Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Ruth Coleman Taylor’s Funeral Details

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

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

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

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

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

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Have your say on Bill to ensure safe access to abortion clinics

Green MSP Gillian Mackay is running a public consultation on her Private Member’s Bill which would implement 150m “buffer zones” around sexual health clinics so that anyone accessing abortion services is not subject to intimidation and distress from pro-life groups holding up upsetting images and shouting at them.

This Bill has cross-party backing and is likely to pass. Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has voiced strong support.

You don’t have to live in Scotland to respond to this consultation. Evidence of people’s experience from across the whole of the UK, or even internationally, is more than welcome.

Last night Engender, one of Scotland’s main feminist organisations, and Back Off Scotland, the campaign for buffer zones, held a joint meeting to discuss the consultation.

Catherine Murphy, Engender’s new Executive Director who has years of experience fighting for sexual and reproductive rights, set the scene. She warned of anti gender equality actors spending hundreds of millions of pounds across Europe to undermine women’s rights to, amongst other things, sexual and reproductive healthcare.

She described the US overturning Roe vs Wade as a “horrendous violation of rights”

There was, however, hope with increasing global momentum for change. Decriminalisation of abortion in Argentina had led to change in Mexico and Colombia.

She talked about the need for the debate on abortion to continue in a progressive way in Scotland. The more marginalised people are, the greater difficulty they tend to have in accessing abortion services.

She said that there still remains no legal right for a woman to end a pregnancy that she does not wish to continue. This has to be established by not one but two doctors. There are also examples of women being investigated by police on suspicion of carrying out illegal abortions if they have miscarriages or stillbirths. We need to work towards total decriminalisation.

Lucy Grieve from Back Off Scotland was next to speak. She and a friend set up the campaign when they were students after she witnessed pro lifers gathering outside an Edinburgh sexual health clinic during lockdown.

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Eugh! Lib Dems react to Sunak v Truss debate

The press release from the Lib Dem Press Office just after the BBC debate between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak last night was very short.

Lib Dems respond to BBC Tory leadership debate

Responding to this evening’s BBC Tory leadership debate, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: 

“Eurgh.”

ENDS

While it lacked in words, it summed up the feelings of much of the country, although I still think it was a bit generous.  Neither the participants nor the BBC covered themselves in glory.

Other Lib Dem reaction included:

You wouldn’t expect there to be much for liberals to be pleased about in a Conservative leadership debate, particularly as the participants are pandering to an increasingly right wing membership that would not be out of place in the Republican Party of Donald Trump. Ultra-nationalist, small state, minority bashing, this is what’s left after all the decent, one-nation types left in disgust in 2019.

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Badenoch out – are we heading for Sunak vs Truss?

Tory leadership candidates have been whittled down to three in the penultimate round of voting.  Today’s result was:

Rishi Sunak 118

Penny Mordaunt 92

Liz Truss 86

Kemi Badenoch 59

You would have expected Rishi Sunak to pick up more than 3 of the 31 votes up for grabs from yesterday’s eliminated candidate Tom Tugendhat. Instead, it was Liz Truss who gained most, 15 votes, followed by Penny Mordaunt up 10. Kemi Badenoch only gained one vote and was therefore eliminated.

There could, of course be a fair bit of churn. Perhaps some of Sunak’s vote moving to Mordaunt as a result of the YouGov polls which continue to show him losing to everyone amongst Conservative members.

 

It’ll be interesting to see who gains most from Badenoch’s votes. Will Mordaunt be able to persuade Sunak supporters to switch to her as the best chance of beating Truss? Or will Badenoch’s votes simply transfer en masse to Truss, eliminating Mordaunt.

Tim Farron has some advice for Sunak and Mordaunt though:

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Hot, hot, hot….Willie Rennie calls for maximum workplace temperatures

How are you all coping with the heat?

We are sweltering up here and I am very conscious that we are 10 degrees cooler than most of you in England and Wales. That must be incredibly uncomfortable

We had to stop the dogs going upstairs because it was so warm they were panting all the time. They are basically being kept most of the time in the living room with an air conditioning thing going.

I had a much better night than I expected. All humans and dogs seemed to sleep reasonably. You could tell it was it was hot though. No matter what the temperature, you will normally find me tucked in with the duvet up to my neck. Last night I lay on top of it – until 4 am when I got into bed properly cos my toes were cold.

Sadly I had to go out this morning to my local health centre. It was like an oven. The person who deprived me of my blood had two fans going and was still uncomfortably hot. I felt a bit guilty that I was able to escape to the air-conditioned supermarket while they were stuck in there all day.

So I was pleased to see that Willie Rennie has called for a maximum workplace temperature of 30 degrees and 27 degrees if strenuous work is involved.

At present UK government guidance suggests a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if employees are doing physical work but there’s no guidance for a maximum temperature limit. Instead employers just have to commit to “keeping the temperature at a comfortable level”.

However a report from the TUC suggests that short of someone actually being injured or killed it’s unlikely to actually be enforced, despite excessive temperatures being associated with a loss of concentration, increased accidents, falling productivity and risks to health.

Willie’s call would give employers a statutory duty to introduce effective control measures, such as installing ventilation or moving staff away from windows and sources of heat, in line with WHO recommendations for maximum temperatures for working in comfort. Willie has also filed a parliamentary motion which urges Scottish ministers to raise the issue with their UK counterparts.

Willie said:

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“Liberal lion” Ron Waddell has died

We are losing so many brilliant liberals at the moment.  Ron Waddell,  who was Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats back in the 90s, died suddenly on Sunday.

Somewhere in the middle of Saturday night , I was scrolling through Facebook. A photo posted by Ron on Saturday afternoon, of a cloudy saltire in the blue sky above his Derbyshire home, made me smile. Not least because Ron hardly ever posted on Facebook and it was lovely to see.

It was about 12 hours later that his wife Sandra posted the awful news.

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

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

After working for the party, Ron was a Geography teacher, then deputy head and finished his career in Scotland working for the City of Edinburgh Council, firstly as an adviser on education to the LIb Dems and then as a senior manager in the Education Department. There, he often worked with my husband who was involved in health and safety for schools. Bob always found him helpful and supportive.

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Mathew Hulbert describes his mum’s 11 hour ambulance wait

Many of us will have seen on social media that Barwell Lib Dem Councillor Mathew Hulbert lost his mum, Jackie, last week. We were all shocked that she had to wait 11 hours for an ambulance after a fall at her home. The picture, taken by Mathew’s sister,  shows  a happy Mathew and Jackie enjoying a drink earlier this year.

Mathew went on LBC last night to talk to Iain Dale about their ordeal.

A week ago yesterday my mum fell in the early hours. She pressed her buzzer. I got to the house. She said her ribs hurt so we didn’t move her.  We phoned an ambulance and they said that they were telling people it would be 10 hours before one came but not to worry, it would be sooner.

Unfortunately, the hours passed by. Mathew kept kept ringing up and was being told that the ambulance would be there as soon as possible.

It was the indignity of it for my mum, 78, frail, scared wondering when help would come and it didn’t for 11 hours.

It was incredibly difficult. This is someone you love and who brought you up and cared for you.

Eventually, after 11 hours, the paramedics arrived. Mathew said;

They couldn’t have been more caring and compassionate but it was still 11 hours too late.

Jackie was conscious and chatting as they took her off to hospital and at that point, there was no indication that she was in any danger.

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Liberal legend Ruth Coleman-Taylor has died

Ruth Coleman-Taylor has been a friend to many generations of Liberals and Liberal Democrats – and to many generations of members of liberal parties across the world.

Many readers of this site will be very sad to hear that Ruth died on Wednesday in hospital in Greece, where she was moving with her husband Mick.

Ruth was one of the kindest, wisest people and I feel very lucky to have known her. I first met her back in 1992 at a Women Liberal Democrats (as it then was) AGM in Bath. Her daughter, Rachel was telling us about her experience at an international young person’s space school.

I loved spending time with her and Mick at every Conference. She gave excellent advice and was incredibly good at disagreeing well. She was a radical liberal and committed internationalist. She was as livid as many of us were about Brexit and its false promises.

She and Mick had the spirit, fearlessness and the drive to head off for a year’s travelling around the world in their 70s. While we missed them when they were away we couldn’t wait to hear about their adventures when they came back.

Ruth was Mayor of Todmorden when it was featured in the Sunday Times list of Best Places to live last year. Her comments to the Halifax Courier summed up the sorts of things she thought were important in a community:

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Seeing ourselves as others see us

I’ve been a big fan of the Crooked Media organisation’s stable of podcasts for a few years now.

Crooked was set up in 2017 by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor in the wake of Trump’s victory to provide a progressive media outlet that encouraged activism to restore the Democrats’ fortunes. Its growing team and stable of podcasts informs and entertains about all aspects of US politics. Its Hysteria podcast, hosted by journalist Erin Ryan and former White House Head of Scheduling and Advance Alyssa Mastromonaco aired the day Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court, paving the way for last month’s overturning of abortion rights and had to be re-recorded.

If you haven’t already, you might like to listen to their perspective on the events leading up to Boris Johnson’s long overdue resignation in the Boris Johnson Brexits edition of their Pod Save the World podcast presented by former national security spokesman Tommy Vietor and foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes. They have an interview with David Lammy who is their go-to Labour person. They could do with a go-to Lib Dem as well but Lammy pretty much covers all the bases on this one.

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Long-serving Lib Dem Robert Aldridge becomes Edinburgh’s new Lord Provost

Popular Lib Dem Councillor Robert Aldridge became Edinburgh’s Lord Provost on Thursday. He was the only nomination and was proposed by the leader of the SNP Group Adam McVey and seconded by his ward colleague, new Lib Dem Councillor Ed Thornley. Watch here:

Dobbie, as he is known to his friends, was first elected to the Council in 1984. I first got to know him when we first moved back to Scotland in 2000 when he was Marilyne Maclaren’s agent in Edinburgh South for two general elections. He spent most of his career working for an organisation supporting people through homelessness. He is a wonderful, compassionate Liberal Democrat. He made a superb, generous and inclusive speech on taking office which you can listen to here. It certainly had me in bits.

He will need every ounce of his patience and ability to make people work well together over the next five years.

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Wendy Chamberlain slams PM’s “appalling attempt to rig the rules”

You would think, wouldn’t you, that when the culture of your Government has been slammed in a report which outlined disgraceful behaviour, you would be absolutely mortified and would make sure that your actions showed that you were truly sorry. Especially when you had been saying so at length and you knew that nobody believed a word of your apology.

Well, you could think that of virtually any other PM than Boris Johnson. But the current incumbent’s capacity for brazen disregard for rules or accountability is second to none. We saw this when he tried to change the rules to save his mate Owen Paterson last Autumn.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson watered down both the Ministerial Code and the role of the so-called “Independent Adviser.” The Guardian reports:

The prime minister faced a barrage of criticism after he amended the rules on Friday to make clear that ministers will not always be expected to resign for breaching the code of conduct. Under new sanctions, they could apologise or temporarily lose their pay instead.

Johnson also blocked his independent ethics chief, Christopher Geidt, from gaining the power to launch his own investigations, and rewrote the foreword to the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.

Our Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain is reported as saying that this was an:

appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

It seems the Conservatives have learned nothing from the Owen Paterson scandal.

It has been clear for some time that the Government doesn’t care that accountability and justice are seen to be done where its own behaviour is concerned. With these moves they are effectively giving themselves the right to mark their own homework. The legitimacy of any Government depends on having some sort of check on its power.

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The end of Roe vs Wade – why it matters

Overnight, Politico published a draft of a US Supreme court decision which, if confirmed, will end the right of American women and pregnant people to access abortion. This has been an inevitable trajectory since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in June 2018, giving Donald Trump the chance to ensure a conservative majority.  During his term, Trump appointed three conservative justices, a move destined to roll back not just abortion rights, but potentially the right to same sex marriage as well.

Ending the legal right to seek an abortion is a disaster for women. Before it was enacted, women in many states died when pregnancy threatened their lives because they could not get an abortion. This is a basic civil rights issue for women.

Not only that, but we have to remember that the US is a country without either universal health care or paid maternity leave. Crooked Media’s Hysteria podcast host Erin Ryan gave birth to her daughter Juniper last November and in this post highlights the thousands of dollars she had to pay out just to get through her pregnancy and birth and how she had to ask the specialist administering her epidural if he took her insurance:

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Lib Dems welcome LGBT+ History Month

Happy LGBT+ History Month!

January this year has been horrible in so many ways. It has seemed even longer and more tortuous than usual. But now February is here and there are many things to cheer us – it’s not dark at 5pm, pancake day is not far away and it’s LGBT+ History Month, a chance to learn about those whose stories may have been hidden.

It’s a chance to celebrate the diverse LGBT+ history and honour those who trod a difficult path to make thing easier for generations to come.

I was particularly taken by this series of tweets:

This was only 35 years ago. In this Pink News story, Paul O’Grady recounts the events of that night:

“It was 34 years ago when the cops raided the Vauxhall,” he wrote. “I was doing the late show and within seconds the place was heaving with coppers, all wearing rubber gloves. I remember saying something like, ‘Well well, it looks like we’ve got help with the washing up.’

“They made many arrests but we were a stoic lot and it was business as usual the next night,” he continued.

“I was in quite a few police raids all over the country at the time. I was beginning to think it was me – in fact the South London Press in an extremely homophobic article called Lily ‘a lascivious act’ which I was very proud of.”

It was great to see our Mathew Hulbert’s video as Chair of the National Association of Local Council’s LGBT Network:

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Lib Dem MPs challenge Boris Johnson on Sue Gray report

It’s been quite the afternoon in the Commons.

Boris Johnson faced sustained criticism over the findings of the Sue Gray report. The most effective were the contributions that fought his fire and bluster with ice rather than more fire.

That’s why Theresa May’s takedown of her successor was so effective. I will never forgive her for what she did at the Home Office, nor in her pursuit of a hard Brexit, but her contribution today was brilliant, asking him if he had read the rules, ignored them or didn’t think they applied to him.

Ian Blackford just had to make it all about him, daring the Speaker to throw him out of the Chamber for saying the PM had misled Parliament. The rule may be daft. But it is the rule, and not to observe it when we are talking about rulebreaking seems illogical. There is a debate to be had around whether that rule is fit for purpose when the man at the despatch box has plainly misled Parliament, but it should have been about Boris today, not Blackford. They are both experts at meaningless bluster and not so good at the incisive point.

There were two brilliant contributions from Ed Davey. He really spoke up for all of us who had followed the rules, often in searingly painful, heartbreaking circumstances.

Later he added that the PM’s performance had been “horrific.”

 

Christine Jardine said that people were livid not just at the culture of rule-breaking in No 10, but at the dodging of accountability by the Prime Minister.

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Lessons from 97 Lib Dem/Labour co-operation – Compass/SLF podcast

Lib Dems and Labour swapping lists of target seats, co-operating on policy and not getting in each other’s way helped oust the Tories in 1997. What lessons can we learn from that today?

This week, I went along to the recording of Compass’s “It’s Bloody Complicated” podcast. Our own Duncan Brack, Compass’s Neal Lawson who was one of the fixers of the deals between Blair and Ashdown and YouGov’s Peter Kellner  who looked back to 1997 and the co-operation between Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown.  The event was chaired by Compass’s Frances Foley

Duncan explained how, after the disappointment of the 1992 election, there were tentative attempts  to float idea of co-operation between non Conservative parties but Labour under John Smith were not interested.

When Blair became leader, there was significant co-operation including swapping information on target seats. Later on, Neal Lawson told of a meeting in a pub in Victoria where bits of paper were swapped.

A significant part of this was that information was fed  to the Mirror during the campaign. Their subsequent recommendations on tactical voting meant that we won 20 out of our 22 targets.

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Ed Davey: Boris Johnson is concentrating on saving his own skin, not rising living costs

In a strong appearance on The Sunday Morning Show, Ed Davey called on the Government to hold a cost of living summit in No 10, a work event, not a party, if you like.

He called for a windfall tax on energy companies and said that if the Conservatives had stuck with the policies he introduced when he was Energy Secretary, our bills would be £2.5 billion. You can watch the whole thing here:

He was challenged by Sophie Raworth on his tweet:

Ed replied that he had respect for rank and file police officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. For them to do their job, the public have to have confidence in them and the way the Met has handled this has undermined that.

He took us through the Met’s actions of the past few weeks, first saying they wouldn’t investigate the Downing Street Parties, then they said they might but wanted to let Sue Gray get on with her report, then they would investigate but Sue Gray’s report could be published in full and then they changed their minds for a fourth time and said that Sue Gray’s report had to wait for their investigation to be completed. “This is chaos, absolute chaos.” It might be cock up, he added, but it could also be something much worse.”

He said that he had called for an investigation by the Metropolitan Police several weeks ago. If they had done that then, they would have completed their  investigation and we wouldn’t have the paralysis in Government that we are seeing now.

He said that nobody wanted the Met to make such a hash of this and had a go at Boris.

“We have a Prime Minister who has broken the rules and lied about it to Parliament. No-one trusts this Prime Minister. It’s why I’ve called very strongly that he should resign.”

 

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Former Lib Dem MP Ronnie Fearn dies at 90

Sad news reached our ears on Monday night, that former Southport Lib Dem MP Ronnie Fearn had died. We wanted to wait for the news to become more public before we shared it though.

From the Liverpool Echo

Tributes have been paid to a former Merseyside MP, described as “Mr Southport”, who has died aged 90.

Ronald Fearn, known as Ronnie, was MP for Southport from 1987 to 1992 and 1997 to 2001, serving first as a member of the Liberal party and later as a Liberal Democrat.

He also served as a councillor for Sefton Council from 1974 to 2016 and previously

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Erlend

You might know sad news is coming, but when it actually arrives, it still smacks you round the chops.

That’s how so many people in the party will feel tonight. Few people were as loved as Erlend Watson.

We knew time was short. His update on Boxing Day was very him.

FAREWELL
I wanted to break it to you all personally.

I am more certainly not going to make it through more than the next few months. Any extra events could shorten that so my best guess is 3 to 6 moths. I will put myself down for a proxy vote for May (not Theresa) in case of any survival. Cynical to the end.

The affection shown on social media since my op was lovely but I have lost a quarter of my weight and I no longer have the physical reserves to do that.

I am currently able to communicate and will do so as long as possible but clearly the timetable is very loose and the end could be sudden.

My final affairs I am leaving to my siblings and my social media executor as Simon Drage as he knows more of you than they do.

In the meantime I will take/return calls as and when I can. Some longer some shorter according to what I can do.

There will be a funeral and I think a memorial service (probably the latter in London during parliamentary session for those who that works for. Elements of English and Norwegian I hope the committal of ashes to be in Orkney next summer about the time of the shows next August subject to to Covid but that is obviously an open story..

In terms of my politics I haven’t a Liberal and a Liberal Democrat since age 10. I see there being anti liberal forces working in the world and that makes me very sad. These must be fought. I am partisan but include on the side of good not just my own leaders but many Labour, Conservative and other politicians and obviously many non Party folk. I am a multiple identity person. In terms of nationality I am an Orcadian who was born in Fife with other IDs through my genome (but that leaves the key flag at the funeral as a St Magnus one rather than a rainbow 🌈 one).

To end with a couple of (mis)quotes.
1)You are not wholly gone from Earth until the last soul you touched comes up to heaven to greet you..

2) Well dear friends, now we have come to the end of our fellowship in Middle Earth. I will not say do not weep for not all tears are an evil. Or in Norwegian, Vel kjære venner nå har vi kommet til enden av vårt felleskap i Midtgård. Jeg vil ikke si gråt ikke, for ikke alle tårer er av det onde.

Number 2 may be familiar to readers of The Lord of the Rings.

Within days, both the Young Liberals and ALDC had honoured him.
And tonight the news came that he had died, very peacefully, and with a friend by his side.

We’d been hoping that he would somehow defy the odds.

Erlend was a familiar sight at by-elections and at the Conference Glee Club. He devoted so much of his life to the party, working to elect parliamentarians and councillors alike.

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Happy Burns Night!

On 25th January 1759, Robert Burns was born. 263 year later, Scotland celebrates its most famous national poet with haggis, neeps, tatties, poetry, song and more than a small amount of decent single malt.

Whoever runs the Scottish Government digital comms for today is probably going to be feeling a bit sheepish tonight:

 

I got to wondering how Burns would deal with social media. Imagine the Twitter pile on the lady with the louse on her bonnet would get if Rabbie had live tweeted from the church service. The wider points Burns was trying to make about social justice and the importance of all life would have been entirely lost.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about Burns’ poetry. You might have the vividness of Tam o’Shanter, the tenderness of Ae Fond Kiss and the humour of odes to mice and lice, but there’s the dark side. Telling henpecked husbands to charm their wives with the magic of a switch is never going to spark joy in my feminist heart. And he also advises the guy to kiss her maids and kick the perverse….well, it rhymes with switch.

And in the Rights of Women, he said women should have protection, decorum and admiration. You know, the vote would have been nice. You know, some actual political power. If I was writing this in Burns’ time, the copyright would have belonged to my husband. 

Nevertheless, the Edinburgh South Burns Supper is one of the highlights of my year. On Saturday, I gave the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies in a virtual event. It was bittersweet to be doing it over Zoom.

I had never been to a Burns Supper before about 2012 when I first went to the South one. Since then, I’ve been on the Naughty Table every year.

For those of you who don’t know, a traditional Burns Supper goes something like this:

The Selkirk Grace kicks off the proceedings. It’s simple:

Some hae meat and canna eat,And some wad eat that want it,But we hae meat and we can eat,Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

The Haggis is piped in and someone does a dramatic reading of Burns 1786 Address to a Haggis. On Saturday this was performed by Edinburgh South’s Rebecca Wright with so much spirit and passion. She really needs to think about a career in acting. And I am a bit scared of her, having seen her wield that knife.

Then the Chief Guest of Honour delivers the Immortal Memory, a personal reflection on Burns’ life and relevance to the modern day. On Saturday night that was delivered by Alex Cole-Hamilton and was one of the best that I have heard. He had us all in stitches with his Burns Style account of the Downing Street parties.

Then there’s a Toast to the Lassies. In the not too distant past, Burns Suppers were all male affairs and this element was served with a large amount of cringeworthy sexism. In these more progressive times, Angus Councillor Ben Lawrie, also the Scottish Party’s Spokesperson on the Drugs emergency was absolutely brilliant  He talked abut his love of Tam O’Shanter:

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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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