Author Archives: Mary Reid

Kira Rudik wows Conference with a powerful and personal speech


Kira Rudik is the leader of Holos, the first Liberal Party to be elected to the Ukrainian Parliament. She is also Vice President of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the political grouping that brings together like-minded political parties within Europe. She is a proud European and has campaigned for many years for Ukraine to join the EU.

She was welcomed on to the stage by Layla Moran, who was dressed in the blue and yellow of Ukraine. Kira started with some thank yous – and it was clear she knew a number of our senior members well.

She then told us about the day the invasion happened, starting at 5am. Kira and nearly two thirds of the MPs made their way to the Parliament Building – a highly dangerous act as the building was an obvious target. They were allowed 10 minutes together in the chamber during which time they hit buttons furiously so they could pass all the necessary legislation. All the political parties vowed to work together until the war was over – a pledge that has been challenging but still holds.

You can watch her speech here:

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2 million patients at risk from crumbling concrete

Our Parliamentary team have been doing some research into the prevalence of RAAC concrete in hospitals. It seems seven hospitals have been named as having the material in their construction, and nearly two million people live within their catchment areas, so could be potentially affected. The hospitals between them employ 43,000 staff who are therefore also at risk. Four of those seven hospitals are classed as ‘mostly composed of RAAC beams’.

However this is by no means the true extent of the problem, as, in total, 23 NHS trusts are affected by RAAC. Data from the  House of Commons Library does not give the names of 11 of those trusts which have more than one hospital, where not all of the hospitals will have a RAAC problem. Nor does it name a further five trusts which are affected.

This is not all new information. Back in March Lib Dems demanded emergency funding to fix hospital roofs in the Budget. They are now calling for an urgent boost to the funding to make hospitals safe and usable.

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**Breaking news** And still they come

Another Conservative MP has resigned this morning.  Chris Pincher, MP for Tamworth, was suspended some time ago for groping two men, and he has just lost his appeal against suspension. He had previously said that he would step down at the next General Election but he now says he is resigning immediately.

Assuming he is not doing a Dorries, we could be looking at a double by-election on 19th October, which has now, at last, been set as the date for the Mid Bedfordshire contest.

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Schools crisis – sheer incompetence

The timing could not have been worse. This is the most stressful part of the school year for teachers and Heads, getting the buildings ready for the new intake, checking all the tech, induction for new staff and planning a term’s worth of lessons. For pupils there is some anticipation and excitement, tinged perhaps with a bit of anxiety, as they prepare to move into a into a new school or a new class next week.

So it beggars belief that the Government should announce this week that a large number of schools in England have defective buildings which must not be used. Oh, and there is no funding to cover the hire and construction of temporary classrooms.

Of course, it would be understandable if this problem had only just come to light, but the Department for Education has known about the potentially defective concrete (RAAC) since 1994, and they knew that the concrete used only has a lifespan of 30 years. It’s a type of lightweight aerated concrete that was presumably cheap to use at the time. In 2018 they sent some vaguely worded warnings to schools but did not provide any advice or means to rectify the fault. So it is not new information that has emerged this week.

And yet some 100 schools were only told yesterday that they have to take immediate mitigating action because of the RAAC in their buildings. In some cases ceilings can be propped up as a temporary measure – although getting that done will be disruptive and will take some time – but others will have to close and replace whole rooms immediately.

Even worse, the list of schools affected will not be published, so parents have to wait to hear from their children’s schools directly about the impact, if any. Dealing with upset and angry parents just gives Heads a further headache. Some children will actually have to decamp to neighbouring schools, which will only add to the disruption.

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Update on Nadine Dorries

Yesterday I reported comments made by Daisy Cooper and Ed Davey about Nadine Dorries’ reluctance to carry out her promise to stand down from Parliament “with immediate effect” (Nadine Dorries should do something).

It seems that our MPs are now planning to table a Bill as soon as Parliament returns on 4th September to suspend Nadine Dorries for 10 days if she doesn’t appear in Parliament by 14th September.

If the motion is passed, and a suspension results, then this would trigger a recall petition in the Constituency and allow her constituents to force a by-election.

Daisy Copper tells us:

For months Nadine Dorries has treated the people of Mid Bedfordshire with contempt and taken them for granted.

As thousands of people struggle to get a GP appointment and face steep hikes to their mortgages, Nadine Dorries continues to be missing in action. What’s worse is that the Conservatives just don’t seem to care that they’re letting people down.

We need an end to this sorry saga, once and for all. Nadine Dorries must resign, if not then this Government must do the right thing and force her to. Every day that Rishi Sunak sits on his hands the people across Mid Bedfordshire are being failed.

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Nadine Dorries should do something

Our party’s calls for Nadine Dorries to do something – anything – have been getting more strident.

To recap, on Friday 9th June she said she was resigning from Parliament, with immediate effect, mainly in a huff because her promised peerage in Johnson’s Resignation Honours had been blocked. But then she didn’t – resign, that is. Instead she said that she was waiting for an explanation of why her appointment was blocked.

In the meantime there are claims that she has been absent both from the House and from her constituency of Mid Bedfordshire. Dorries herself claimed yesterday that she is ‘working daily’, but the use of quote marks in the media suggest otherwise.

On Monday Daisy Cooper said:

Nadine Dorries’s actions are a gross insult to the people of Mid-Bedfordshire. Why on earth should their taxpayers’ money fund an MP who hasn’t worked in months? If Nadine Dorries had a shred of integrity left, she would stand down now and give local people a chance to elect a new MP who will actually do the job.

It is disgraceful that she continues to have the Conservative Party whip. Clearly Rishi Sunak thinks Nadine Dorries’s actions are still worthy of being a Conservative MP.

Local people are fed up with being taken for granted by this out of touch Conservative party.

The rhetoric was ramped up yesterday, when Ed Davey visited Flitwick, in the constituency and he referred to her as a “dosser”.

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Let’s celebrate the Lionesses!

I’m not a football fan, but even I watched the Lionesses win their semi-final on Wednesday morning. And I will be glued to the television on Sunday from 11am. What a treat for England, and indeed for the whole country!

Of course, many people love watching big matches in the friendly atmosphere of their local, and that also helps the local economy. Unfortunately, the timing on Sunday is awkward to say the least, because most pubs won’t be able to sell alcohol until 11am at the earliest, or even 12pm, according to their current licence. Which is why the Lib Dems have made a bold move and called for a recall of Parliament today to introduce emergency legislation to allow pubs to open in time for the match.

Daisy Cooper said:

This is an open goal for the government. The Lionesses have made history by reaching the final, it’s only right that people across the country can come together and show their full support on Sunday.

MPs should get down to Westminster tomorrow and score a last minute winner for our pubs and the Lionesses.

Now it MAY be a coincidence – but Michael Gove has sent a letter to Council leaders encouraging them to open pubs early this Sunday. But there is a catch: Pubs have to apply in advance for a temporary extension to their licences and the deadline for applications for this weekend was 11th August. Gove is simply asking Councils to expedite any existing applications, not to allow last minute ones.

Wherever you watch it – enjoy the match! And good luck to the Lionesses.

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Those A level grades are actually good news

Students who got their A Level, BTEC or T level results yesterday have had a tough few years. They took their GCSES in 2021 after 18 months of major disruption to their studies. That then had an impact on their choices at 16 and their ability to benefit from the next stage. This has all been well understood by their teachers, by exam boards and by universities. We should celebrate the students’ resilience and tenacity, and the ingenuity of the teachers who have been working through some very serious challenges.

Some of the headlines in the press have been rather strident. “Thousands miss top grades as A Level results plummet” is the headline in the print version of the Guardian, modified to “Thousands fewer students in England awarded top A-Level grades” online. That seemingly minor change in wording indicates that the situation is actually more nuanced than it first appeared.

This year the spread of A level grades has returned to close to that in 2019, which means that fewer students have been awarded the coveted A or A* grades. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their futures are going to any different from their peers in 2022.

A levels and their equivalents act as gatekeepers to Higher Education. In theory, it doesn’t matter where the grade boundaries lie as long as the students’ achievements are ranked correctly. This enables the Universities to identify the students best suited to their courses. (Of course, it is more complicated than that, because we don’t have post-qualification admission, and offers have to be made on predicted grades – that introduces some inaccuracies into the system that may or may not be compensated for during clearing. But that’s a topic for another time.)

As it happens, Universities were aware that grades would be returning to “normal” this year so adjusted their offers accordingly, which should mean that the transition to Higher Education will be smooth for most students. In fact, 79% of students who applied to University this year achieved the grades to get into their first choice, compared with 74% in 2019 – so that left more students happy with their results than pre-pandemic.

Whilst that is the overall picture, there is one striking anomaly. The Guardian article mentioned above includes this statement: “Independent and grammar schools had the largest drop in top grades compared with last year”. Put another way, the students who benefitted most from the temporary assessment processes used during the pandemic were those in selective and fee paying schools – the very pupils who are already advantaged by our skewed education system.

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++ BREAKING NEWS ++ Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor revealed

London Liberal Democrats have announced that Rob Blackie will be our candidate in the Mayoral elections next year.

Congratulations to Rob!

OK, so not quite the usual photo for a serious candidate, but we loved this photo of Rob with Hina Bokhari, London Assembly member. They had been Wombling on Wimbledon Common.

Rob grew up in Pimlico and now lives near Brixton in South London and runs his own business as an adviser to start-up tech companies.

Rob has been a life-long Lib Dem who served as Charles Kennedy’s Director of Research during the Iraq War.  Since then he has been the London Assembly candidate for Lambeth and Southwark in 2012 and a Londonwide list candidate in 2016 and 2021.

You can read much more about him on his website, including his project that stands up to Russian censorship.

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Victory in ULEZ campaign

On the doorstep, and on social media, in the ward where I live there has been one main topic recently – ULEZ. And of course it hugely influenced the by-election result in Uxbridge, which should have been a pushover for Labour. Sadiq Khan’s rollout of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (and a daily charge of £12.50) to the whole of Greater London at the end of this month has been greeted with anger and derision, not to mention conspiracy theories.

This has put Liberal Democrats in a position which is sometimes difficult to articulate in political soundbites. On the one hand we firmly support measures that reduce air pollution and prevent unnecessary deaths. On the other hand we recognise that the implementation of the scheme could cause real hardship to people already angry about the cost of living crisis. But there is some good news at last.

When ULEZ was first introduced in inner London it covered an area with excellent public transport. Few of us in the suburbs would think of driving into the centre anyway because the Congestion Charge already applied. And there was an 18 month period in which residents could prepare for the new charge.

This time the Greater London extension to ULEZ was announced only months before it was due to come into effect, and across an area with far greater reliance on cars, where the tentacles of London’s transport system spread more widely. Now some 90% of cars are already ULEZ complaint but there is a real issue with the remaining 10%, which are largely older vehicles. Those owners most affected are people who are least able to afford to change their cars, especially given that their old ones are going to be virtually unsellable. There have also been heartfelt pleas from sole traders whose livelihoods are dependent on their aging white vans.

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The importance of political cartoons in a liberal democracy

Years ago a cartoon of me was published in a local newspaper. Those were the days when the local press was actually local and effective, with reporters who turned up at events and interviewed people. It was a gentle depiction of my curly hair in a Council meeting. I rather enjoyed the fact that I had been portrayed in this way. But that is not really what political cartooning is about – if it had done its job properly I should have been angry.

We expect our cartoonists to speak truth to power, and that should make their targets uncomfortable. The great political cartoonists – Ronald Searle, Gerald Scarfe, Steve Bell, Peter Brookes, Matt – satirise the rich and powerful, focusing on greed, corruption and hypocrisy. But there is a line between satire that is biting and satire that is cruel, between images that are shocking and images that are pointlessly savage. Not surprisingly cartoonists sometimes cross that line.

Which brings us to Martin Rowson. Some weeks ago he drew a cartoon in the Guardian that showed Richard Sharp leaving the BBC with his cardboard box of belongings. It had Rowson’s characteristic elements, including a naked Boris Johnson sitting on a large pile of poo, but he was roundly condemned for something else. Critics claimed that the depiction of Sharp was anti-semitic, and included well known tropes including exaggerated features, references to banking and objects such as a squid, recalling Nazi images of Jews in the 1940s.

Now I don’t particularly like Rowson’s style, but what he does is important. Of course, he can expect backlash from time to time, but it was clear that he had crossed that line on this occasion. The cartoon was withdrawn, and Rowson took a break, but not before writing about the sequence of events and offering a genuine apology:

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Rosie Jones is a brave woman

Yesterday evening I watched Rosie Jones’ programme on Channel 4 about ableist trolling and would strongly encourage you to watch it too. In case you haven’t come across the term before I rather like this explanation:

Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.

There is meta-irony in the fact that Rosie Jones has been trolled for her choice of title for the programme: “Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard?”. In fact she spends the first few minutes explaining why she decided to go with those words, and even before the programme started the continuity announcer had warned us that it contained offensive language.

But the shock value was justified. Some time ago the she had used a company to remove offensive material from her Twitter feed, but in the programme she asked them to show her what she had been missing. I do hope she was receiving counselling at this point, because it was pretty awful.

She homed in on the use of the term “retard”, and then decided to report one of the comments to Twitter as a test case and ask them to remove it. Twitter responded suspiciously quickly and said that they couldn’t see anything offensive in the use of the term. She became very angry at that point, on behalf of the many disabled users who might have also reported similar tweets. When she discussed that response with a social media expert she learnt that it was an automated response, so she needed to find a way to speak to a real person. So she delivered a cookie (geddit?), decorated with the offending tweet, to the headquarters of Twitter UK, and that seemed to do the trick.

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From the Young Liberals:

Happy Barbenheimer Day to all who are celebrating.

Are they right? Apparently there are some robust debates going on in MPs’ offices today.

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Ed Davey sends a message to Somerton & Frome

So today’s the day. Three by-elections to fight, although Lib Dems are really just concentrating on the one in Somerton & Frome.

Ed Davey has sent this message:

Today voters across Somerton and Frome have a chance to send a clear message to the Conservatives that they have failed our country on the NHS, the cost of living crisis and protecting our rural communities.

Every vote for Sarah Dyke, our brilliant Liberal Democrat candidate, is a vote for a local champion who will put Somerset first and hold these Conservatives to account.

It’s clear this by-election is a two horse race between the Liberal Democrats and an out of touch Conservative party.

If the Liberal Democrats succeed in overturning this massive 19,000 Conservative majority, it will show voters in Somerset are fed up with being taken for granted by Rishi Sunak and his failing government.

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“I am not Amazon”

Are you as angry as I am by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s comments today? At the NATO summit, as a side issue, the G7 nations promised more military supplies for Ukraine. In a briefing to journalists Wallace said:

There is a slight word of caution here, which is that whether we like it or not people want to see gratitude.

My counsel to the Ukrainians is sometimes you’re persuading countries to give up their own stocks of weapons and yes the war is a noble war and yes we see it as you doing a war for – not just yourself – but our freedoms.

But sometimes you’ve got to persuade lawmakers on the Hill in America, you’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that you know that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and that they’re getting something for it.

And whether you like that or not, that is just the reality of it.

I said to the Ukrainians last year, when I drove 11 hours to Kyiv to be given a list – I said, I am not Amazon.

Earlier he had told Sky News that Ukraine is “always asking for more even after receiving the latest batch of arms”.

Richard Foord, our Defence spokesperson, shares my fury. He says:

Ukrainian people are dying every single day because of Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion – all they are asking for is the equipment needed to protect their country.

It is ill-judged to scold them for this and demand that they show more ‘gratitude’. Rishi Sunak should make clear that the Defence Secretary’s comments do not represent the UK’s position on our support for Ukraine.

It’s vital that we continue to stand for the rules-based order and with the Ukrainian people.

Quite apart from the appalling reminders of past imperial power, don’t we all know that threats to an ally are threats to all of us?

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Don’t grow old!

When I was a lot younger I remember older people telling me not to grow old. Thanks to the NHS and better nutrition most of us live longer lives than our grandparents or great grandparents did, but greater age brings more health problems. At 78 I already consume a handful of pills morning and night, and tend to take a lift rather than use the stairs. I have a marked reduction in energy to do normal everyday things and often need a nap during the day. In spite of those constraints I am still actively involved in my local party and I volunteer and engage in creative activities (as well as editing Lib Dem Voice).

Occasionally people make assumptions about me – last year a car salesperson asked me if I knew how to use Google, and my grandson asked me if I knew what RAM is (even though he had one of my books on Computing on his shelves). I don’t think I’ve really come across deliberate ageism as such, but I could quote many cases of unconscious/institutional bias. The latter mainly arise because younger people just can’t imagine what the limitations are as you get older.

I was struck by some of the comments around the proposals to close down ticket offices across the rail network. Some older people struggle with ticket machines – these can be challenging if their eyesight is poor, or they have weak manual dexterity. Others find online booking difficult, if not impossible, especially if they don’t have a smart phone or tablet. Even once online the complications of widely varying pricing and competing train companies can stump some.  Most people want to remain independent for as long as possible – and that is good for their mental health – but these challenges push people towards greater dependency on others, or force them to give up travelling by train.

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Liberal Democrats celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the NHS

Today is the 75th birthday of our much beloved, but beleaguered, NHS.

Ed Davey said:

With parents who passed away when I was young, looking after my Gran, now caring for my disabled son, throughout my life the NHS has been there. Often through really tough times and the more joyful birth of my children.

I am fiercely proud that it remains one of the most iconic services we have in the UK free to everyone.

The best birthday gift of all would be to put the NHS back on a stable footing, by increasing the number of available GP appointments, ending the long waits for ambulances, and closing the growing divide between those that can access dental care and those who can’t.

Daisy Cooper is our spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care and she has written a longer post here. In it she says:

High-quality healthcare, free at the point of use, is essential for individual freedom and good health gives people the freedom to live the lives they choose. And that’s why as Liberals we have always championed the NHS.

We were there at its founding, and helped forge this national institution on the proposals set out in the Beveridge report in 1942.

And we’re here now still fighting for those values across the country.

The next election will give us a real chance to show the country what the Conservative’s dereliction of duty means for their health, and what our plans are to do something about it.

The Liberal Democrats are proud to be champions of the NHS and we will always fight to ensure that the care everyone receives is based on their need, not their ability to pay.

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Why we are pre-moderating comments

I am picking up on some comments made on a previous post. Readers had noticed that recently we have been pre-moderating comments more than usual and wondered why.

Sadly, we have been at the receiving end of a lot of trolling lately. Not only that, but comments have been posted that are defamatory and possibly libellous. Whatever the legal position may be about what appears on our pages (it is not clear whether we could be sued for something written by a commenter) we simply do not want to be associated with that kind of illiberal and hurtful content.

As many of you know most of the LDV team have day jobs (some very demanding ones) – I’m the only one who is enjoying retirement – and we are all politically active. So we fit our editorial duties around the other demands in our lives, including our families. It would be much simpler for us if we didn’t have to moderate every single comment, and it would be so much less frustrating for our commenters if they didn’t have to wait a couple of hours whilst their comments are sitting in limbo, so it isn’t a decision we take lightly.

We do try to pre-warn you with this note under the post:

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

Of course, people do get cross if their comment is binned, but there can be several reasons for that happening:

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Charley Hasted: Why Pride Month is so important to me

Pride Month comes to an end tomorrow.

My LDV colleague, Charley Hasted, has been speaking about how their employer, the London Ambulance Service, works with and supports trans and other LGBT+ employees.

Charley is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, Google Pride Month for a fun animation.


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14,000 voters turned away – but probably many more

At the time of the local elections last month in England many of us were concerned that voters were being turned away at polling stations because they did not have the required photo ID. I wrote this post at the time: “Voter ID – did it prevent electoral fraud or did it interfere with voters’ rights?

I was telling for a couple of hours in a neighbouring borough, where a greeter checked everyone’s ID before they entered the polling station. Apparently greeters were employed at 40% of the polling stations. The significance of this is that voters who were turned away outside were not recorded at all – it was only those who got inside and were then turned away who were noted in the stats.

The Electoral Commission has published some preliminary findings with a more detailed report expected later in the year. It says that 14,000 would-be voters were not issued ballot papers – a figure that is worrying in itself – but it does not know how many were caught by the greeters before they stepped inside the polling station.

We also have to remember that this report covers only a proportion of English councils – 260 out of 383 across the UK – and that the turnout at local elections is about half of that at general elections. My rough calculation suggest that the figure of 14,000 could be grossed up to 40,000 if it had been a general election instead.

Back to the hard facts in the report. It seems that 8% of those eligible to vote in May did not know about the ID requirement, but that percentage was even lower amongst ethnic minorities and 18-24 year olds, where a whopping 18% were unaware that they had to produce ID.

The figure of 14,000 does not include those who were initially turned away but who returned later in the day with acceptable ID and were able to vote.

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The hell that is A&E

At the weekend I spent far too long in an A&E department. Now my story is nothing special and it could be repeated by thousands of people around the country. The worrying thing is precisely that – my experience is now normal, rather than exceptional.

It was my husband Ian who needed medical care, complicated by the fact that he is 79, has some disability and uses a wheelchair outside our home. We didn’t think we needed to go to A&E but phoned 111 on Sunday afternoon for some advice. They sent us to the out-of-hours GP unit at a renowned teaching hospital some 40 minutes drive away. The GP there thought he needed to be seen by hospital staff, and possibly admitted, so sent him down the corridor to A&E.

We probably arrived at a bad time. Not only was it the weekend but junior doctors had been on strike earlier in the week so no doubt some people had held off until the Sunday evening. First we joined the queue to see the triage nurse, alongside a police officer with a prisoner. The small waiting room was already packed with around 50 people, at least half of whom were in some kind of distress, the others anxiously concerned about them.  These were in addition to the patients arriving by ambulance through a separate entrance. It was surprisingly quiet – each person silent in their own island of pain and worry.

We were sent straightaway to the Urgent Treatment Centre, which implied (correctly) that our need was actually less urgent than others. This waiting room was less packed and indeed some people were sitting outside the door in the cool of the garden area. The notice board announced a wait for adults of a rather precise 174 minutes. A vending machine dispensed chocolate bars and drinks, but all the catering facilities in the hospital were closed. We were grateful that we had eaten a meal before we left home.

The woman sitting next to me was clearly in a lot of pain, apparently from a broken arm. She was whimpering and praying with every breath. There was nothing I could do to help her, apart from offer to get her a cup of water. Over 3 hours later she was called in and I felt her relief. Eventually just Ian and one other patient were waiting to be seen. It was well after midnight when a nurse said the unit was closing and took us back to the main A&E waiting room. I was worried that we would have to start the wait period all over again, but was reassured that it wouldn’t be long.

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Acting and politics

Glenda Jackson was an extraordinary person – not only was she was one of the best actors of her generation, but she also succeeded in a second career as a politician, renowned for her integrity and commitment to social inequality, human rights and feminism.  It is that combination of achievements that fascinates me, not least because my two major pursuits in retirement are politics and drama/theatre.

The BBC has unearthed an interesting interview from 50 years ago:

Actors are always at a disadvantage when they speak out on political issues, because some members of the public assume that they must be “acting”. Hugh Grant came up against this prejudice when he put his weight behind the Hacked Off project. Of course, he was pitting himself against some of the most powerful media personalities in the country so he must have braced himself for a very public attempt at character assassination. They did their best to imply that actors could not be trusted as they were good at “lying”.

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By-election results, Thursday 15th June

Frimley Green, Surrey Heath

Great result in Michael Gove’s constituency.

Hilton, South Derbyshire

And another terrific result! This election was deferred from 4th May, following the death of a candidate.

Burrator, West Devon

Hendon, Sunderland

Just 13 votes short!

St Peters, St Albans

And one that we sadly lost.

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++Breaking news++ Not one, but two by-elections!

After the news that Nadine Dorries is standing down as an MP, with immediate effect, we now hear that Boris Johnson is following her example and departing Westminster.

We can only speculate on the conversations the two of them have been having, but we do know that, to quote the BBC:

Mr Johnson accused the Commons inquiry of attempting to “drive me out”.

In a statement he said: “They have still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons.”

In evidence given to the committee in March, Mr Johnson admitted misleading Parliament, but denied doing it on purpose.

In the statement issued after he stepped down on Friday evening, the former prime minister said: “I did not lie, and I believe that in their hearts the committee know it.”

“They know perfectly well that when I spoke in the Commons I was saying what I believed sincerely to be true and what I had been briefed to say, like any other minister,” he said.

Mr Johnson said he corrected the record as soon as possible, and said committee members “know that”.

Campaign teams are girding their loins as we speak, and those of you who love by-elections will be hearing shortly about where to go and what to do.


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Mental health support for children neglected by Government

Some years ago Norman Lamb effectively led the Lib Dem campaign to give mental health equal parity with physical health in the NHS. This did lead to some welcome changes in both attitude and provision, including the creation of new Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges in England, which were set up in 2018.  Each MHST would cover some 8000 pupils, and the plan envisioned 500 teams in place by the end of 2024, to cover about half of all pupils.

The MHSTs were a welcome addition to the existing acute Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, offering early support and, hopefully, preventing the escalation of problems to the point where a referral to CAMHs would be necessary.

Then Covid struck, and lockdown is known to have had a marked effect on the nation’s mental health, particularly in children, whose normal processes of growing up were substantially interrupted. Sadly, it also slowed down the rollout of the MHSTs.

Munira Wilson, our health spokesperson, has carried on the campaign for children’s mental health provision and has been gaining some traction. In today’s Guardian she reports on research by the Liberal Democrats that reveals the inadequate state of mental health support in schools.

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LGA Lib Dem elections

The Local Government Association is the national body that represents local authorities in England, and in Wales through the Welsh Local Government Association. Councillors are well aware of its work, though other party members probably less so.  There are four party groups within the LGA – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent.

The Lib Dem Group is currently going through its biannual election process, with places open to councillors in England. The Group has just announced that the Group Leader Joe Harris and the Deputy Group Leader Bridget Smith (pictured) were both elected unopposed.

All the other positions are being contested. These include the Group Chair and Group Whip, plus members of various Boards within the LGA, such as the Children & Young People Board, the Community & Wellbeing Board and the Fire Services Management Committee. Ballots open tomorrow and close on 20th June, with the results being announced on 23rd June.

If you are wondering whether you can vote – the electorate in this case consists of nearly 2800 English Lib Dem councillors in district, county, metropolitan and unitary authorities, plus London boroughs.

Congratulations to Joe and Bridget, and good luck to the other candidates.

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Woking: Lib Dems landed with massive Tory debt

Liberal Democrats have inherited a huge headache from the Conservatives in Woking. The Borough is quite small, with a population of around 100,000, and is located in archetypal Blue Wall Surrey, centred around the busy town of the same name. But as we all know there is now a very large patch of orange stretching across the county, and Woking Lib Dems led the way, taking control in 2022. Since the local elections earlier this month we now hold 20 of the 30 council seats, and our Leader is Councillor Ann-Marie Barker.

It’s important to note that the Conservatives were in control from 2011 to 2019, followed by two years of No Overall Control with a minority Conservative administration.

Now it’s common for an incoming administration to blame the previous one for the problems it faces. But this problem is in a league of its own because, as has now been revealed, the Conservatives racked up a debt of around £2 billion – yes, you read that correctly! That makes Woking the most indebted council in the UK, relative to its size, and Government commissioners have now been sent in.

So how on earth does a small Council, in an admittedly affluent area, get into so much trouble? Yesterday the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a damning report into the whole sorry affair. It seems that the Council borrowed huge sums to regenerate the town centre.

As a result of past investment decisions, the council has failed its best value duty leaving an unprecedented legacy for the current leadership team, which they have not been able to address.

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Great results for Alliance in Northern Ireland local elections

As we mentioned on Friday, the local elections in Northern Ireland took place two weeks later than the ones in England, so we have been able to focus this week on the progress of our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

These are four year all-in, all-out elections using STV. Wards are grouped into District Electoral Areas which elect five, six or seven councillors, depending on size, so understandably, the count has been quite lengthy in some areas. In total 462 seats have been contested across 11 local councils, and the count was only completed at around midnight last night. I now understand why they moved the elections from the Thursday before the Coronation.

The headline news is that Sinn Féin has surged into a clear lead, with the Alliance also increasing its vote share substantially. The final status of the parties is:

  • Sinn Féin: 144 (up 38)
  • DUP: 122 (no change)
  • Alliance: 67 (up 14)
  • UUP: 54 (down 21)
  • SDLP: 39 (down 20)
  • Others: 36 (down 12)

This pattern is also reflected in the first preference vote share, where the Alliance lies in 3rd place behind Sinn Féin and the DUP, having leapfrogged the UUP and SDLP from fifth position in 2019.

The Alliance’s best result was in Lisburn and Castlereagh, just to the south of Belfast, where they have 13 seats, just one behind the DUP’s 14.

Congratulations on a great showing all round!



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Northern Ireland local elections

When the date of the Coronation was announced some of us were concerned about the impact it might have on the local elections in England – in terms of campaigning and turnout. In the event it didn’t seem to have much effect, but they took the concern seriously in Northern Ireland which is why their local council elections took place yesterday.

There was no overnight counting and results are beginning to trickle in. Of course, the political landscape is rather different in Northern Ireland from England, but as Lib Dems we are watching the performance of our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

All seats are up for grabs – 462 in total across 11 councils. Last time round, in 2019, Alliance lay in fifth position overall with 53 seats, 21 up on the previous election, so they entered this one with some optimism. Voting is by Single Transferable Vote, which, of course, enables smaller parties to make an impact proportionate to their level of support.

As we write Sinn Féin has 31 councillors, DUP has 19,  Alliance has 8, UUP has 4, SDLP has 2 and Independent has 1. No seats have changed hands yet.  When we look at vote share, the Alliance party is lying third with a slight swing towards them in terms of vote. But the main news is that Sinn Féin is surging ahead on vote share with 33% of the votes, even though that hasn’t yet been reflected in an increase in council seats.  However, it seems we will have to wait until tomorrow for the full results.

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Is sewage the new potholes? Ed Davey on the BBC Newscast

Following an excellent interview in the Guardian on Tuesday, Ed Davey has now made an impressive appearance on the BBC Newscast. It starts about 5minutes 30 seconds in.

He talks about the G7 summit and the local elections, but the main topic of discussion is sewage. He says that bill-payers should not be paying for the errors of the water companies, and that some of the practices were illegal anyway and they have not been meeting their legal obligations.

Ed is asked how the Lib Dems can turn the local election surge into success at the next General Election. He thought we might have gained 150 Council seats, but in the event we took over 400.  He is asked the inevitable question about a possible coalition with Labour, and he confirms that there will no deal ahead of the election. Instead Liberal Democrats will be concentrating on winning more seats.

They also chat about the stunts – knocking down the blue wall and the big blue clock. He claimed credit for inventing the Blue Wall concept and his brilliant team for turning it into memorable visual images.

Finally, obliquely referring to the Guardian interview, Ed is asked how he has coped now and in the past with family trauma and his caring responsibilities.  In reply he talks a bit about Emily and John, and about the need for mental health support for carers and for bereaved children.

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