Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Helen Morgan to make her maiden speech today

If you get a chance to watch the Commons this afternoon, you’ll see new Lib Dem MP Helen Morgan make her first proper speech. I really don’t like the term maiden speech as it just seems sexist and patronising, an outdated and disrespectful view of young women.

The Scottish Parliament took to calling them debut speeches for a while and I’d like to see a bit more of that.

But back to Helen. Every Lib Dem who helped whether on the phone, in person or by donating, or by enabling someone else to go has a stake in this. It will be a very special moment for our party.

It won’t be the first time Helen has spoken in the Chamber. Within two hours of being sworn in on 5th January, she was challenging the PM to do something about the terrible state of Shropshire’s ambulance service.

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Ed Davey: Boris Johnson must resign over birthday party

Every time we hear of yet another time when Downing Street staff behaved like the rules didn’t apply to them, it just brings back the pain. This isn’t just politics. It’s about reliving the emotions of a really difficult couple of years.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it’s the hugs we didn’t have, the days we didn’t see our loved ones that really hurt.

Most of us bear the scars of this pandemic to a certain extent. If we hadn’t obeyed the rules, the death toll from Covid would have been so much higher. Staying at home for months on end was the only way to protect ourselves and others from a deadly virus.

But that came at a huge cost for many.

I am thinking of someone I love very much who wasn’t able to see their friends for months on end. They became very seriously ill as a result and could have lost their life. I heard yesterday about others who had not been so lucky and whose loved ones had died by suicide.

My son’s 21st fell not long before Boris Johnson’s birthday. He couldn’t see his group of friends.  His treat for the day was a trip to the drive thru McDonalds which had opened a few days previously. To be fair, he did get a nice home-cooked meal, but it’s far from the celebration he wanted.  I didn’t see my parents on their birthdays last year and my niece had to postpone her wedding. We’ve all got similar stories to tell.

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FOUR Lib Dem Council GAINS – What a night!

I’m doing the by-election results for ALDC tonight, with the help of some strong painkillers. I had a bit of a fall yesterday and hurt my hip. Nothing serious, but it is sore.

Tonight’s results got the endorphins flowing though. Not one, not two, not three but FOUR gains.

One gain came in one of the Toriest parts of Oxfordshire, where we haven’t had a councillor for 15 years.

And then came gain number 3:

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Another dramatic Wednesday ahead

It’s going to be an interesting day. Has Boris Johnson finally run out of road?

For the second Wednesday in a row, his future is under intense threat as his own MPs turn on him over the Downing Street parties. A weekend in their constituencies has left many Tories in marginal seats in no doubt about how angry their voters feel about Downing Street’s cavalier attitude to the rules they set for us all to follow.

Twitter is awash with speculation about “pork pie” plots to oust him and Operation Red Meat to save him.

Will he even make it to Prime Minister’s Questions at 12 noon?

If he does, the person who has the first question will have quite an important role in setting the tone for the setting. No doubt Boris will be hoping it’s a devoted backbencher with no self respect who will just read out whatever the whips give him.

Only it’s not. It’s one of ours.

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Wendy Chamberlain slams Government for “callous” benefits decision

The UK Government has confirmed that it is only going to raise benefits by the rate of inflation last September. This is what it normally does. However, it looks like inflation is going to almost double between September and April, when the changes take place.

The Government will be putting an order before Parliament to raise benefits by 3.1% which is not much good when inflation is expected to be 6% by April.

If you think about how energy costs are soaring, this is really going to impact on disabled people. They tend to have higher heating bills to start with, but when you factor in the special equipment, for example scooters, electric wheelchairs or oxygen tanks, which gobble up electricity, this is going to cause huge hardship.

Wendy Chamberlain, the Lib Dem DWP spokesperson has called on the Government to raise benefits by 6% to match the expected rate of inflation in April:

She said:

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What’s going on in our Parliaments this week? 17-21 January 2022

Lib Dem highlights in our legislatures this week include Jamie Stone holding a debate on gas and electricity costs while Lib Dem peers take on some of the Government’s nastier Bills. Watch out for Brian Paddick on the Police Bill and Sal Brinton on the Health and Care Bill.

In Wales, Jane Dodds has a debate on free public transport for young people on Wednesday

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday kicks off in the Commons with Priti Patel and the Home Office ministerial team answering questions from MPs.

They then go on to debate the Elections Bill, which would disenfranchise many people from deprived backgrounds, who are less likely to vote Conservative, by requiring voter ID. It’s sickening voter suppression.

The Lords take on the dreadful Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and you can read our take on that here.

On Tuesday, MPs question Sajid Javid and then go on to debate the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and a money resolution on the Charities Bill.

Jamie Stone has a Westminster Hall debate on the cost of gas and electricity.

Peers have the first of two days this week on the Health and Social Care BIll.

Commons business on Wednesday kicks off with questions to COP 26 President Alok Sharma, then you have to wonder what PMQs will throw up this week. MPs then turn their attention to the Building Safety Bill

The Lords deals with the Northern Ireland Bill and the Subsidy Control Bill. Several Lib Dems, including Malcolm Bruce and Jenny Randerson, are down to speak.

Thursday sees  international trade questions in the Commons followed by two general debates, the first on a motion relating to the Uyghur Tribunals and the second on Lawfare and the UK Court System.

Meanwhile the Lords have another day on the Health and Care Bill.

Holyrood

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Your last chance for the early bird rate for Spring Conference

Spring Conference takes place online between 11 and 13 March. Tomorrow is the last date you can register at the early bird rate of £40. Don’t miss your chance to take part and save yourself some money  – make sure you register here. 

There’s also an in-person companion event f run by ALDC,  which is taking place in York on 12 and 13 March and you can register for that here.

The agenda has not been published yet. Federal Conference Committee met yesterday to choose which motions will be debated and we should have those details within the next few days.

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Cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees – what do you think?

I’ve been really concerned this week that some major employers are cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees to the statutory minimum. ITV reports how companies like Next, Morrisons and Ikea are only going to pay employees who have to self-isolate Statutory Sick Pay of only £96.35 per week, whereas those who have been vaccinated will get their usual pay. And the majority of affected employees will be the lowest paid.

In England, if you are a close contact of someone with Covid, you don’t have to self isolate if you are fully vaccinated. You just need to take daily lateral flow tests. However, if you have not been vaccinated and there are no medical reasons why you can’t be, you have to isolate for ten days. If you do not do so, you could be fined £1000. The rules are set out here.

I don’t agree with employers making these sorts of value judgements about an employee’s liability for their own condition. That is a rabbit hole we really do not want to go down because it could end up in some really nasty places. Broken your leg while hillwalking? Imagine your employer telling you you could have avoided that and they are only going to pay you SSP.

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Lib Dems table motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson

Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson and have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg to ask that it is given parliamentary time.

The motion been so far been signed by 18 MPs from four parties. These include all thirteen Liberal Democrat MPs, two Labour MPs, two from Plaid Cymru and Stephen Parry from the Alliance Party.

The Liberal Democrats have also written to Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, demanding he put the motion to a vote within the next week. Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting says that Labour would back it in a Commons vote.

The question is, would enough Conservatives? And what would the public think if their Conservative MP backed a PM who has had such a chaotic approach to government and treats the laws of the land as an optional extra?

Ed Davey said:

It’s time for Conservative MPs to show where they stand. Are they going to continue to put up with a Prime Minister who lied to Parliament and to the public, who admitted he broke lockdown rules and refuses to hold himself accountable?

By remaining in Number 10 Boris Johnson is a threat to the health of the nation – no one will take anything he says seriously and that is simply unacceptable during a pandemic.

Conservative MPs should not only support our motion of no confidence but they should pressure Jacob Rees Mogg to give the motion time for a vote and soon. The country deserves a chance to move on from this deceitful Prime Minister.

The full text of Wera’s letter is below.

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Why we’re so livid about the Downing Street parties

I’ve not had a huge amount of sleep. I went to bed too late and woke up too early.

Why? I’m livid. And, like many millions of people, emotions that I’ve been struggling with but keeping below the surface, are breaking through.

We’ve been going through hell, and the more we hear about the culture in Government that made them think that it was fine to sit outside in the sunshine and party when millions couldn’t comfort their dying or bereaved relatives, or had to endure intolerable suffering alone, the more we relive our experiences.

If you watched the BBC News last night, you’ll have seen a woman called Lisa recount how she had to watch her brother take his last breath on an iPad at around the same time the May 2020 BYOB party was going on in the Downing Street Garden. She is a friend of mine. So is her sister Jenni, who spoke to the Daily Record:

Jenni said: “They were telling us to stick to the rules but they thought it was OK to have a party.

“We couldn’t comfort one another but they’re having cheese and wine in the garden. They’re laughing at us and think this is OK?”

“We feel traumatised by what has happened, almost like we have PTSD because of our experience and then all these revelations come out that Boris and his staff are telling us to do one thing while they do another.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week ? 10-14 January 2022

All three Parliaments are now fully back in session this week. Lib Dem highlights include Rupert Redesdale’s Lords debate on farming on Tuesday and it’s a busy week for Wendy Chamberlain who has an adjournment debate on Long Covid on Wednesday, a Westminster Hall debate on global vacccine access on Thursday and a Private Members’ Bill on Friday. Tim Farron also has a debate.

So what’s happening?

Westminster

Monday has Defence questions, the remaining stages of the Nuclear Energy Finance Bill which basically gives the Government the right to finance new nuclear power stations. You can find out more in the Commons Library briefing.

There’s also a couple of nasty finance measures such as the approval of the welfare cap, which is exactly what millions of vulnerable people do not need.

The Lords look at the National Insurance Contributions Bill.

On Tuesday, it’s Business questions and a yet to be defined Opposition Day Debate for MPs

In the Lords, there is an interesting question from the Bishop of Durham on social security support for larger families. A good chance to highlight the appalling two child limit for state benefits.

Then there is a chance for the Lib Dem peers to get stuck in to the Health and Care Bill as it starts its line by line scrutiny before Rupert Redesdala has a debate on the support needed by the  farming industry to combat increased costs and competition.

On Wednesday, the drama of PMQs gives way to a bill which sets out an arbitration process on rent arrears for commercial properties which have accrued during the pandemic. The Commons Library briefing is here.

Then Wendy Chamberlain has an adjournment debate on Long Covid.

The Lords deals with the final stage of the appalling Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill.  You can read Brian Paddick’s unequivocal denunciation of it as the most illiberal and authoritarian Bill he has ever seen here.

There’s more on the National Insurance Contributions Bill later.

Thursday sees Cabinet Office questions in the Commons followed by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s weekly business statement, the Government’s response to the Transport Committee report on smart motorways which says they should be paused for 5 years and backbench business on education catch up and the Online Safety Bill.

In the Lords, Paul Scriven has a question on the impact of people waiting to be seen in ambulance queues, and there’s more Health and Care Bill.

It’s a sitting Friday in the Commons and both Wendy Chamberlain and Tim Farron have Bills, Wendy’s on requiring the Government to ensure public bodies have representatives from devolved nations and Tim’s to ensure proper scrutiny of the welfare and environmental effects of trade deals on farming. Both of these are so far down the list that it is unlikely that they will even be covered and will be deferred to another date.

You can get into the full parliamentary calendar from here.

Holyrood

On Tuesday MSPs will hear Nicola Sturgeon’s latest Covid-19 update before
debating the impact of labour shortages on Scotland’s economy, a legislative consent motion to the recent Westminster Animal Welfare Bill and a private member’s debate on Endemetriosis

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Daisy Cooper: Government must keep free lateral flow tests as long as they ask people to self isolate

They say that you shouldn’t believe anything until it has been officially denied. Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi has been doing the Sunday media telling us all that the Government “absolutely” has no plans to stop sending out free lateral flow tests to people. This is news to our health spokesperson Daisy Cooper who says that Ministers have already said to her that they would.

In Scotland, we are asked to test before we meet anyone, so my family of three is currently going through a box of seven tests every week. Everyone should be testing a couple of times a week as a matter of course.

My Facebook timeline has been full of friends posting pictures of their positive lateral flow tests for weeks and only discovered through testing that they had the virus and needed to stay away from others. If they had not tested, they may have gone home and visited Granny at Christmas time and spread the virus to her and other vulnerable members of their families.

Many others have been feeling pretty awful with what is supposedly a “mild” version of the virus, a reminder of how unpleasant t can be. And while hospitalisations and deaths are not, thankfully, rising in proportion with the huge rise in cases, the longer term damage from things like Long Covid is as yet unknown.

Zahawi’s denial certainly doesn’t convince me. We know already that there are tensions in the Government between those who want us all to get on with it and live with Covid with no government support and intervention and those who want us to get on with it and live with Covid with minimal support and intervention.

On the immediate issue of free lateral flow tests, Daisy said that the Government must not plunge us into a “cost of living with Covid” crisis and that the tests should remain free as long as people were being asked to self isolate:

It seems this Government is happy to hand out billions in crooked Covid contracts to their chums, but intends to scrap free covid tests plunging millions into a cost of living with Covid crisis.

Scrapping free tests when cases are at record levels would be hugely counter-productive and would hit those who can least afford it hardest, at a time when families are already being clobbered by rising taxes and energy bills.

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Ed vs Boris – a load of old Balls

Today has been Helen Morgan’s day. First she was sworn in and then she questioned the Prime Minister about the state of North Shropshire’s ambulance services.

But we could not let this day go by without mentioning Ed’s question to the Prime Minister, which was not without amusing incident.

Poor Ed has been misidentified twice this week. On the New Year’s Day edition of The Weakest LInk (and isn’t Romesh Ranganathan an inspired choice for that?) Jenni Falconer was asked which Ed was the leader of the Liberal Democrats. “Milliband?” she  asked, without much confidence.

Today Speaker Lindsay Hoyle had one of those moments when he introduced Ed at PMQs:

I call Ed Balls—I mean Ed Davey.

Ed replied:

Happy new year, Mr Speaker! I am sure the Prime Minister will want to join me and my Liberal Democrat colleagues in welcoming my hon. Friend the new Member for North Shropshire (Helen Morgan).

People’s already high heating bills are about to jump by more than 50%, with average energy bills rising by nearly £700 a year. Gas price rises will push millions more families into fuel poverty, when we know many are already afraid even to open their heating bills. Does the Prime Minister accept that he could be doing much more than he is to prevent millions of people from going hungry and cold this year while he remains—for now at least—in the warmth and comfort of No. 10?

Boris Johnson of course took the mention of the word balls and ran with it. Pretty disgraceful when you consider that there are millions of vulnerable people wondering how they are going to heat their homes, disabled people wondering how they are going to pay the extra costs to keep their breathing machines going or charge their stairlifts or scooters, all of which use a whole load of electricity. He just doesn’t care.

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Helen Morgan challenges Prime Minister on Day 1

Within a couple of hours of being sworn in, North Shropshire’s new Lib Dem MP (never going to get tired of writing that) Helen Morgan was challenging the Prime Minister over the state of ambulance services in her constituency.

Helen tried to get Boris Johnson to commit to a “full and proper review of ambulance services by the care quality commission.” The Prime Minister refused, showing pretty callous disregard for the residents who had endured some horrifying waits for ambulances in recent weeks. The closure of four local ambulance stations has only added to current pressures.

The exchange in full went like this:

I welcome the new Member, Helen Morgan.

Helen Morgan
(North Shropshire) (LD)
Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Ambulance services and paramedics are desperately struggling to maintain a safe and timely service across the country. My constituency of North Shropshire is no exception, and inexplicably has seen two of its ambulance stations closed, as well as waiting times sky-rocket. With the crisis in emergency care escalating, will the Prime Minister commit today before this House to supporting my call for a full and proper review of ambulance services by the Care Quality Commission?

The Prime Minister
It is very important that everybody should get the ambulance service that they need. That is why we are investing £55 million more and that is why there are 500 more people on the ambulance staff than there were in 2018.

Afterwards, Helen said:

There is no time to waste in solving the local ambulance crisis which is a life and death situation in Shropshire.

It is essential that the Prime Minister and his Government tackle this crisis. It was disappointing to see him turn down my call for a full and proper review into services.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

This week it is only Westminster that is back in business after the Christmas holidays. Holyrood and the Senedd don’t return till next week.  There will, however, be a brief virtual Covid-19 statement from Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon.

You do have to wonder why they bothered dragging MPs back to London for just two days of business when Covid case levels are so high.

Today

However, the exciting thing for Liberal Democrats is that Helen Morgan, our new MP for North Shropshire, will be taking her seat in the Commons, and that will be a joy to behold. She’ll be sworn in at the start of the day’s business at 2:30 pm. It would normally be 11:30 on a Wednesday, but because it’s the first day back, it’s not till the afternoon.

Boris Johnson then faces his first PMQs of 2022 at 3pm and can expect to be quizzed on the growing crisis in the NHS and in schools. Ed Davey has a question and I wonder what line he will take…

Pensions legislation then takes up the afternoon until an adjournment debate on the award of public contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Westminster Hall debates will take place on issues regarding new build homes, historical allegations of sexual abuse and the justice system, deforestation in the Amazon, housing in Sittingbourne and Sheppey and immigration requirements for non UK national members of the armed forces.

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Housing, child poverty, employee privacy, nuclear weapons and energy on agenda for Scottish Spring Conference

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have published the agenda for its hybrid Spring Conference to be held on 11-12 February. If this seems a bit premature for Spring, it’s being deliberately set as far out from the Scottish Council elections as possible. Every council seat in Scotland is up for election in May.

Members will gather in-person in Hamilton and those of us, probably including me, who are too worried about Covid to attend such a big gathering, will be able to join virtually. This will be an important test of how these events can work.  In an email to members, Conference Convener Paul McGarry said that

we are currently monitoring the situation regarding Omicron and the Conference Committee will be meeting in early January to ensure that the Conference is meeting current guidance.

The Hamilton Town House was the scene of a highly successful Conference in 2019 and was the last time we actually gathered in person as the 2019 General Election scuppered our Autumn even that year.

The agenda has much potential for robust debate, including a motion that would see the party take an explicitly anti nuclear weapons stance. And Highland Liberal Democrats call for us to be open to putting nuclear energy back on the menu.

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The Christmas vaccine dilemma – what would you do?

Last night’s  Radio 4 PM had a discussion with a mother and son who were dealing with an issue that many families will be trying to resolve this Christmas. This particular family had members who are particularly vulnerable to Covid and the son had chosen not to get vaccinated.

The compromise they reached was that the son would have a PCR test before mixing with the rest of the family.

It made me think about what I would do in these circumstances. I am about as Covid cautious as they come and my household is being very careful about who we mix with. We are following the Scottish Government’s advice and doing a lateral flow test before seeing other family members and they are doing the same. I’m lucky that we don’t have the vaccine issue as we’ve all been vaccinated and boostered to the max. In fact, the last member of our household got his booster on Monday, rather than the previously earliest appointment he could get which was 17th January thanks in part to Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP. The vaccination centre at Ingliston had been going to be dismantled to make way for a rave the weekend before last. Alex raised the problem with Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the rave was cancelled and the vaccine centre reinstated.

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Ed Davey: The Conservatives can be beaten anywhere

You have to hand it to Ed Davey. The poor man has had Covid since Monday but he hasn’t let it stop him contributing to and celebrating our historic by-election victory in North Shropshire.

He might have been stuck indoors but he maraphoned like a trooper.

Perhaps the only benefit of his self isolation is that he is unlikely now to get a Council Tax Bill from Shropsire Council given how much time he has spent there in the past month.

Covid is not much fun, even when you are fully vaccinated and boostered as Ed is, but he has stepped up to …

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North Shropshire: It wasn’t too good to be true after all!

A few minutes ago, I had that very satisfying feeling of adding Helen Morgan to my Twitter lists of Lib Dem MPs and Lib Dem Parliamentarians. A wee thing, but an immensely satisfying moment.

I am not at my best at the moment. It turns out that I’m not as good as I used to be at this staying up till 4:40 am then doing a day’s work malarkey. But I can’t stop smiling. This has been a very good day.

And that bursting of the Boris bubble made me smile. I enjoyed it much more than the Blue Wall bashing from June.

Exactly 6 months ago, hundreds of Lib Dems were wandering around Chesham and Amersham on a Summer’s evening trying to turn people out to vote. I was taking part in the phone knock-up. In a few hours’ time, we would welcome Sarah Green as our 12th MP. Even in our moment of glory after that, if you had told us that within 6 months, we’d be welcoming Helen Morgan as our 13th after winning North Shropshire, we’d have laughed.

When Owen Paterson announced his resignation on 4th November, the party had some decisions to take about how to approach this by-election. Within two days, we had leafletted half the constituency with a very clear message setting out that we were the challengers. Establishing yourself in that position is key. We knew that the local party was totally up for a fight and that was a key part of the decision to start looking for kitchen sinks.

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How will you help Helen win North Shropshire tomorrow?

I’ve not long finished hosting the eve of poll Maraphone for Helen Morgan in North Shropshire. It was a busy night – breakout rooms and everything. And it took Eastbourne PPC Josh Babarinde a whole hour to find anyone who would admit to voting Conservative tomorrow.

And what was absolutely amazing was that Ed Davey came along and joined us for a while. The indefatigable campaigner wasn’t going to let a wee tussle with Omicron get him down. He has been to North Shropshire so often they will probably send him a Council Tax bill and he is clearly gutted that he can’t be there tomorrow. But to come and hit the phones despite feeling poorly is above and beyond the call of duty.

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WATCH: Wendy Chamberlain’s first speech as Scottish Deputy Leader

Wendy Chamberlain has been elected as Scottish Lib Dems Deputy Leader.

 

She spoke to a gathering of party members in Edinburgh:

She said:

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Young Liberals produce new campaign guide

As Helen Morgan’s campaign in North Shropshire gathers momentum – see last night’s post showing that we are doing even better there than in Chesham and Amersham at the same stage) – party members are flocking to the seat.

The Young Liberals are always a big part of any by-election and have already held several action days there with more to come until polling day on 16th.

You have no idea how much I want those shoes, by the way.

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Lib Dems mark World Aids Day

Today is World AIDS day. I lived through the 1980s when a Tory Government ramped up prejudice against LGBT people. It was awful. It made so many of my friends fear being open about how they were. It made them suffer bullying and harassment.

Russell T Davies’ drama It’s a Sin brought that horror to our screens earlier this year. I was in bits by the end of episode 1. It’s a very powerful warning against demonising any group of people.

The theme of the day this year is about ending inequalities. You can find out more on the World Health Organisation website here. We have to end inequalities in prevention and treatment. At present more than 1 in 4 people internationally don’t have access to antiretroviral medications. That has to be fixed.

Lib Dems have showed their support for the day:

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Ed Davey challenges Boris Johnson to do more for farmers

Ed Davey took the opportunity at Prime Minister’s Questions today to challenge the Prime Minister to do more to support farmers. He mentioned three places in particular. Feel free to take a wild guess about which parliamentary constituency they are in.*

Farmers across our country are crucial to our nation’s prosperity, as has been shown, once again through the pandemic, but many are now on the brink. Farmers across the country, in villages such as Hodnet, Baschurch and Woodseaves and countless others, are about to see their payments cut by at least 5%, starting this very month. The Prime Minister promised a new support system, rewarding more sustainable farming, but in the meantime he seems prepared to see many British farms go bankrupt. There is an easy solution: stop cutting the current system’s essential payments until the new scheme is fully rolled out. Will the Prime Minister do that, and help our struggling farmers before it is too late?

The Prime Minister’s response will be of very little comfort to farmers who are struggling.

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Lib Dems looking good in North Shropshire according to “confidential” briefing

If you want people to spread some news, the best way to get them to do it is to send them an email marked “Confidential” and tell them not to pass information on because it’s “secret”.

To add a dash of drama, you send it out at 6:03 am, saying that you’ve just come out of the “daily briefing with the by-election team in North Shropshire.”

I don’t doubt for a second that Lib Dem Chief Exec Mike Dixon is an early riser and his cannily timed email to catch party members when they had their breakfast or were on their morning commute was a great way to get the message out that we are doing well.

The news that he was imparting, that our internal polling shows that we are only 10 points behind the Tories in the postal vote, had already appeared on Twitter last night.

This compares well with the Chesham and Amersham situation at the same time.

Certainly this chimes with the accounts of every single person I know (and that’s a lot of people, including some hardened cynics) who has been knocking doors in North Shropshire, and with my own efforts on the phone.

There is a lot of excitement about this by-election and there is a real feeling that we should not limit our ambitions.

Our candidate, Helen Morgan, is absolutely brilliant and is already acting as an MP should:

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Beatrice Wishart challenges media on reporting violence against women and girls

Thursday was White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. At Holyrood MSPs paused for a minutes silence to remember those women murdered by men over this past year.

Later there was a debate on ways to eradicate men’s violence against women. Beatrice Wishart, our MSP for Shetland, who has a long record of helping women who have suffered domestic abuse made a brilliant speech in which she called for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms. She drew attention to the way the media reports violence against women, often victim shaming and she talked particularly about how they talk about this awful practice of “spiking”, drugging someone’s drink in order to assault them.

You can watch her speech here. The text is below:

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a trustee of Shetland Women’s Aid.

I, too, pay tribute to Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and other services and individuals across Scotland for the good work that they do, not just on international day for the elimination of violence against women, but every day. It is worth saying again that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 days of activism campaign. It has been 30 years, and, each year, the debate exchanges statistics that are unacceptable and horrific, as Pam Duncan-Glancy stated.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in three women worldwide will, in their lifetime, be subjected to

“either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, and we know that Covid has impacted on women’s equality progress across the globe.

Earlier this year, Jess Phillips MP, the UK shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, read out the names of the 118 women who had been killed in the preceding year and in whose case a man had been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. It took her a little over four minutes and the list did not include the names of the women referenced in the motion, who were tragically killed after March this year.

The number of domestic abuse incidents reported by Police Scotland has risen for the fourth year in a row, with one in four women in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is a plague that not only affects women but impacts whole households. Children are tragically caught in it, too. It was seeing the lifelong impact of domestic abuse on children and the financial abuse of women that drew me into my voluntary trustee role.

I know that all speakers in the debate are striving to ensure that women and girls across the globe and closer to home can live their lives free from fear. Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously called for—and we do so again—the establishment of the new commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government. Along with providing increased training for those who work in education and on the front line in public authorities, we can work together to build better public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women and take action to eradicate it.

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4pm today – show your solidarity with refugees

People across Scotland will be placing an image like this in windows with a candle at 4pm today to show solidarity with refugees.

I thought it might be an idea to share the idea here in case any readers want to take part.

This started as an initiative from the Strathclyde Chapter of the Methodist Church. Lib Dem Councillor Fiona Dryburgh is a member and shared it. It’s fine for heathens like me to take part. The idea is:

Print the picture – or draw an orange heart on a piece of paper and put it in your window with a candle today at 4pm. Take a picture of it and post it on your Twitter account with the following tag: @IMIX_UK or tag your post with #TogetherWithRefugees.

I’m sure most people reading this will be filled with heartbreak and anger at the needless loss of life in the Channel. And we will also be horrified by our Government’s heartless attitude towards people trying to reach a better, safer life. And, to be honest, we’ll be horrified by the appalling way the French authorities have destroyed the refugee camps in Calais and hampered the efforts of people helping them.

Euan Davidson wrote on this site in 2018 about his volunteer trip to Calais to help refugees:

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Momentum builds for Lib Dems in N Shropshire as Ed Davey visits again…

So the Lib Dems are certainly dominating with tweets on North Srhopshire and also with campaigning on the ground.

The campaign is really taking off as party members from all over the country visit. If, like me, you can’t travel at the moment, see under the cut for details of how you can be part of this.

There won’t be many from further away than Alistair Carmichael who has been in Wem this weekend instead of at home in Orkney.

This has all the hallmarks of the Great Lib Dem By-Election campaigns. It’s hard work and lots of fun!

And Ed Davey is enjoying himself, he’s back for his third visit in two weeks:

He spoke to the local paper, telling them:

When I am talking to people on their doorsteps I would think about a third of them are telling me about problems they had faced themselves.

I have been told of eight to nine-hour waits for ambulances – that really shocked me.”

The Liberal Democrat leader raised the issue of the closure of North Shropshire ambulance stations in the House of Commons.

London Ambulance Service changed its mind about closing down stations. Here West Midlands Ambulance Service has already closed Oswestry and Market Drayton,” he said.

And here are some of the others who have flocked to the constituency this weekend:

 

 

But there might be all sorts of reasons that you can’t get there. Read on to find out how else you can help.

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Lib Dems in Three Rivers instal first Progress Pride flag crossing

Visitors to Leavesden Country Park in Hertfordshire will have the chance to cross on the first Progress Pride flag in the country. Former Council Leader Sara Bedford set this project in motion before she stepped down

The Progress Pride flag incorporates additions to the traditional rainbow flag to make it more inclusive and intersectional. The addition of black, brown, pink, blue and white stripes shows solidarity with trans people and people of colour.

Earlier this year, Sutton Lib Dem Councillor Jake Short wrote on this site about the rainbow and trans flag crossings now in place in Sutton.

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For Transgender Day of Remembrance

On 20th November each year, vigils take place across the world to remember those lost to anti transgender violence every year. This year the list stretches to more than one person for every single day. 375 trans people have been killed since November 20 2021. It’s grim reading. So many are in their 20s. These are not just names on a page. They are people with feelings, hopes, dreams whose lives were taken from them as a result of prejudice and discrimination.

Transgender Day of Remembrance started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to remember Rita Hester who had been killed the year before.

A good few years ago now, I was in London with some young people and, at their request,  spent a rainy Saturday evening that we could have spent in a warm theatre standing in Trafalgar Square in the freezing rain at a hate crime vigil.  Not long after that, one of those young people came out as transgender.  He was under no illusion about the prejudice he faced, yet he knew that the only way he could have a fulfilling life was to be open about his true self. That takes incredible courage and requires our sensitivity and support. Every time we open our mouths on this subject, or get ready to hit our keyboards, we need to think about the human cost of our words. If in doubt, be extra kind.

In the UK today, trans people face a barrage of prejudice and discrimination wherever they turn. Anti-trans activists dominate newspaper columns and broadcast interviews while complaining of being silenced. Helen Belcher wrote about the current climate on this site the other day.

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