Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

What a day! Sun shines on huge People’s Vote March

It’s been a wee while since so many people have taken to the streets of London to protest. The BBC reports estimates of a 700,000 crowd demanding a People’s Vote in unseasonably brilliant sunshine.

I’m not going to lie. Being in a space where I could see nobody but Lib Dems wherever I looked was pretty cool.

My day had started at 4:45 when my alarm went off. I boarded my flight at 6:15. The pilot then announced that due to forecast fog at Gatwick we wouldn’t be taking off for …

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How to join the Lib Dems at the People’s Vote march on Saturday

I will be up long before the crack of bloody dawn on Saturday to begin the long journey to London to take part in the People’s Vote march. Although make no mistake, our intention is not just to secure a vote but to stop this Brexit nonsense.

Lib Dems will be meeting at the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park at 12 noon.

This country’s membership of the European Union has brought this country so much social and economic benefit. Our sex discrimination laws, maternity leave, workers’ rights, environmental and health and safety protections started there. And we didn’t have them imposed on us – we were one of the most important voices at the table shaping them.

Being part of something larger than ourselves, something that has kept the peace on this continent for almost three quarters of a century, which has championed human rights and democracy, is such a good and healthy thing.

I don’t generally feel comfortable around national flags. I’d never wave a saltire or union jack. They symbolise selfishness and insularity and isolation to me. However, I feel completely comfortable wrapping myself from head to foot in the European Union flag because it is a symbol of togetherness and common purpose and co-operation. 

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Senior Lib Dems call on media to apologise to transgender people over hostile coverage

Senior Liberal Democrats are among the signatories to an open letter in support of transgender people and transgender rights. “Free speech does not give free reign to cause people harm,” the letter says, highlighting that the onslaught faced by trans people is not consequence free.

The letter was organised by Chippenham Lib Dem candidate Helen Belcher and the Lib Dems who have signed include Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, President Sal Brinton, Layla Moran, Lorely Burt, Brian Paddick, Liz Barker and Alex Carlile. I may have had my differences with Lord Carlile over the years, but we should remember that he …

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A new side to North East Fife’s Lib Dem candidate

If you were at the Conference rally in Brighton, you’ll have seen the fantastic speech given by our amazing candidate for North East Fife, Wendy Chamberlain. She hopes to take the seat, currently held by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins. He and his wife account for his entire majority.

Wendy has many talents and was featured in this week’s Scotland on Sunday for her work on Scotland’s governing body for the sport of Shinty. It’s a world which has, until fairly recently, excluded women from its management.

When Wendy Chamberlain became the first woman to join the board of the Camanachd Association

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #532

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 532nd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (7-13 October, 2018), 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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Five days left to support trans and non binary people in England and Wales

One of my personal highlights of Lib Dem Conference in Brighton was the LDV fringe meeting on introducing some light and kindness into the currently toxic media atmosphere surrounding transgender and non binary people.

In Scotland the atmosphere is much more inclusive. Scotland’s feminist organisations are open to self identified women who are feminists. There has been an enduring, healthy and respectful dialogue between all equality organisations. That’s why I invited Emma Ritch, the Director of Engender  along with James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance to tell us more. Sarah Brown from LGBT+ Lib Dems was there to outline the current battleground – the ill-informed, scapegoating, fear-mongering in the media and Sal Brinton emphasised the party’s commitment to transgender rights. Sal talked about meeting a young actor who was trans early in her career and being horrified by the discrimination they faced.

Emma spoke about how a comparatively well-funded voluntary sector and a Government determined to make sure services were trans-inclusive helped. She said that there had been some difficult conversations and questions, but that what she called the “institutional kindness” of the Scottish Transgender Alliance had done so much to foster knowledge and understanding. She said that “radical kindness” was a key element in bringing people together.

James talked about the proposed reforms to the GRA and how they would make the process much easier for transgender people to amend their birth certificates. He pointed out that a statutory declaration was a very serious legal document and the penalty for making a false one is two years in prison.

It was a well attended meeting with some excellent canapés (I will dream about the mini Tiramisu things for a long time) and some warm and thoughtful discussion. Paul Walter wrote his account of it here.

One person who was there emailed me with some reflections:

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Your last chance to have your say on Vince’s party reforms…for now, at least

The consultation on Vince’s party reforms ends today.

If you haven’t already responded, you can do so here.

It’s really important that as many party members as possible make their views known.

If you are not sure about the issues, we’ve published lots of articles with varying viewpoints about this over the past few weeks and months. There’s a list of them here.

Here are some highlights?

Vince himself wrote for us to say why he thinks we need to change:

The Liberal Democrats have a long and proud history of approaching these transformational moments head on — by localising power, fostering diversity and nurturing creativity. We fight for our fundamental values of liberty, equality and community. In short, we live by the very principles that successful movements are built upon.

Earlier this year, we set a new direction for our party, by passing a motion at conference to “Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities at every level of society.”

It is time to make good on this directive — to transform our party into a wider liberal movement that will bring positive change to Britain.

But James Baillie had concerns about party democracy:

Meaningful democracy requires a level playing field and a fair debate – party associated organisations and member groups are vital to policy formation at conference, for example. So how are the leadership going to ensure that their proposed wider movement provides an intellectual space for liberal ideas rather than just an echo chamber for the leadership of the day? Will member organisations get access and the ability to regularly communicate with Lib Dem supporters, so that we actually get? Will member campaigns be able to present an opposition case to any member ballots, on an equal footing to the proposition?

I have more questions on this topic than space in an article to write them down, and it’s not simply a case of the devil being in the detail – the issues posed above are absolutely questions of vision, of whether we want an informed, participatory future for our movement or a cut-down, centralised shell that can bypass members and use supporter ballots as a legitimising prop.

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Jane Dodds: Liberals fight for the forgotten and the vulnerable

A visit to a Cardiff food bank laid very heavily on Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds’ mind as she delivered her speech to Welsh Lib Dem Conference. Citing examples of someone sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions for not going to an interview on the day their father died, she called for an end to the rollout of Universal Credit.

Her speech in full follows:

On October 13th, 2008, exactly 10 years ago we saw the beginning of major distrust in mainstream politics. The Treasury spent £37 billion in bailing out the banks, to stop the economy collapsing. This Financial crisis exposed fault lines in society that were ignored or unnoticed when times were good. This lead many thousands of people in communities across Wales feeling that they had no place at the table and no hope or aspiration.

All it took was greed from bankers, arrogance from policymakers and complacency from regulators to set in motion a chain of events that would damage countless lives and change the world order.

The past ten years have seen insecure work and underemployment rise.

We have seen workers’ pay reduce in real terms and zero hours contracts become norm.

We have seen stagnant wages, and the UK is on track for the biggest squeeze on wages since the end of the Napoleonic wars.
Austerity and increasing poverty are simply being accepted as being inevitable.

Is it any wonder so many people have become angry at this injustice and feel the system doesn’t work for them?

I want to talk with you about just one of these issues… Poverty. I saw for myself last Friday, what the effect poverty really has when I visited the Cardiff Foodbank.

I saw how a heartless, cruel and bureaucratic welfare system has left far too many people reliant on of food banks and the generosity of their communities just to get by.

Why do we have a system which treats people which such suspicion, since when did mistrust of those in need of help most become acceptable.

And we must not tolerate this.

The figures on those using foodbanks are truly shocking. Last year almost 100,000 food parcels were distributed to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Wales. Yet it is the human stories that affect you the most deeply.

The personal stories I heard about the people using foodbanks moved me. I heard of one man who was not able to attend an appointment with the DWP as his father died on that day. Despite explaining this to the officers, he was sanctioned, and appeared for the first time in his life at a foodbank.

I heard of a single parent who had sold all of her furniture apart from the beds for her and her children to get by, and now was coming to a foodbank. I listened to volunteers talk about how sad and humbled they felt when people left a foodbank who were always grateful for their limited support, and wanting to do so much more to help people in their desperate circumstances.

I cannot believe that I am hearing these stories in 2018.

The most common reason for people coming to foodbanks in Wales is because there is a gap in their welfare payments. These gaps are often due to arbitrary sanctions, and when Universal Credit is rolled out in Wales there will be a 5 week gap between application and payment. This will leave thousands more people will be forced to rely on food banks.

It is because of these stories that I am today calling for the Welsh Government to launch a Cross-party Commission on food poverty and demanding a pause in the roll out of Universal Credit in Wales.

We want to rebuild and repair our safety net so it becomes fit for the future. We must recreate a welfare state that guarantees everyone a guaranteed standard of living and provides a helping hand for all those who need it. That is at the heart of a Liberal welfare state. A social welfare system that is there to support people when they need it most.

And conference, you know I would like this to go further.

I want us to really consider Universal Basic Income. An effective model could all but eradicate absolute poverty, ensuring that everyone receives the money they need to sustain a guaranteed standard of living.

I know there are concerns about UBI so that’s why I want us to push for a pilot to be in Wales to look at how it affects those in both rural and urban areas as well as identifying it’s weaknesses. This can be the future and we could fund it through new innovative taxes, like a tax on carbon usage.

And conference, in a week when we have heard from the United Nations that global warming is as big a threat as ever why are we not looking at radical solutions like this.

In Wales we continue to shout out “what about the Swansea Tidal Lagoon”? I will make no apologies for continuing to talk about the Lagoon and the transformational they can bring across Wales, and the UK. They will benefit our tourism industry, create more jobs and more importantly help protect our environment.

Listen, in Wales, we can lead the way in tackling climate change whilst creating high-skilled jobs and driving our economy forward. Our vision for a Welsh green economy extends beyond tidal energy. It includes solar power, wind power, Community Energy Projects and electric vehicles. Just look at the work of River Simple in Llandrindod Wells – aiming to eliminate the environmental impact of personal transport through the production of the “Rasa” car, which runs on hydrogen. I met the designer, Hugo Spowers, some years back and we need to ensure we are promoting and financially supporting this industry in Wales.

Innovative solutions are not just limited to the economy though. We are also overhauling the education system here in Wales, to make sure it’s fit for the future. We introduced the Welsh Pupil Premium, because our commitment to education is something which runs to the core of our Liberal values.

Kirsty Williams has constantly increased and expanded the funding, giving schools the resources to reduce the attainment gap and give pupils the support they need to achieve their full potential.

And just yesterday Kirsty launched a new innovative programme of “E-sgol”s, which will utilise technology to revolutionise rural education. Diolch Kirsty!

Just earlier this month we helped Cymorth Cymru in their campaign to protect the Supporting People Fund… and we won.

Our victory was the result of effective collaboration with the housing sector and is a testament to the importance of having Kirsty round the Welsh Government Cabinet table influencing decisions and standing up for our causes.

Conference we believe in equality and tackling injustice, not expanding it. In 2018 we cannot allow families to be punished simply for not having inherited wealth, or an opportunity to advance themselves in life.

We cannot be timid, we cannot be middle of the road, we shouldn’t keep trying to play it safe and just wait for change. We must be bold.
I know the word “Moderate” has been portrayed quite negatively lately, but it is not a bad thing. To be moderate is to challenge indifference, pursue the path which isn’t always glorious, but is the right thing to do.

Our offer to Wales cannot be a halfway house. We need far more than half measures to tackle the crises of poverty, isolation, climate change and declining public services.

As Aneurin Bevan said said
“People who stand in the middle of the road get run over .”

Liberals have always gone against the grain, always fought for the forgotten and the vulnerable and always stood up for causes no-one else will.

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Do we need a Special Conference to debate Vince’s reforms?

Party President Sal Brinton has told members at the North West Regional Conference this morning that the Federal Board will discuss whether there should be a special Conference to decide on Vince Cable’s proposals for Party Reform. There are two that require a change in the Federal Constitution. The first is the idea that any registered supporters would get a vote for party leader and the other is that the leadership would be open to someone who isn’t a member of the Westminster Parliament.

The supporters’ scheme itself doesn’t need the authority of Conference to set it up – that could happen straight away.

Doing away with the time that you have to be a member before you can be a candidate for the party is something that is decided by the state parties individually.

I wrote in August about what was needed to put the changes into action.

So, to change any of these things, the constitution would have to change. Here, article 2.10 is your friend.

  • 2.10  This Constitution may only be altered:

    1. (a)  by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting at the FederalConference;

    2. (b)  where any such alteration has been submitted in accordance with theStanding Orders of that Conference by the Federal Board or any other persons or bodies entitled to submit motions or amendments under Article 8.6 and notified to Local Parties at least six weeks in advance; and

    3. (c)  in the case of any alteration to the relative powers and functions of the Federal Party and the State Parties or to this paragraph (c), it is passed by the internal procedures of each State Party.

So we know we’d have to go to Federal Conference. But when?

We can’t change the constitution in Brighton because we would have had to have been notified of a constitutional amendment by now. Are we seriously going to do it in Spring or at any time between Autumn and Spring as the Brexit stuff reaches its climax? You’d have trouble setting a date that wasn’t likely to be consumed by a referendum or an election.

And are we really going to spend our Spring Conference, two weeks before we leave the EU, on internal constitutional matters? I would question the wisdom of that one because it really  would not look good. For me the sensible time to do all this would be September 2019.

So what does the Constitution say about how we hold a Special Conference?

Here we have Article 8.12 to help us out

The Conference shall normally meet twice a year, for a week in the early autumn and a weekend in the early spring; additional meetings may be summoned upon the requisition of the Federal Board or the Federal Policy Committee or the Conference itself or 200 members, in not fewer than 20 local parties. A meeting may be cancelled by the Federal Board in exceptional circumstances.

The cost of a Special Conference is measured in tens of thousands of pounds. Even if that is covered by a donation (and if it is, I think we ought to know who is paying and think about what agenda they might have), we have to look at the opportunity cost. The political situation is so fragile at the moment that there could be a referendum or a general election at any point in the next few months.

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Time has come for Government to back votes at 16

Yesterday the Welsh Assembly backed a bill that would lower the voting age to 16 for elections to it.

If this becomes law, 16 year olds in Wales and Scotland will have a say in their future, but 16 year olds in England will not. My son’s classmates were able to vote in the Holyrood elections in 2016 but some of them missed out in 2017 as they hadn’t hit 18 yet. My son only just made it.

The engagement of 16 year olds in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was fantastic. It was great to see so many of them go straight from school to polling station. Since then they have had the right to vote twice more, in the Holyrood election of 2016 and the Council elections in 2017. Unlike England, all of Scotland’s 32 Councils are elected on the same day.

Layla Moran called on the Government to allow 16 year olds in England to vote:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #531

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 531st weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (30 September – 6 October, 2018), 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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Why it’s important to join the Lib Dems on the People’s Vote march on October 20th

Sometimes it’s hard to keep positive. As the evidence stacks up that Brexit is going to at the very least harm us and at worst mean food and drug shortages and ground flights, the Government continues to reject the democratic option of getting the people to mark its homework.

Accountability is vital in any democracy. This Government should be facing every day with more than a mild degree of trepidation. However, Jeremy Corbyn has not given them much in the way of bother at all.

There is a chance that a parliamentary alliance of moderate Labour and Tory MPs, us, Caroline Lucas and others could force through a People’s Vote. The problem with that theory is that the Tories have historically caved when the chips are down. Labour MPs fearing desolation may not dare defy Corbyn even if their local members want to. The SNP is holding the country to ransom. They will only back a People’s Vote if they get an independence referendum if Brexit wins.

Christine Jardine and Alex Cole-Hamilton took them to task on Twitter:

Willie Rennie pointed out that Sturgeon is going against the wishes of her membership.

A YouGov poll shows that 89% of SNP members support a People’s Vote and 79% think that the SNP should support it in Parliament.

Willie said:

Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers have exhausted their excuse selection. Now that it’s clear the vast majority of SNP members want to have the final say on Brexit they can’t justify sitting on the fence any longer.

Brexit poses a huge threat to people’s livelihoods, security and public services.

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Ros Scott President and Dave Hodgson Chair on new ALDC management committee

ALDC is the party’s organisation which supports Councillors and campaigning. We know that if you follow their extensive campaigning guidelines, you are more likely to win. They run the Kickstart training weekends which are intense but give individual support to candidates and campaign teams. There is still time to register for the one in November.

Being part of ALDC gives you access to lots of fantastic resources, so I’d recommend any campaigner joins here.

The organisation has announced the result of its biennial elections. The new Management Committee takes office on 25 November 2018 and serves for two years.

They are as follows:

President: Baroness Ros Scott – Suffolk
Chair: Mayor Dave Hodgson – Bedford
Vice-Chairs (2): Councillor Anita Lower – Newcastle
Councillor Steven Lambert – Aylesbury Vale and Buckinghamshire
Secretary: Councillor Sarah Boad – Warwickshire
Treasurer: Veronica German – Torfaen

English Rep: James Moore – Reading
Welsh Rep: Jonathan Pratt – Bridgend
Scottish Rep: Councillor Ian Yuill – Aberdeen

Committee Members

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Fancy helping the Lib Dems win back the most marginal seat in the country?

One of the most heartbreaking moments of the 2017 election was that moment at about 6am when we realised that we had only just missed out on winning back North East Fife. The SNP MP and his wife were his own majority. Just two votes in it.

That’s one hell of a bar chart.

North East Fife recently selected the wonderful Wendy Chamberlain as PPC and the irrepressible Scottish Party Leader, Willie Rennie is MSP – winning the constituency seat back in 2016.

They’re now advertising for an organiser. Don’t ever tell him I said this, but I worked for Willie when …

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A very sweet Lib Dem GAIN in Chesterfield

Back in 1994 or thereabouts, we failed to gain a labour seat in a by-election by a handful of votes. 17 stuck in my mind, but Paul Holmes tells me it’s 34. 17 extra voters.

Tonight, we won that Moor ward seat by a few more votes – a gain from Labour.

That is THE legendary Tony Rogers, becoming …

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WATCH: “I feel as though the media portrays us like we’re not human beings”

In many newspapers, on many radio and tv programmes at the moment, transgender people are attacked and marginalised. So called “gender critical feminists” take to the biggest media outlets in the land to complain that “debate” is being shut down and their “legitimate concerns” are not being listened to.

The thing is, these actions are not consequence free. A report earlier this year by Stonewall found that 41% of transgender people had experienced a hate crime in the last year. That is not far off being half.

I often hear parents of transgender children say that there are two things that scare them most when their children come out to them. The first is the hate crime figures. The second is the suicide rate. Another Stonewall report found that over a quarter of young trans people have attempted suicide and almost nine out of ten had contemplated it. In a climate where over 4 in 5 young trans people experience verbal assault and 3 in 10 are actually physically assaulted, you might say that this is hardly surprising.

Equally not rocket science is the evidence that where trans people are supprted and called by their chosen name, they do a lot better.

So irresponsible media coverage actively harms trans people by fuelling hostility towards them. Stop Funding Hate, an organisation which aims to encourage suppliers not to advertise in newspapers which exacerbate hatred towards particular groups of people has done something to try to counteract this hostile environment for trans people.

Working with Mermaids, an award winning charity which supports transgender young people and their families, Stop Funding Hate has produced this video which illustrates the harm that media coverage can do.

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Layla Moran going sober for October to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer

If the rumours at Conference were even a tiny bit true, Layla Moran is partial to the occasional cocktail.

So, as she admits herself, giving up booze for a month is going to be a challenge, but she’s doing the annual Macmillan Go Sober for October challenge.

She’s not the first Lib Dem MP …

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Lib Dems welcome mixed sex civil partnerships news

News that  the Government will legislate for mixed sex civil partnerships in England and Wales was welcomed by various Liberal Democrats. It makes sense that people should have the choice of what form of ceremony to have.

Our Lynne Featherstone was the Minister who instigated same sex marriage in England.

She welcomed the news on Twitter.

Lynne has always acknowledged the support of Theresa May, who, as Home Secretary, gave her Bill crucial backing. However, the Tories would never allow Lynne to introduce mixed sex civil partnerships. Even now they haven’t done it entirely voluntarily. They were forced to either scrap civil partnerships for same sex couples or introduce them for everyone.

It was therefore sad that the Prime Minister didn’t acknowledge Lynne’s role.

LGBT+ Lib Dems chair Jennie Rigg welcomed the move and said that this was just one of the things that needs to happen to achieve proper partnership equality. I did love the very on message inclusion of “demand better.”

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #530

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 530th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (23-29 September, 2018), 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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Lib Dems mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month

It’s just a few short month since Jo Swinson lost her dad, Peter, to Blood Cancer. I met Peter many times while helping out with Jo’s campaigns over the years. He was such a lovely, kind man who was clearly so proud of her. Both he and her Mum Annette put so much effort into supporting Jo and having their home taken over by all sorts of random Lib Dems over the years. They were always so friendly and welcoming to us.

Jo ran the London Marathon and raised thousands of pounds for Bloodwise back in 2011. This just shows Jo’s indefatigability. Looking back on it, I’ve just realised that this was a few a few weeks before the 2011 Holyrood election and a few more weeks before her wedding.

What she chose not to share publicly at that point is that Peter had been diagnosed with Blood Cancer in 2008. He kept in reasonably good health until 2015 but then had to undergo several gruelling rounds of treatment.

Yesterday, Jo took over the Bloodwise Twitter account to tell her family’s story.

She talked about the impact of the initial diagnosis:

More spells of chemo and new diagnoses followed, but he saw a happy occasion earlier this year:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #529

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 529th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (16-22 September, 2018), 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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WATCH: The moment Tim Farron was pwned at Conference

Tim Farron made a barnstormer of a speech in the migration debate at Conference last week, and was largely credited with fending off the threat of a Reference Back.

However, the Chair of Lib Dem Immigrants, Lisa Maria Bornemann, pointed out a flaw in his argument, to the great amusement of everyone in the hall except Vince. Watch our Leader’s face. And contrast with Tim’s realisation that he had been well and truly pwned. I was sitting right behind him and just after this he turned to me, still laughing, and said something along the lines of “Well, that’s me done.”

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Could we be facing a November General Election?

The Sunday Times today has a report that Tory strategists are starting to think about a General Election in November. I would be very surprised if they were only just starting to think about it now.

The chances were always that there would have to be some recourse to the country if Theresa May couldn’t get whatever deal she managed to get through Parliament.

How on earth, though, could Anna Soubry and Jacob Rees-Mogg fight an election on the same manifesto? If, as is being suggested, the Tory manifesto goes for a hard Brexit basic Canada style trade deal, how could the likes of Sarah Wollaston, Nicky Morgan and Justine Greening back that? I mean the Chequers (Dis)agreement sells our predominantly service based economy down the river and the Canada deal is worse than that. We also have to remember that Canada is already part of a major free trade alliance in America. The EU deal provides them with new opportunities but they don’t need it to survive. In contrast, we would be isolated, forced to accept terms that would be injurious to us from the likes of Donald Trump and trading on a much worse basis with our closest neighbours than we are at the moment. There is no upside to this at all.

How on earth could David Lammy, Stella Creasy, Hilary Benn and the bulk of the Labour Parliamentary Party fight an election on a manifesto written by Corbyn’s team. We know he is a Brexiteer. We know that he put absolutely no effort into the Remain campaign during the referendum. There is no way he would run on a stop Brexit platform. We need the Labour leadership to go out there and win the arguments among its voters and, just like in the referendum, they won’t. And we know that in any snap election, the Tories will, to distract from their own divisions, go after Corbyn’s character and record  in a way they didn’t manage in 2017.

So we could be the only party across the UK going into this with a clear and coherent policy – Stop Brexit Chaos with the Lib Dems. And we would really have to articulate that message with clarity and purpose.

In Scotland, we would be the only party going into this with the eminently consistent position of supporting remaining in both the EU and the UK. That puts us on the side of most people in the country.

We have to recognise, though, that we would be fighting in a First Past the Post system. Conversations would, I think, have to be had with people of a similar mindset to us. There is no point in splitting the vote. We have to stand pretty much everywhere because that is critical for Short funding, but all of us of who want to stop Brexit across all parties would have to make some pragmatic decisions on an informal basis about how we campaign in individual seats.

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Lib Dem fury at Windrush betrayal

So, under cover of an incendiary and irresponsible statement by the Prime Minister on Brexit, the Home Office slips out a statement announcing that it is betraying the Windrush Generation by denying some of them the citizenship that it rightfully theirs.

From the Independent:

In a statement issued late on Friday afternoon, the Home Secretary said a number of Caribbean nationals who came to Britain between 1948 and 1971 would not qualify for citizenship because they failed to meet the “necessary good character requirement” due to committing criminal offences.

Windrush citizens are supposed to be afforded the same rights as British citizens, so the announcement is likely to prompt renewed accusations that they are effectively awarded second-class status.

You have to bear in mind that the criminal justice system has at times been institutionally racist and a black person going through it would have got a much rougher deal than a white person.

And the “good character requirement” has come under fire this week as, separately, it was revealed that children as young as 10 had been failed on character grounds.

Liberal Democrats have reacted with anger to this news:

The Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality said:

Ed Davey said:

The Windrush scandal was caused by Home Office hostility and inflexibility.

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Some thoughts on Vince’s party reforms

I have kept reasonably quiet about Vince’s reforms since his announcement on 7th September because I wanted to let others have their say.

My sense at Conference is that people were interested in what he had to say. Everyone had things they liked and things they didn’t. They were all going to respond to the consultation with varying degrees of pleasure and pain. This is how it is supposed to be.

I do want to slightly disagree with my fellow Federal Board members who have been talking to Politics Home about the process, though. They complained about being “bounced.”

Now, I don’t think that’s fair. Certainly, back in June, there was an attempt to slip in something about a Supporters’ Scheme into the motion of the Federal Levy and Subscriptions to be discussed at Conference. The Federal Board then said “Hang on a wee minute, here.” The Federal People Development Committee was given the job of looking at this in more detail. The Committee’s amazing chair, Miranda Roberts, one of the most competent and patient people I know, has written about that process here and here. The process of holding the leadership back had thus worked.

In between times, after articles had started to appear in the press over the Summer, Vince spoke to a special meeting of the Federal Board in July about what he was thinking about. At the end of August, Federal Board members were asked to contribute their views about his ideas. He hadn’t told us fully what they were, but given that his 7th September speech reflected most of the press coverage, well, you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist.

So, on the last day of my holiday, I had to drag myself out of bed at the crack of bloody dawn to write down my views for Vince. I actually forgive him, because I was able to take this amazingly atmospheric photo of the bay outside the holiday cottage as the sun rose.

By this point the only bit he hadn’t told us was what he was going to say about the future of his leadership. But then that didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out either.

I wrote him an essay of epic proportions which I might actually post on here one day.

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Reaching out and making friends, just like Vince says

Yesterday, Vince Cable told the Liberal Democrats to reach out and appeal to the millions of voters who are alarmed at the extremes of British politics.

A wee while earlier, some Liberal Democrat members had been reaching out in a manner that can only be described as optimistic.

Not the Leader’s speech is an annual tradition that started during the coalition years. A group of the Awkward Squad would gather in a nearby hostelry, watch the speech on Twitter and work out at what point they would have walked out had they been in the hall. There is less cause …

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“Erotic spasm” infuriates Lib Dem conference goers

So, Vince Cable is apparently going to refer to Brexiteers being willing to trash the UK economy for the “erotic spasm” of leaving the EU. Is this really the best we could do when Conference has set out what our plans are for the Brexit endgame – withdrawing Article 50 if there is no deal or an agreement to extend it. We have so far been the grown-ups in the room. We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to being a Carry On film.

Every Conference goer I have met so far – and there have been quite a few – has reacted …

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Controversial immigration paper passes but leadership defeated on key amendment

The controversial paper on immigration passed today, but the only one of the five amendments to it that was opposed by the leadership passed.

Earlier, Ed Davey had reached an agreement with Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary which made the defeat of the paper less likely. The leadership’s acceptance of their amendments meant that the policy on asylum seekers is pretty much what a liberal party should be offering.

The 90 minute debate was heated and passionate and saw some quality  speeches. Opposing the paper, Alex Wilcock, who wrote for us yesterday, …

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The paper on migration, even amended, is not good enough

While there will be lots of chat about Vince’s plans for party reforms, the main controversy on the floor of Conference will be the paper on migration which is being debated on Sunday morning.

It’s a measure of just how controversial it is that there are FIVE amendments.

Even if they all pass, there are still so many structural problems with the paper. I wrote about some of the fundamental problems I have with it over at Liberator and my article is reproduced here with their permission.

It won’t cut it at the hairdresser’s

We should reject timid, half-hearted, apologetic immigration paper

I went to the hairdresser recently. And along with some nice caramel and copper highlights, I was served up some casual racism. 

Everyone in there loved Boris’s comments about the burqa and the niqab and laughed along with his deeply offensive metaphors. Just two days after the attack in Westminster I was told that Muslims didn’t really help themselves. I pointed out that men rape and murder women every day of the week, but we never, rightly, say things like “men don’t really help themselves.”

I pointed out how Boris’s comments, playing to the extremist right, were not consequence free. No, it’s not the fact that he’s had a tiny bit of heat from his own party. It’s the fact that every woman of colour, whether she is wearing a hijab or niqab or not, is more likely to be abused on the street as a result. 

I think that me taking on the arguments directly and robustly had an effect. At the very least it made them think. I looked them in the eye and told them they were wrong. In a very dignified and civilised way, but with confidence and assurance. 

This is not something to be timid about. We have to tackle this sort of prejudice wherever we find it. 

That’s why I and others will be doing all we can to ensure that the migration policy paper coming to Conference does not pass. 

The motion is an exercise in embarrassed shuffling and mumbling. Every vaguely decent policy (and there are a few) comes with an plaintive “but it’ll save us lots of money” caveat. 

It does not compare well with the ideals of the Preamble to our Constitution:

Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.

There are two particular paragraphs, one in the motion and one in the policy paper, that have become the focal points for criticism. 

The first is in the motion. 

Our goal should be a positive, liberal consensus on immigration, partly by rebuilding people’s trust in the system, and that this requires us to listen and engage with those who do link pressures on public services and housing to immigration and to reject the argument that merely labels such people as racist.

We should never pander to those who scapegoat immigrants as the cause of problems because they are wrong. We should unequivocally argue about the benefits of immigration and show that the real failure is of successive governments to adequately invest in said public services.

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Lib Dem Voice at Conference

We’re looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Brighton over the next few days.

Tahir, Kirsten, Paul, Mary and I will be there. Tahir and Mary will also  their Federal Conference Committee hats on so will be very busy indeed.

Come and say hello to us if you see us around – and do come to one of the fringe meetings we are holding and sponsoring.

Everybody wins – how feminist and LGBT organisations work together on equality issues

First of all, on Saturday between 1 and 2 pm in the Sandringham Room in the Metropole, we’re trying to inject some kindness and light into the toxic environment facing transgender people at the moment. Every time you open the Times, or the Mail, or, most annoyingly, the Guardian, there’s some article suggesting that women’s spaces are somehow at risk if transgender women are allowed in them. Actually, it’s been the law since 2010 and it’s been fine, but a new government consultation on making the process of getting a new birth certificate easier for trans people has been used as a vehicle for the most appalling scaremongering. In Scotland, feminist and trans equality organisations have worked well together on these issues, and we’ll have representatives from Engender and the Scottish Transgender Alliance along with the wonderful Sarah Brown (fresh from her by-election campaign in Cambridge) and Party President Sal Brinton showing that when women work together, all women prosper.

Fake News

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