Author Archives: Mary Reid

Early Bird registration for Spring Conference extended

If the report earlier today from Nick da Costa, Chair of the Federal Conference Committee, prompted you to book your place, then you are in luck. The Early Bird rate is being extended until Monday 24th January.

You can register here.

Whilst the Early Bird rate is £40, there is a massive bargain for first-timers who only need to pay £5. And under 18s,  students and benefits claimants can register at the special rate of £10. The £10 and £5 rates apply whenever you register, but the main rate will be rising from next Tuesday, so book now.

This will hopefully be the last online Conference. The platform used by the party (Hopin) is very effective but it’s still not the same as wandering around the Conference Centre and nearby hotels and randomly bumping into old friends and making new ones.

As usual Lib Dem Voice will be at Spring Conference reporting back to our readers. See you there?

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Daisy Cooper on Question Time

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Just to let you know that Daisy Cooper MP is appearing on Question Time this evening from Shrewsbury (10.35pm on BBC 1.)

 

 

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Where were the police?

Much has already been written about the revelations – which seem to increase on a daily basis – of illegal gatherings at No 10, but little has been said about the role of the police during those times.

It seems the Met Police have fined over 17,700 people for breaching Covid laws over the last two years, including some for holding gatherings of over 30 people.

So where were they on 20th May 2020? – and on 15th May 2020, 13th November 2020, 27th November 2020, 10th December 2020, 15th December 2020 (according to this timeline)?

The police were, of course, actually on the spot. No 10, naturally, has a high level of security, with uniformed and plain clothed officers present at all times. Did they warn the staff about breaches? And when the offences were repeated why did they not issue fines?

Boris Johnson has now admitted that he attended the event on 20th May – and there are clear photos of his attendance on 15th May.  At the very least the Met Police should investigate. And it should also be taken to task for not investigating at the time.

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New Year Honours – the Lib Dem edit

Chris Whitty and Emma Raducanu were dead certs for the New Year Honours list published today. But what about all those people working for their local communities, most of whom were nominated by the people they serve, and some of whom are certainly Lib Dems (because that’s what Lib Dems do)?

Here is the chance to tell us about any members who have been given an honour this time round. Use the comments below to explain why they have been honoured and we will add them to the main post.

Isabelle Parasram

Congratulations to former Vice President of the Lib Dems, Isabelle Parasram, on being awarded an OBE for public and political service. Isabelle is a barrister, currently working as the CEO of Social Value UK, a national network for those interested in social value and social impact.

Ed Davey said:

We are absolutely delighted to hear that Isabelle has received this award, which is richly deserved for her distinguished and tireless service within politics and indeed beyond.

Her enduring legacy within the Liberal Democrats is reflected in her work on democratic engagement, diversity and social justice, which is greatly respected by the party and something we continue to aspire towards.

Matthew Clark

And many congratulations also go to Matthew Clark, former Chief of Staff to the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament, and former councillor, who has been awarded an MBE for services to politics.

Caron Lindsay wrote a post here on Lib Dem Voice last June: “End of an era as Matthew Clark leaves Holyrood”, in which she quotes Scottish Party Convener Sheila Ritchie:

Matthew is my friend. He has a brain the size of a planet and has been the repository of the party’s institutional knowledge for decades.

He is kind, and firm, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Being a fool, and certainly not in his intellectual league, there have been occasions when he has not suffered me.

But he has always been there for me, as Convenor, as candidate, as MEP, and for anyone in the Party who needed him.

We owe him a huge debt, which we probably can never repay.

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Ed Davey: Bring back volunteering scheme

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Lib Dems are asking the Government to introduce an Emergency Volunteering Leave scheme – urgently. This would allow volunteers to take time off work, but still be paid, to help with the booster vaccinations over the holiday season.

Last week the NHS said it needs 40,000 volunteers for roles such as admin support and stewards, while vaccination centres say they are desperate for staff. Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has warned there could be up to 50,000 staff absences in the NHS by Christmas.

We also know that there are plenty of people willing to volunteer. We need to put the two together.

The scheme would allow people to take between two and four weeks on unpaid leave, and the Government would compensate them for expenses and loss of earnings.

Ed Davey says:

We are in the race of our lives to get people jabbed and turn the tide against Omicron, while the NHS is facing catastrophic staffing shortages.

It is baffling that the Government decided to scrap these plans that could have helped speed up the booster rollout.

There is no time to waste. Boris Johnson must bring back Parliament and introduce an Emergency Volunteering Leave scheme.

This would help people play their part in the booster rollout and take pressure off the NHS at this critical time.

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“Is Boris Johnson honest?”

That was the question asked by journalist Michael Crick yesterday. And the person he asked was the Conservative candidate in the North Shropshire by-election.

Unfortunately we have to link to the Daily Mail so you can see his answer(s), but it is worth watching the whole of this gem of a video.

To everyone helping today’s efforts – have a great day!  And good luck to Helen Morgan.

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Do social networking sites support democracy and the Open Society? – revisited

I was reminded of a post that I wrote for Lib Dem Voice 12 years ago entitled “Do social networking sites support democracy and the Open Society?“, and thought it was worth revisiting in the light of current concerns about Facebook and others. I wrote then:

The obvious answer is, yes. But do they?

Let’s track this idea back.

In 1979 Christopher Evans published “The Mighty Micro”. His bold and prophetic book looked at the impact of the microchip on society over the next 10-15 years.

In the same year, 1979, I wrote my first computer program on a teletype terminal and stored it on paper tape. Some desk top computers had been built, but they were very uncommon.

The chapter that really inspired me when I first read it was the one on Political and Social Issues. He predicted that the 1980s and 1990s would be dominated by “virtually infinite data transmission”

This kind of development will encourage lateral communication – the spread of information from human being to human being across the base of the social pyramid. Characteristically this favours the kind of open society … the opposite effect on autocracies who like to make sure that all information is handled very firmly downwards.

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Wendy Chamberlain on QT tonight

Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem MP for North East Fife, is on the Question Time panel tonight. The programme is being broadcast from Weston-super-Mare on BBC 1 at 10.35pm.

With her will be Maggie Throup (Conservative MP for Erewash), Thangam Debbonaire (Labour MP for Bristol West), Professor Peter Openshaw (Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College) and Theo Paphitis (retail entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den regular).

Expect questions on asylum seekers, No 10 Christmas parties and the impact of the Omicron variant.

 

 

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White Ribbon Day #AllMenCan

Today is White Ribbon Day, which marks the start of 16 days of action to end men’s violence against women and girls.

#AllMenCan is the hashtag this year. As the organisers explain:

It was developed for us in March when the murder of Sarah Everard brought women’s experience of men’s violence to the forefront of everyone’s minds. It also opened up so many conversations about men taking action and making a stand. We want as many men as possible to think carefully and make the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.

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Babies in Westminster

Pub quiz question: Who was the first MP to take a baby through a voting lobby?

<spoiler alert>

 

 

The picture of Jo Swinson is a red herring.

It was her husband Duncan Hames, then MP for Chippenham, who carried young Andrew on one occasion when he voted in 2014.

Duncan and Andrew Hames make history

By the way, the reference to Harriet Harman turns out to be an untrue rumour, but neatly encapsulates the values 30 years before.

Four years after Duncan’s pioneering act Jo took their second baby (as seen in the photo) into the Commons for a debate, appropriately on allowing proxy votes for new parents. She wrote about the experience, and the backlash she received afterwards.

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Fighting institutional disablism

We should all have been shocked and embarrassed by the news that an Israeli minister was unable to access COP26 on Monday because she was in a wheelchair. This was followed by an attempt at victim blaming by Environment Secretary George Eustice who said that she should have told them about her access needs in advance. The Prime Minister eventually apologised, but used weaselly terms like “confusion” and “regrettable incident”.

The Black Lives Matter movement has alerted us all to the concepts of institutional and structural racism. They remind us that discrimination does not always result from hatred or prejudice, or even unconscious bias, on the part of an individual, but can sometimes be the result of built-in and unintentional practices within organisations, and indeed within society itself. We need to take on the same thinking when discussing the needs of people with disabilities.

Institutional and structural disablism can be very evident to those who experience it, but invisible to those who don’t.

Let me give you a small example. My husband has a rare neurological condition which affects his mobility and balance, amongst other things. He uses a walking stick but doesn’t need a wheelchair. We like to go out for short walks in the local parks and commons, and we are always on the look-out for somewhere to sit halfway through. We do find a number of seats but too often they are benches without backs and arms – which means my husband can’t get up from them. So the people who could benefit most from the provision of seating are often unable to use them.

The diagram of a person in a wheelchair is the universally understood icon for provision for disabled people – it’s seen on parking spaces, toilets, entrances and exit buttons. And indeed a wheelchair is the most visible sign of disability.  So when planners and designers are thinking about disabled provision they usually focus on wheelchair accessibility. But of course, most disabilities, like my husband’s, are less visible, with the result that places can be far less accessible than they should be.

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Candidates for Lib Dem Vice-President revealed

Nominations have closed for the Vice President of the party with responsibility for working with ethnic minority communities. You can read the list here.

This election follows the resignation of Isabelle Parasram for work reasons.

The candidates are:

Amna Ahmad

Roderick Lynch

Tahir Maher

Julliet Makhapila

Rabi Martins

Marisha Ray

There will be some hustings, although no dates have been announced yet.

The ballot will run from 12th November to 10th December, with the count and declaration on 13th December.

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A new narrative for community democracy?

Have you noticed the hierarchical language that is often used by public service providers?

Local authorities, and others, are required to ‘engage’ with residents. ‘Citizen empowerment’ is offered as a gift by government.

Even those of us involved in politics fall into the trap and sometimes talk as though it is government that drives society; we talk as though it is government that is the main source of welfare for citizens; and we talk as though it is government that creates successful communities.

We need to turn this on its head. We need to talk instead of government dependent on, and subservient to, the dynamic communities they represent and serve.

As Liberal Democrats we are proud of our practice of community politics. We now need a new narrative of community democracy.

In our personal lives we all know that the things that have the greatest impact on us happen quite independently of local or national government. What matters to us most are our relationships with others, and our interactions with the localities where we live and work.

We must return to a concept of community that has, at its heart, individuals who are free to make and break relationships with each other, individuals who are free to develop roots, as deep or as shallow as they wish, in their local area, and individuals who are free to form local networks based on common interest and common interests. Community democracy grows organically from the natural relationships and networks that already exist in localities.

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The Paralympics and attitudes to disability

The Paralympics have been a delight, and we still have another week to enjoy. We have seen athletes carrying out seemingly impossible feats – playing table tennis while holding the bat in the mouth, swimming without arms, cycling with one leg – and we have heard from commentators who share the disabilities of the competitors.

And what about the joys of Wheelchair rugby? Apparently it was called Murder Ball until the sport decided to become legitimate and started applying for grant support. Looking very much like dodgems on speed, it is probably the most physical and chaotic of all Paralympic sports, but it has mixed teams and is terrific fun. I would happily watch it between one Paralympics and the next.

Each day is topped by the silliness of The Last Leg on C4 wrapped around some serious campaigning for people with disabilities. That programme, which started during the 2012 Paralympics, has been a shining light for disability awareness, using humour and compassion to overcome any residual discomfiture. It has also provide a platform for disabled comics, including the fabulous Rosie Jones.

In fact, we can be proud of the fact that the Paralympic movement began in the UK with the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 alongside the London Olympics. So it is fitting that when the Olympics returned here in 2012 it was the first time that the management of the Olympics and Paralympics had been fully integrated, giving them equal esteem and equal publicity. As a result Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmons, David Weir and others became household names, and they were awarded honours on a par with their Olympic colleagues. Since 2012 Paralympians have mainstreamed in many Celebrity shows, from Strictly to Masterchef.

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LibLink: Ed Davey says private capital must switch from dirty to clean

Now here’s an interesting thought. Why not ban any new listings of fossil fuel companies on the London Stock Exchange?

Ed Davey flags up this idea in an interview with The Guardian today to mark his first year as Party Leader.

Under the plan outlined to the Guardian by the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, another immediate policy would be to stop new bonds being issued in London to finance oil, coal or gas exploration.

Fossil fuel firms already listed in the UK would then have two years to produce a coherent plan about how they would reach net zero emissions by 2045, or risk being struck off the LSE.

In the longer term, pension funds would have to disinvest from fossil fuels by 2035, with all companies with fossil fuel assets removed from the exchange by 2045.

Ed said:

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Ed Davey: Extend Armed Forces Covenant to Afghans who supported British troops

The Armed Forces Covenant protects UK military veterans and their families. In the i Ed Davy has called for the Covenant to be extended to include Afghan soldiers and interpreters who have been working with the British forces in Afghanistan.

He says:

The UK owes a huge debt of gratitude to all the Afghan citizens who heroically took a stand and worked alongside our brave men and women on the ground over the past 20 years.

Without their selflessness, we simply couldn’t have achieved what we did and undoubtedly more lives would’ve been lost. It is only right that their huge contribution is recognised and rewarded.

We must start by ensuring all Afghan interpreters, and their families, are able to come to the UK. Now is not the time for arbitrary caps on refugees – unless we offer sanctuary they will be hunted down by the Taliban, and we will see a humanitarian crisis unfold before our eyes.

He will table an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill when it comes before Parliament and it is likely to receive widespread support.

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Bobby Dean selected for Carshalton and Wallington

Ed Davey has announced our candidate for a future General Election in the South West London seat of Carshalton and Wallington. Congratulations to Bobby Dean who was selected in a well-fought contest which attracted a very able field of candidates.

Carshalton and Wallington is a marginal blue wall seat, held by Tom Brake from 1997 until 2019, when it was won by the Conservatives with a slender majority of 629. It also forms half of the London borough of Sutton, which Liberal Democrats hold with a substantial majority (33 seats to 18). …

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Mental health pressures on Olympic competitors

Liberal Democrats have been strongly campaigning on mental health for several years now.

Here is the party’s response to Simone Biles’ acknowledgement of the pressures she has been under. She has won a total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals in gymnastics and the expectations placed on her are exceptional.

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Up and down

At Lib Dem Voice we don’t usually cover the results of political polls, because they do fluctuate. Also, paying too much attention to poll results can have unintended consequences for our party’s campaigning. Liberal Democrats were riding high in the polls during the last elections to the European Parliament in 2019, and some people imagined that we could win a swathe of seats in the General Election later that year simply based on the polling data. Seasoned campaigners, however, know that we only win seats if we do a lot of work on the ground – the support shown in polls is never enough.

But we have to admit that it is exciting when our poll position makes a substantial leap from 6% to 13%. The Evening Standard  reports an Ipsos-Mori poll which shows that support for both Labour and the Conservatives has fallen by 4 points since their last poll. The Conservatives are still 9 points ahead, but net satisfaction of Boris Johnson and the Government have fallen to and -16 and -20 respectively. But the Liberal Democrats have jumped to 13%, and this is the first time we have been at that level since the 2019 General Election.

So what do we make of it? Undoubtedly our win in Chesham and Amersham produced this bounce. The party cleverly exploited the publicity immediately afterwards. The image of Ed Davey knocking down the blue wall with a small yellow mallet visually encapsulated our key message to the whole country very neatly – those who criticised it as a stunt clearly don’t understand how the media works.

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Kirsty Williams talks about why she left front line politics

In an interview with ITV News Kirsty Williams, Lib Dem Senedd Member since 1999 and former Welsh Education Minister, reveals the reasons why she stood down this May.

We can’t embed the clip but you can view it here. She says:

I think for me it became increasingly more and more difficult to protect my family, not from the threats of violence that we’re talking about but the general level of abuse.

When my children were small they weren’t on social media, they didn’t have access to those things, but now it’s pretty difficult to keep them away from that. So trying to protect my family – or failing to succeed in protecting my family from some of the fallout from having a mother in political life was definitely a factor in me standing down.

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It’s a long game, revisited

Disappointment, even despair, was the general reaction by Lib Dems to the 2019 General Election results. But some of us saw a different picture. A week or so after that election I wrote a post for Lib Dem Voice under the headline “It’s a long game” in which I said:

I’m absolutely delighted to see the progress made in so many seats, and it fills me with such hope for the future. Do not give up. What you have done is to lay the foundations for future successes. Keep building your teams and keep targeting Council wards. Get all the advice you can on how to do that. Hold long term ambitions, and do not become dependent on external help.

Since Thursday the media have been speculating on which other blue wall constituencies are now fair game for the Lib Dems – exactly the ones I was addressing in that extract. It’s worth looking at the map in this article in The Guardian, which shows those seats in the southern half of the UK that could be vulnerable to the small but powerful orange mallet.

Too often we imagine that we win in general elections through smart national campaigning in the last few weeks, and that all seats will reflect the mood of the day. That is simply not true. Seats are won on the back of long campaigning, which itself is dependent on building the capacity of the local party. Given Thursday’s result we can safely assume that Boris Johnson will not be calling for a general election soon, even if the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act is rescinded, so we have the luxury of three years to build on the energy generated by Chesham and Amersham.

Speaking of which, back in 2019 I also wrote:

There is a good reason why by-election gains are often lost at the next general election. Hundreds of people piling into to help in a by-election can produce exhilarating results, but unless the infrastructure of the local party is seriously strengthened it will be struggling when it is left to its own resources.

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Tories worried about Chesham and Amersham

With so many Lib Dems heading over to Chesham and Amersham to support Sarah Green, it was interesting to read a letter published today in The Guardian. Dr Peter Dawson, a voter in the constituency, writes:

This has long been an ultra-safe Conservative seat, but there appears to be some anxiety among Tories, locally and nationally, about a possible Liberal Democrat win. Boris Johnson has made an appearance here and canvassers have been drafted in from London.

Apparently Rishi Sunak has written to all voters encouraging them to vote for a candidate “who can work with me”. As Dr Dawson says:

Now, I am not a Lib Dem supporter, but I recognise that the Lib Dem candidate is not some beyond-the-pale extremist, so I see no reason why Sarah Green and Sunak could not work together. But perhaps Sunak is not that kind of politician, and perhaps this is not that kind of government.

Most party members will by now have received emails (possibly more than one!) explaining how to get involved.

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Lord Nigel Jones asks question about Eurovision

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We don’t often cover our country’s performance at the Eurovision Song Contest here on LDV, but Nigel Jones (the other one) used it as an opportunity to ask a serious question in the Lords. He asked Brexit minister Lord David Frost:

Is the minister making any progress on negotiating a new deal for the creative sector touring Europe?

While he’s thinking of a plausible answer to that, when he decided in the negotiations to reject the EU’s generous offer and threw touring musicians under a bus, did he anticipate, is he surprised by or does he accept any responsibility at all for the humiliation of our country scoring zero – nul points – in the Eurovision song contest?

David Frost replied:

I am happy to accept responsibility for many things but I don’t think I can reasonably have accepted the effect of the result on Saturday night.

Of course we work to support all our creative industries in the situation that now prevails.

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Geoff Payne to stand down as Federal Conference Committee chair

Geoff PayneEarlier today Geoff Payne announced that he is standing down as Chair of the Federal Conference Committee – the party body, elected by members, which organises our Spring and Autumn Conferences.

He writes on Facebook:

Some personal news: I have decided to stand down as Chair of Federal Conference Committee. I have thought about this for a while and now seems the right time to do so because we have reached a natural pause between conferences. The reason is nothing to do with the party or the committee, or conference. It is simply that I am finding it increasingly difficult to square conference with my professional life and soon I think it will not be possible at all.

I have been Chair of FCC for three years now. Before that, I served as a Vice-Chair for nine years, and as a member for six years before that. That is probably enough for anyone – some would say too much! But those years have been a privilege for me personally.

Conference continues to represent the very best of the democratic traditions of the party. I am proud of what FCC and the Conference Team has achieved, particularly in pulling together the online conference but also in the many in-person conferences that were run before that. There is immense talent on the committee as well as staffing support of the highest standard from the Conference Office, Policy Unit and party at large. I am very grateful for that, and I wish my successor, whoever that may be, the very best of luck.

A number of members have thanked him:

Jon Ball:

Thank you for everything you have done – especially the Herculean task of making the first virtual conference happen. I’m aware of what an enormous amount of your work that involved and of the consummate skill you applied.

Jennie Rigg:

Geoff has been an excellent, calm and capable chair. He was a worthy successor to Andrew, gracefully steering FCC through numerous crises (including one caused by me). He will be very much missed.

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Local lockdowns by stealth?

The Government has been having to deal rapidly with the cock-up over the restrictions in areas where the Indian variant is spreading.

Munira Wilson was in the Guardian today, after confusion reigned in Westminster:

An appearance in the House of Commons on Tuesday by the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, failed to clarify the matter.

“What we’re asking people in those affected areas is to be cautious, is to be careful – so on visiting family, meet outdoors rather than inside where possible. Meet 2 metres apart from people you don’t live with, unless you have formed a support bubble,” said Zahawi. “Yes, people can visit family in half-term, if they follow social distancing guidelines.”

But then he added: “Avoid travelling in and out of the affected areas, as the prime minister said on the 14th, unless it is essential, for example for work purposes.”

In the House of Commons, the Twickenham MP, Munira Wilson, challenged Zahawi about whether her constituents should be avoiding travelling across the borough boundary into neighbouring Hounslow to shop or go to school.

The minister replied: “People need to exercise that caution, that common sense.”

It’s a pity that the Government didn’t follow it’s own advice and act with common sense in the first place.

Layla Moran, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, joined in on the BBC News:

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Why have choirs been silenced this week?


This evening I will be attending a rehearsal with the other members of my large amateur choir (in concert a couple of years ago in the photo). We were looking forward to meeting again in person today – 30 members were going to be able to attend at the school hall which is our usual rehearsal venue, with the rest of us watching on YouTube and singing along. Next week a different group of 30 were planning to go along to the school.

Then on Tuesday we learnt that the guidance from DCMS had changed (see Section 2.4) and that the rule of 6 now applies to in-person rehearsals. Choirs around the country were both shocked, disappointed and bemused at this unexpected change and have had to make rapid re-arrangements, which, apart from anything else, will have financial implications both for their Musical Directors and for their rehearsal venues.

So this evening we will all be meeting yet again on Zoom, just as we have been doing for the last year. As anyone who has tried singing on Zoom will know, the time delays make it completely impossible for everyone to sing at the same time, so we all mute ourselves and sing along to a backing track without hearing anyone else. It’s a poor substitute for singing together, but we have been putting up with it when there was no alternative.

You may think this is a niche concern, but over 2 million people sing with an amateur choir in the UK, more than play amateur football. It brings immeasurable benefits, both physically and in terms of mental health. When I was going through ultra-busy and quite stressful times in my political life the one thing that I continued to do was to attend choir because, as I used to say, “it keeps me sane”.

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Great British Railways?

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Late last night the news broke about the wide-reaching Government reform of the railways. In a couple of years time we will see the establishment of Great British Railways – which sounds more like a reality show, or a travelogue that features Michael Portillo’s yellow trousers.

According to the BBC, Great British Railways “will set timetables and prices, sell tickets in England and manage rail infrastructure”, that is, have control over both the physical network as well as the train operators.

I think we can all agree that the privatisation of the railways has not been a success. Quality has been inconsistent across the franchised rail networks, the fare structure has been a mystery to most travellers and there seems to be little central accountability for failures.

Are we really to believe that a right-leaning Conservative Government is planning to re-nationalise the railways? Undoubtedly the devil will be in the detail, so if you have had a chance to dissect the White Paper, known as by the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, do please offer your comments or write us a post.

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Will the PM eat his ID card?

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In today’s Guardian Marina Hyde has unearthed this quote from Boris Johnson in 2004:

If I am ever asked on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and am simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded I produce it.

I am reminded of Paddy Ashdown promising to eat his hat in 2015 when the polls were predicting large Lib Dem losses. And of Lib Dem Voice’s former editor, Stephen Tall, who pledged to run down Whitehall naked if we halved our number of MPs in the same election. Stephen, bless him, honoured his commitment, and did the run in full view of TV cameras on a cold Autumn day, although he was permitted a thong. Even Paddy submitted to good humoured humiliation when he ate a chocolate version of his hat on Question Time.

I somehow doubt that the Prime Minister will honour his pledge. But then the requirement for voters to present photo ID in order to be able to vote in a polling station, as announced in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, has already met with a great deal of public opposition, so its chances of reaching the statute books are, in my view, quite slim. However, we must not make any assumptions about how it will play out, and we must ensure that everything possible is done to prevent it becoming a reality.

The reasons for opposing voter ID have been covered extensively, but it is worth reminding people that it was blatantly used in some US states by Republicans to suppress Democratic votes.

Any extra complexity added to voting processes anywhere in the world potentially discourages some voters from exercising their democratic rights, and may even disenfranchise them.

In simple terms, voter impersonation (“personation” as it is correctly called) is a vanishingly small offence in the UK, as indeed it is in the US.  The Electoral Commission has published reports which show that 1 person was convicted of personation in 2017, none in 2018, 1 in 2019, and none in 2020 (although very few elections took place last year). This is not a problem seeking a solution.

On the other hand, it is a solution creating a problem.

In a research briefing from the House of Commons Library, we learn that the Electoral Commission had found that around 25% of voters do not have either a passport or driving licence – the most popular forms of photo ID used in this country. By extending that to include other forms of ID, such as bus passes, some 92.5% would be covered. But that still leaves 3.5 million voters without any permissible form of ID.

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Sarah Green selected for Chesham & Amersham

The Chesham & Amersham by-election, following the death of Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan last month, will be held over the summer, although no date has been announced yet. In the General Election we came a solid second, so we will be fighting this with all the energy we can.

Congratulations to Sarah Green who has been selected as our candidate. Sarah is a training and communications professional, and many of you will have come across her at party training sessions.

Here’s how you can help.

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We don’t say “Thank You” enough

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our Lib Dem councillors, all 2600 of them. We don’t show our appreciation properly in normal times, but especially over the last 12 months, when they have been dealing with unprecedented levels of disruption and stress. A particular shout-out to those councillors who were planning to stand down in 2020 but have been forced to serve an extra year – enjoy your retirement.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our 50 Elected Mayors, Council Leaders and Deputy Leaders who have had to take on huge responsibilities for the wellbeing of their residents during the pandemic.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our members on the Senedd, Scottish Parliament and London Assembly – only 7 of them in the last session, but all punching well above their weight.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to the thousands of candidates who are campaigning for election tomorrow. We are really grateful to all of you, including those who are making sure that Liberal Democrat is an option on the ballot paper in areas where we don’t have much hope of winning a seat.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to all our activists – those who are not enjoying the thrill of standing, but who still offer to knock on doors, print, bundle, deliver, tell, enter data, address envelopes, run websites, train and lead campaigning.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to all our staffers – campaign managers and organisers. True they are “only” doing their job, but they all do far more than is strictly required and work punishing hours during election campaigns.

So how can we thank them? By getting out there today and tomorrow, and bringing in the vote.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments
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