014, was the only transgender politician in the UK.

In 2011. 2012 and 2013, she featured on the Independent’s “Pink List” – a collation of the most influential LGBT people in the UK.

She now works closely to improve conditions for transgender people in the NHS as well as taking an active role at the Kite Trust and Stonewall‘s Trans Advisory Group

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Scottish Lib Dems pass policy to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to stay in their homes

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and for the perpetrator to leave.

Commonspace reported on the debate:

Across the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week.

Scottish Lib Dem member, Vita Zaporozcenko told the conference of her personal experience of being raised in a house with domestic abuse.

She said: “I have always wondered why my mum did not leave and I have come to the conclusion that she had simply no where else to go.”

Zaporozcenko added: “I want you to support this motion because I don’t think anyone who has gone through this at whatever age can understand the emotional strain that this puts on the person or the people who have been abused and the fear of leaving. We should not be making it harder and by removing the perpetrator is the right way to do it.”

Specifically, the conference backed calls for the Matrimonial Homes Act – where abusers can be swiftly moved out of the family home – to be updated, claiming that it is not fit for purpose.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told the conference how the rollout of Universal Credit has impacted on those who are victims of domestic abuse, saying the ending of split payments within the household was “a tool of coercive control” for men.

Below is the speech that I made proposing the motion.

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.
The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

Conference, this motion demands better for victims of abuse.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so.

If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

We call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation. I was surprised to learn that not al social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies.

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

One said:

“having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me. I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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

In full: Jo Swinson’s speech to Scottish Conference

Jo Swinson gave a wide-ranging speech to Scottish Conference at the weekend.

She talked about Brexit, and how she’d apologised to a class of 10 year olds for it.

She talked about the challenges posed by new technology and AI.

And amidst all the crap that’s going on, she found reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Here is her speech in full.

10 year olds ask the best questions, don’t you think? I’ve been asked all sorts over the years:What is communism? Have you met the Queen? Can you explain the backstop?

This week though, I was asked a question I really didn’t want to answer: “What impact will Brexit haveon young people?”

How could I stand there, in front of more than 100 school children, and paint that bleak picture? No more right to travel, work and study across Europe – we enjoyed that right, but they won’t.

More businesses closing factories, reducing investment, cutting jobs, like we saw with the devastating news in Swindon this week.

Workers’ rights and environmental standards under threat from the next right-wing Tory leadership contender happy to sacrifice vital protections on the altar of deregulation.

And while we’re on the subject of the depths Tories will stoop to, shame on you Sajid Javid for yourdecision on Shamima Begum, throwing human rights out the window to further your career.

The decision to strip someone of their citizenship should never be in the hands of a Minister.And it’s in the hands of Ministers like him that our country’s future rests.

Conference, I told those children what Brexit would mean for them, and I said sorry.

And I explained that no one knew exactly how this would end, but it isn’t over yet.

That I am fighting for a People’s Vote so we have the chance to stay instead.

Because there is no Brexit deal which will ever be as good as the deal we have as a members of the European Union.

Every form of Brexit will make us poorer. It will put jobs at risk
And it will weaken us on the global stage.

Brexit can, and must, be stopped. Time is running out. This is the time for hard work and real action. More than ever, we need every single one of you, in this room and beyond, to join our fight.

We need every single one of you to write to your MP and get your family and friends to do the same. We need you to come on the Put It To The People march next month and make our voices heard. Because the more of us there are, the harder is it to stop us.

The louder we shout, the harder it is to shut us up.

And the more united we are, the harder it is to break us.

We want a People’s Vote and we want it now!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment
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