Author Archives: Christine Jardine MP

Christine Jardine MP writes: Reflections on “Camelot” 60 years on

It was Jackie Kennedy who first likened her husband’s presidency to Camelot, the mythical court of King Arthur, in an interview with Life magazine in 1963.

The musical of the same name was apparently the President’s favourite.

On the sixtieth anniversary of his death little of the inspirational quality she evoked seems to have been lost.

If anything the passing of time has enhanced his image and invested his three short years in the White House with a significance that has prompted generations to search for their own Kennedy.

But why is it that those of us who know him only from grainy black and white news footage, or endless biographical books and movies, are so enthralled by a Presidency which promised much but was denied fulfilment?

Of course there is an element of ‘what if’ about Kennedy.

The feeling that a generation was robbed of a leader who would have lived up to his inauguration’s pledge to:

Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.

The glamour of his young administration was a stark contrast to the immediate post war years and seemed to herald a new beginning.

He was after all the youngest to be elected, and the first Roman Catholic President.

A war hero who brought his children to play in the Oval Office and whose wife gave the role of First Lady a new elan.

And whose death was etched deep in American consciousness not just by those horrifying final pictures in Dallas but by the heartbreaking image of a three year old JFK Junior saluting his father’s coffin.

But that is only part of Kennedy’s story.

While he introduced more bills in his first hundred days than any president had since Roosevelt they were stuck in a log jam created by a Congress that wasn’t won over by his infamous charm.

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Tell your MP why we need Equal Votes for Westminster

In a democracy, we expect the government to represent the will of the people. We believe that every citizen has an equal right to participate in the democratic process, and that every vote should count equally. But the reality is that Westminster’s distortive electoral system means our democracy is failing to live up to these fundamental principles.

Save Wednesday 24 May as a key date in the march to achieving equal votes for UK General Elections. That’s when Sort The System – your chance to meet and tell your MP why they should back voting reform – is taking place.

Sort The System is a national action day put together by reform ally organisations, including Make Votes Matter, the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy. Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform are backing it, as are pro-reform Labour groups and the Greens.

For us Liberal Democrats, it’s a huge opportunity – maybe our best before the next General Election – to put electoral reform firmly on the agenda.

A proportional system that empowers voters, delivers parliaments that are representative of the people, and keeps government in check is crucial to fixing our broken politics and underpins the positive change we need to see. As longstanding leaders in campaigning for electoral reform, PR must be part of our party’s overall promise to the British people. Part of what we stand for; what makes us different.

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Christine Jardine MP writes: We must support all survivors of domestic violence, regardless of their immigration status

It’s been three years since we were first promised the Domestic Violence Bill by Theresa May. Ever since then, the Bill has been dogged by delay.

I’m relieved that it’s finally making its way through the House of Commons, and honoured to be among the group of MPs entrusted with scrutinising the detail of the legislation as it goes through the Public Bill Committee.

It’s hugely important legislation, and in the current Covid-19 crisis, its need is acutely felt by those who might feel more trapped than ever. We need to get this right and leave no one to face this kind of abuse alone – no matter who they are, their gender, race, sexuality, age, religion or indeed their immigration status.

During the evidence session earlier this week, I was struck by the evidence given by migrant women who are survivors of domestic violence – and by how amazing brave they are. One woman moved to the UK from Brazil with her UK partner and two children. Eight months after she moved here, her partner turned violent. She fled from the house with her eldest child. But when she went to the Home Office for help to return to Brazil because her visa had run out, she was told she would have to wait for seven days. She was given no financial support or accommodation and had no choice but to sleep on the street. Her situation is still precarious – living from one short-term visa to the next. Because of her immigration status, she can’t access public funds.

That’s simply not good enough. And that’s why the Liberal Democrats are supporting a set of amendments proposed by Step Up Migrant Women – a campaign by and for migrant Black and Minority Ethnic women to support migrant women to access protection from abuse.

The first of the amendments would ensure that survivors of abuse can get access to the financial support they need by creating an exemption to the No Recourse to Public Funds rule. Currently, depending on your immigration status, you can’t receive help such as housing benefit, universal credit or child benefit. So if you’re a survivor of domestic violence and you are, for example, on a student visa or a spousal visa, there is no help for you. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this Government cares more about an individual’s immigration status than either their well-being or human rights. That is not acceptable.

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Christine Jardine MP writes…Our party’s priority needs to be supporting communities, not a leadership election

I think that it is fair to say that this Spring is not what any of us expected.

By now we all planned to have come away from York conference in full campaign mode for the local elections and once that was finished there was the not insignificant matter of the leadership election.

The first two have already been victims of the Coronavirus guidelines and social distancing.

But what about the third element of that triumvirate? The leadership election.

I am afraid that I think that should also be postponed.

As the pandemic tightens its grip, and we are seeing both increased public concern and an escalating death-toll I think it would be completely inappropriate to prioritise ourselves.

This for me, however, is not about whether or not we have hustings, whether the candidaes will be able to campaign effectively or whether it will be possible for staff to run the process remotely.

No I am thinking about all those people, including many members, whose lives are going to be turned upside down over the next three months.

How many will be on reduced income , or perhaps none at all?

I am trying to avoid mentioning it, but bluntly what sort of national death toll will we be coming to terms with?

Frankly those are the things I want all of our elected representatives to be focussing on.

Getting the information and action the country needs.

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Christine Jardine considers… What next?

Sometimes stepping back for a moment, and not thinking about an issue, can give you a whole new perspective on it.

This is, I believe, one of those moments for the party.

In the brief, frantic, space between the election result and Christmas it sometimes felt as if we were continuing to hurtle at the same uncontrollable pace which had propelled us into the election.

Before any work had been done to work out what had gone wrong there was, it seemed an almost reckless determination to launch ourselves into a new leadership contest.

Too soon, for me, in so …

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Christine Jardine writes: A president who listens

Waiting for the outcome of the nomination count for Party President felt a wee bit like that scene from The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon explains about Schrodinger’s Cat.

You know, where as long as the box is closed the cat is both dead and alive.

The relief when they cat was actually alive, and I was nominated, was huge.

Now is when the work really starts, in listening to what you want from your new President, and whether I fit the bill.

I have no illusions about how much work is involved, or what it will take to continue to build the wide movement we all want.

But I also know how important it is that the membership has a strong, clear, effective voice. A president who speaks for the members, but more importantly, one who listens to what they want and communicates that to the leadership.

We have a fantastic team at HQ with so many bright, capable people whether it’s in campaigns, fundraising, policy or the press team.

I see the President’s role there as facilitating what they do.

Not directing the operation, after all they are the ones with the expertise, but supporting and making sure that they have what they need from the party infrastructureMost of all I see the President as the link between the members, the staff, the parliamentarians and the public

Communication is the key, both within the party and to the outside world.

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Christine Jardine: why I’m running to be Party President

Ok. I know I said that I wasn’t going to do it.

And as recently as conference I was adamant that I was not going to change my mind.

But I have.

The first thing of course that I have to say is that I am sorry for the delay and to explain that it was a family thing.

It’s well known that my husband died during the General Election in circumstances which were difficult, particularly for my daughter and the people close to me.

I’m sure you all appreciate that without her support I would have found it impossible to put the time, energy and commitment into this that the members deserve.

And those are three things that this role will need. In spades.

At a time when we have become the rallying point for the vast numbers of people in this country looking for an open, diverse, forward looking party, we need a President who has the status and authority to speak to that image publicly.

Just as importantly they will have to commit the time to listening to what the members have to say, and then ensure it is heard. Personal contact and availability will be key.

But members also need the right support and encouragement. The Alderdice report challenged us to create a culture that is inclusive. That is more important now than ever.

We cannot allow any possibility of retreating to what was comfortable and easy for some members and excluded others.

The President will have to lead, with all the committees and SAOs, on reaching out to those new members and build relationships which will sustain the next generation of activists, councillors and parliamentarians.

As a member of Federal Board, an MP and previously a member of the executive of the Scottish party, I know how hard Sal has worked and exactly what it takes to be a strong president.

I have no illusions about what it entails.

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Christine Jardine MP writes….Let’s invite people in who want to help us build a movement

It was when Charles Kennedy was standing to be leader that I found it most frustrating not to be a member.

I had supported the Liberal Democrats since I was old enough to vote.

Here was a man whose political ideals epitomised what I believed in and I desperately wanted him to leader.

But I couldn’t do anything to help him, or support the party.

I was a journalist. I worked for the BBC, often covered politics and, throughout my career, my impartiality had to be transparent.

When I was eventually able to join the party it was at a point in my career where I had moved away from reporting.

It still took some time to persuade my husband that there would be a professional life after joining and, significantly, that it would not damage his career or reflect on him.

If only there had been a supporters scheme then I could have been involved, voted for the leader and done my bit to help without jeopardising my livelihood.

And I was not alone in that.

I remember losing an active, and effective campaigner, in the highlands because he was promoted and his new role was politically restricted.

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Christine Jardine MP writes…We are simply the temporary guardians of their future

‘No taxation without representation’ was the call to arms which shook Westminster to its very core, and drove the American Revolution.

And yet nearly 250 years later here we are again. In this country today 16 and 17 year olds can pay tax and national insurance, and yet they have no say, no representation in how that money they contribute to the public purse is spent.

They can also get married and join the armed forces, but they cannot vote and have no say in our society’s decisions on their future. Yet, nobody has provided a reasonable explanation as to why. There have been plenty of excuses but no explanations.

It frustrates me because I have witnessed first-hand what a difference it makes to our politics, and what a contrast there is when sixteen and seventeen year olds join the debate.

On the eve of the European elections in May 2014, I spent the evening with a group of my daughter’s friends.

It was her 16th birthday. They knew I was involved in both the European elections and the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum campaign and wanted to chat.

The conversations I had that night were some of the most enlightened, challenging and informed of the entire European or Independence referendum campaigns.

At one point, I noticed that even though there was a constant stream of questions a few of the people were also all on their phones.

I was on the brink of being disappointed, when I discovered that they were actually texting other friends who were sending back their own questions to ask.

Imagine that? Young people so desperately keen to understand and be involved in the democratic process.

All of them engaged, all of them informed, all of them keen to make a positive difference and yet none of them entitled to vote the next day.

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A little part of who I am is struggling to survive


I feel as if a little part of who I am is struggling to survive. A little part that has been nurtured and has grown since, as a teenager, I marvelled at the liberal values and writings of Robert Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King.

It’s the part that grew up regarding US history as testament that a people can use lessons of a divided past to create a society that offers opportunity for all.

And it’s the same part of me that’s always been so proud that I have family amongst those tired and huddled masses who were welcomed with open arms to a nation founded on that simple, yet beautiful, declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

That’s the promise of the United States. A promise to which so many have trusted their futures, and their dreams. But it’s a promise that today seems under threat.

Perhaps not all are equally welcome.

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It’s about Hillary – not Michelle


I was in the room normally used for phone banking when I heard the speech drifting in from the TV screen next door.

This was the Virginia Democrats office and I was listening to Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was laying out a clear argument for putting her friend Hillary in the White House.

To some extent I knew arguments already. I had watched the TV debates, listened to the commentators, heard Hillary surrogates tear apart Trump’s ‘locker room banter’ nonsense and soaked up every detail of the policies a Clinton Presidency would pursue.

But this was different.

Something in Michelle Obama’s message reminded me of why I got involved in politics in the first place.

Every word spoke to my convictions, my hopes, the dreams I fear my generation will fail to deliver for our children.

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What Corbyn winning means to me

I was at Inverurie Farmers’ Market when it happened. A stall holder crossed the market to tell me it was official.
Jeremy Corbyn had won.

I’m not sure what that Aberdeenshire farmer thought my reaction was, but I’m sure if he’d known what was actually going on in my head he would have been more than a little surprised.

It was ‘Thank Goodness. Thank Goodness for politics in this country, Thank Goodness for Liberal Democrats and Thank Goodness for all of us.’

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Opinion: You can allow airport expansion and protect the environment

Airport expansion equals controversy.

It sparks inevitable tensions between the demand for larger airports to fuel our economic growth, and concerns about the impact on the environment.

For those living closest to our major airports, especially Heathrow, those fears can be particularly acute as they endure current noise levels and view the prospect of increased traffic with dread.

And for Liberal Democrats it can often feel that our drive to create a stronger economy is being placed in direct opposition to our desire to protect our environment for future generations.

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