Author Archives: Mary Reid

If I were a teacher would I strike?

I taught in schools and colleges for most of my professional life. At one stage I chaired our local union branch and joined in a couple of strikes. So you can guess where my sympathies lie with the current school strikes.

Now I don’t argue for pay parity between the public and private sectors of industry. In many areas of the economy the gap in pay between the top and the bottom of industry is eye-wateringly wide and contributes to inequality right across society. Simply copying what I see as immoral practices in the public sector would simply compound the problem. Instead the public sector, including education, should model a fair and equitable earnings distribution.

Teachers were put under huge strain during lockdown. Their teaching practices changed from day to day, many doing a combination of in-person and online teaching, they took on extra health risks, they had to keep adjusting their teaching plans to match the latest assessment/examination requirements – and doing all this while trying to home educate their own children.

As one teacher told The Guardian:

Teachers are on their knees. I absolutely love my job, I am still passionate after 25 years and have never considered leaving but every year a little more is asked and expected of us: we’re dealing with the creeping effects of growing class sizes, teaching assistants disappearing from the system, higher levels of poverty, inadequate school budgets. This week alone I have worked almost 11 hours’ overtime.

This is not just about pay, it’s about the workload and the impact this has on the students.

Ah yes, workload. Throughout my career I was generally treated as a professional, but not always. One boss would indulge in staff re-organisations every five years or so and that inevitably meant signing a new contract if you wanted a job in the new structure. And the new contracts always increased workload, whether measured in teaching hours or class size. I felt I was being treated as a functionary, hired to do a task. I loved my job, and loved teaching my students, and would normally put in 55 to 60 hours work per week, and far more than most people might think during the “holidays”.

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AI is being used by students to produce essays and projects

A story has been appearing in the regional press about a cross-bench peer, John Pakington (Baron Hampton) who is, unusually, also a working teacher. He is concerned that students are using Artificial Intelligence systems to produce essays, technical designs and even works of art and then passing them off as their own. He says:

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, at the moment, that suggests that students are using AI for everything from essays and poetry to university applications and, rather more surprisingly, in the visual arts subjects. Just before Christmas, one of my product design A-level students came up to me and showed me some designs he’d done.

He’d taken a cardboard model, photographed it, put it into a free piece of software, put in three different parameters and had received, within minutes, 20 high-resolution designs, all original, that were degree level – they weren’t A-level, they were degree level. At the moment, it’s about plagiarism and it’s about fighting the software – I would like to ask when the Government is planning to meet with education professionals and the exam boards to actually work out (how) to design a new curriculum that embraces the new opportunity rather than fighting it.

Tim Clement-Jones is our Digital spokesperson in the House of Lords and he agreed with his fellow peer:

This question clearly concerns a very powerful new generative probabilistic type of artificial intelligence that we ought to encourage in terms of creativity, but not in terms of cheating or deception.

Some 30 years ago I was studying AI as part of my Masters degree. Many of the same tropes were circulating then as now: “AI will make people lazy”, “Many jobs will be lost to machines” – similar sentiments have been expressed whenever there is a substantial shift in technology, from Jacquard looms to automated car production. But this time there is the added fear that AI will “take over” and we will become the redundant playthings of super machines. In practice, many of the techniques that I was looking at then are now embedded in our technologies; they improve productively and are hugely beneficial to society. They support and amplify our activities rather than replace them, although, as this evidence suggests, they can also present new challenges.

Andy Boddington had some fun with the latest AI chatbot, ChatGPT, and generated a passable short essay and some rather dubious poetry. When I say “passable” I mean that it is almost impossible to tell that it has been generated by software and not by a real person.  It is also possible that ChatGPT could pass the Turing Test and win the Loebner Prize.

Of course, the issue of plagiarism has dogged educational assessment for many years. Academics routinely use plagiarism detection systems for essays, and I have a couple of examples from my own professional experience.

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Church of England creates community fund as compensation for investment in the slave trade

The Church of England has committed £100 million to a fund to “address past wrongs” over its investments in the slave trade in the 18th century. Of course, people will say it is too little, too late and will not reach those most affected, and I have some sympathy for that reaction. But it is nevertheless both a substantial commitment and a symbolic act which will hopefully encourage other public bodies to follow suit.

As an active member of the Church of England I applaud the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Faced with demands for compensation he commissioned the “Church Commissioners Research into historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery“. (The Church Commissioners are the trustees responsible for the charitable funds of the Church of England.)

He has now set up an oversight group to manage the new fund “with significant membership from communities impacted by historic slavery”. However he does not use the term “reparations”, as the fund will not pay individuals; instead it will finance community projects in areas most affected by the slave trade.

Nothing can ever compensate for the greatest crime in western history, but that does not mean that nothing should be done.

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Lib Dem councillor on The Apprentice

One of the contestants in the new series of The Apprentice, Gregory Ebbs, is a Lib Dem councillor on Whitchurch Town Council in Shropshire.

According to his profile on the BBC he “owns an online antiques business and has previously worked as a professional cannon-firer”. I’d love to know more about his time spent in Malta firing cannons. What we do know is that he is a dab hand with aphorisms.

In the first episode last night, which took the contestants to Antigua, Greg was praised by both Lord Sugar and Karren Brady. So good luck to him for the rest of the series!

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Munira Wilson challenges Government on free school meals

It was Nick Clegg who introduced free school meals for all 5 to 7 year olds, while the Conservative partners in the coalition, notably George Osborne, resisted the proposal.

You might be surprised to learn that school meals date back over a century, although access and the quality of provision was variable until the 1944 Education Act. That required all Local Education Authorities to provide school meals for all, free to those who met certain poverty criteria, plus free school milk for all. It also laid down nutritional requirements for the meals.

Since then the requirements have been gradually eroded, in spite of numerous research findings which show the health and economic benefits, as well as educational ones, of providing universal access to nutritious meals to all children.

Maggie Thatcher was famously tagged “Milk snatcher” when, as Education Secretary, she removed free school milk in 1971. Then the Education Act 1980 removed the requirement to provide meals to all children unless they qualified for free meals. School canteens were given over to private contractors or simply turned into teaching spaces, packed lunches became the norm and nutritional guidelines withered.

It took a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, to lead the campaign for good food in schools and for a while things started to look better for the health of the nation’s children. But by 2019 60% of schools were still not meeting food standards.

And it took a celebrity footballer, Marcus Rashford, to shame the Government into extending free school meals into the holiday periods during Covid.

But it is a constant struggle between those who care about the impact of poverty on education versus those who worry about the “nanny state”.

Munira Wilson, our Education spokesperson, has consistently challenged the Government on its current provision of free school meals, achieving front page coverage.  Her latest campaign is seemingly quite a modest one – to ensure that all children who are eligible for free school meals under the current rules actually get them. It seems, astonishingly, that nearly a quarter of a million children go without because they haven’t been registered. She claims this should be an automatic process rather than one relying on opt-ins.

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Compass launches Win As One campaign

Compass is a think tank with a strong emphasis on equality and sustainability.  It started as a pressure group within Labour but now has a wider membership including members of other progressive parties, including Liberal Democrats.

Compass has launched a new campaign called Win As One. This is a variant on a Progressive Alliance, but it does not involve parties standing down candidates in Tory facing seats to back the most winnable. Instead it appeals to voters to create a movement for change, embracing tactical voting where it can be effective.

The Guardian has more detail about how they intend to work. The campaign will focus on 62 seats where a Conservative has been elected even though the combined progressive voter was higher – they dub these seats as progressive tragedies.

You will remember that back in September the Labour Party Conference backed a motion calling for Proportional Representation. However, it did not have the backing of Keir Starmer, so it seems unlikely to feature in any future manifesto. The Win As One campaign will give preference to candidates who support PR.

You can enter your postcode on the Win As One website to see their analysis of your constituency. In my case Ed Davey is my MP and Kingston & Surbiton is not seen as a battleground, but the site points me towards neighbouring constituencies that are.  For example, the Lib Dem’s top target seat is Wimbledon and it has a progressive combined vote of 61%.

So what should our attitude be towards this new player? I do have my doubts about a Progressive Alliance as such, because it undermines the autonomy of the voter. It assumes that voters will automatically transfer their vote to the “chosen” candidate, but we know that is simply not the case. Indeed it can be a counterproductive move if voters resent the reduction in choice and feel patronised by the parties who appear to be trying to manipulate the result. We should always stand a candidate in each seat.

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Chester sends a message to Rishi

Labour held on to Chester in the Parliamentary by-election yesterday. That was, of course, no surprise; even the swing of 12% could have been predicted. But the Tories vote share was down not by 12% but by 16%, with support haemorrhaging in all directions.

Lib Dems put up a candidate and benefitted from that in a small way, with their vote share up 1.5%. So thank you to Rob Herd for flying the flag for the party.

Meanwhile something interesting is happening in the Tory held seat of Totnes. There is a call for the three main opposition parties to agree to put forward just one opposition candidate. Voters would select which of three opposition candidates they want to stand through the South Devon Primary process.

The idea of using a primary to select a candidate is not new to the constituency. Sarah Wollaston was selected for the Conservatives in an open primary and she subsequently won the seat in 2010, which she retained comfortably in the 2015 and 2017 elections. In 2019 she left the Conservatives and joined the Change UK group, then the Liberal Democrats.

Later that year Wollaston was defending the seat again but this time as a Liberal Democrat. The Green candidate stood aside, but the Tory still won. But the combined votes for our candidate and for the Labour candidate were pretty close to the Conservative vote. With the current collapse of Tory support this makes the seat winnable by someone other than a Tory. It remains to be seen whether the proposed South Devon Primary will find favour with local Lib Dems as well as with Labour.

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Antidisestablishmentarianism

Yesterday’s report from the ONS showed that less than 50% of the population of England and Wales identified as Christian in the 2021 Census. This had led to calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England. It also gives me the opportunity to use the longest word in the English language. The fact that the word dates back to the 19th century shows that there is a long history to the call to reduce the formal role of the Church of England in public life – and opposition to it.

Note that disestablishment only relates to the Church of England. It does not refer to the worldwide Anglican communion, which includes the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland. To confuse things further, we all noticed that at his Accession King Charles sign a declaration of protection of the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian and not Anglican.

A personal disclosure – I am an active member of the Church of England. However, as you will see, that does not mean I support its current political role.

I imagine we all know the 500 year history of the origins of the Church of England. Henry VIII enacted the Brexit of his day, and separated the English branch of the church from its Roman “masters”. Of course, the English Church had existed for over a thousand years before that, in its former Catholic form, and had had a huge impact on the culture, from its amazing buildings, its ancient learnings, its art and music, to its moral direction. However, Henry politicised the church in a way that hadn’t happened before.

Whilst the history is fascinating it has led us to a situation which in some ways is not in tune with today’s values.  The established church in England is central to many aspects of our cultural life including major public ceremonies from Remembrance Sunday to Coronations, and there is a question mark over all of these. In August the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on The relationship between church and state in the United Kingdom. It covers all the attempts at reform over the past century.

However the current arguments for disestablishment tend to focus on two areas – membership of the House of Lords and compulsory worship in schools.

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A marriage made in Portsmouth

One of our readers came across this BBC Parliament documentary about the merger of the Liberals and the Social Democrat Party in 1987-88. It was first broadcast in 2008 to mark the 20th Anniversary.

Enjoy!

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So what is your political word of the year?

The OUP publishers normally select the Oxford word of the year, and last year they chose vax.  However this year they are asking the public to vote. Mind you, rather like the Tory leadership election, they are only offering a very short shortlist to choose from.

This year the words on the ballot are metaverse, #IStandWith and goblin mode. I must confess that I have never used the last phrase, but it usefully fills a gap in my vocabulary.

Collins also produce their word of the year. Last year it was NFT and in 2020, predictably, it was lockdown.

I have been watching The Crown, and eventually we reached the episode in which Charles and Camilla have that cringemaking conversation about Tampax. But I was surprised that the dialogue actually started by him asking her for feedback on a speech he was planning on the threats to the English language, in which he bemoaned the degradation of our beautiful language.  Note, this may or may not have been said in the actual conversation – I have done my research and can’t find it in any transcripts – but we know that it accords with his views. I think we can safely assume that Charles would not be happy with the shortlisted words of the year, or indeed of any year.

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An “existential crisis” for English Councils

It has been many years since Councils have felt they had enough funding to provide the services that their residents need. For most of this century they have been cutting many non-essential and non-statutory services, such as youth clubs, and they have been outsourcing some essential services to cheaper and, in some cases, inexperienced and inadequate providers. And the cuts have happened year on year, so what seems unthinkable one year becomes a reality the next.

The core Council services are around housing and social care, for adults and children, plus a number of environmental services such as recycling and waste collection. Social care supports the most vulnerable, from essential care for the elderly and those with disabilities, to support for families in crisis and providing for looked after children. Most Councils also support an active volunteer sector with its increasing provision of food banks, as sure indicator that all is not well with society.

Throughout all this the Westminster government has been adding extra responsibilities to local government, but not the funding needed to meet them, all the while passing the blame onto Councils.

Councils get the bulk of their income from Council tax, business rates and central Government grants. The latter consists of the main revenue support grant, plus ring-fenced grants which simply pass through the Councils accounts and directly out to recipients, such as housing benefits and school funding. The formula for allocating the revenue support grant is shrouded in mystery, but seems to be based on historical assessments of need rather than current need.  It has also reduced on average by 50% in recent years, and some Councils get precisely zero in revenue support.

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Sarah Olney (and other Lib Dems) on the problem of night flights

Sarah Olney was granted an adjournment debate yesterday, so took the opportunity to visit an issue that plagues her constituency – aircraft noise, especially at night. She was joined by her neighbouring MP, Munira Wilson, whose Twickenham constituency is affected even more. Christine Jardine and Wera Hobhouse also chipped in. Who knew so many Lib Dem constituencies had this problem?

You can read the full debate in Hansard, but here are some highlights.

Sarah Olney:

Night flights are the most intrusive form of aircraft noise and there is clear evidence that they harm both the physical and mental health of residents who live under flightpaths. This summer, the delays and chaos at Heathrow airport resulted in an increased number of flights landing through the night. For my constituents and for many others across west and south-west London, that disturbance resulted in countless sleepless nights.

This disturbance is completely avoidable. Night flights are by no means essential for airport operations. These flights can and should be moved and it is within the Government’s remit to ensure that that happens.

I therefore have two asks of the Department for Transport. My primary call is for a ban on scheduled flights at Heathrow airport between 11 pm and 6 am.  That is the only way we can be sure that residents will not continue to suffer from noise disruption. If the Government will not commit to that, they must commission a full independent analysis of the impact of night flights on the health of local communities, the environment and the UK economy to inform future policy development.

Munira Wilson:

My constituency of Twickenham is, of course, that bit closer to Heathrow and further along the flightpath, so I wholeheartedly welcome and support the two asks that she is making of the Minister today about trying to balance the economic benefits of night flights against the health risks and the distress that they cause to constituents. Does she agree that the Government could start by looking at extending the night-time restriction to 10 pm, from 11.30 pm, given the large number of frequent late-night departures that are blighting my constituents’ sleep?

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LibLink: Lord Sharkey on protecting pensions

Lib Dem peer John Sharkey has written in Politics Home under the headline “We must protect the triple lock on pensions ahead of a difficult winter“. He writes:

For the second time in a month, pensioners have been plunged into uncertainty over the future of their payments with the new Prime Minister refusing to take anything off the table ahead of the fiscal statement.

The triple lock was a core Liberal Democrat policy brought in by the Coalition government and we are determined to protect it throughout this turbulent time in politics.

This is in spite of the pledge by Rishi Sunak to uphold the 2019 Conservative manifesto which states “We will keep the triple lock”.

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Ed Davey’s Autumn Speech in full

Here is the full text of Ed Davey’s speech, given at 1pm today.

Good afternoon friends.

It was an enormous privilege to represent our party, and my Kingston and Surbiton constituents, at the funeral of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Beneath the splendour of Westminster Abbey, surrounded by dignitaries from nations around the world – It was a beautiful memorial to a life of faith, devoted to our country and our Commonwealth. And a poignant celebration of values we all hold dear:

Patriotism. Compassion. Service. Values embodied by Her Majesty.

We thank her again. And we welcome her son, King Charles III, to the

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Watch Ed Davey’s Autumn speech

This post has been deleted.

For Ed Davey’s speech go to www.libdemvoice.org/ed-daveys-autumn-speech-71887.html

 

 

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Autumn Leader’s Speech

We missed our usual Leader’s Speech in September when conference was cancelled following the death of the Queen. So instead Ed Davey will be delivering a major speech tomorrow (Sunday 6th November) from 12.50pm.

You can watch the speech live here.

Whilst most of the speech is under wraps until tomorrow, we have had some trailers, most notably in his proposal to make it a legal right for patients to see a GP within a week.

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Ed Davey calls for legal right to see GP within 7 days

Getting a doctor’s appointment is becoming more and more of a challenge. Whether it means explaining in detail to a non-qualified receptionist who triages requests, or having to grapple with an inflexible online booking system, or having to join a phone queue at 8am exactly, or even filling in an online form just to be put in another triage queue – the processes seem designed to make you think it’s not worth it. They are particularly trying for anyone who is elderly, sick or in pain, or who has a chronic medical condition, and these, after all, take up a large proportion of appointments.

During the pandemic we got used to phone and video consultations, but we all knew these were not the most effective way to make a diagnosis, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that serious conditions were missed. It may still make sense for a doctor to hold an initial remote conversation, but only if an in-person appointment can be made speedily if needed.

But the delays in getting appointments is very real. Years ago no-one would have been offered a GP appointment in two weeks’ time for a new condition, and yet that is what is happening now.

Ed Davey is announcing plans to give us all the legal right to see a GP within a week (or 24 hours if urgent). It is certainly an indicator of the stresses within the NHS if a week’s delay is seen as an improvement. He has unearthed data which shows that 25% of people in some areas have to wait over two weeks for an appointment.  This is in the context of the two week target for suspected cancer cases to be seen by a specialist, where the clock only starts once someone has actually seen their GP. That wait could be doubled if they can’t get a GP appointment immediately.

The proposal is that this right would be enshrined in law, thus putting a duty on the Government to ensure that it happens.  Of course, it can only be achieved if the recruitment and retention of GPs is improved, and that requires action at the highest level.

So watch out for the announcement in Ed’s major speech at the weekend – designed to replace the missed Conference speech. Ahead of that he has said:

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I’m a Westminster celebrity – get me out of here!

Former MPs have livened up reality shows – think Ed Balls on Strictly, Edwina Currie on I’m a Celebrity and Ann Widdecombe on just about everything. And dare I mention that Lembit Öpik became a Pointless Celebrity? All of those had left Westminster behind when they were invited to appear in the shows, so they were free to build their careers in other directions, however bizarre.

However, some were still serving MPs when they were lured into the world of constructed reality. George Galloway famously gave us a cringeworthy performance of a cat on Celebrity Big Brother. Penny Mordaunt belly-flopped in Splash! Nadine Dorries ate unmentionable things in the I’m a Celebrity jungle.

So were they disciplined in the same way as Matt Hancock has been for taking off for a spell in the back yard of a hotel in Australia? George Galloway represented the Respect Party at the time of his embarrassing entry into reality TV – not a party known for its internal discipline. The Conservative whip was removed from Nadine Dorries for some months after her appearance, but her misdemeanour didn’t stand in the way of her becoming Culture Secretary. Penny Mordaunt was criticised by the Opposition but was not penalised by her party, probably because Splash! was not so much of an … immersive … experience.

Tim Farron reveals that he has been asked to appear in a number of similar shows.

(Tim Farron) said the TV appearances would have been great fun but that his job was to serve his constituents and not swan off for weeks on end doing reality TV.

If you do, by any chance, tend to watch I’m a Celebrity I think you know who to vote for the Bushtucker trials this year.

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Daisy Cooper asks Sunak about the future of hospital funding

Today Daisy Cooper asked a question during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Two weeks ago she asked a very similar question of the then Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and received a very evasive answer.

Did she get any further this time?

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The Government must protect the triple lock on pensions

Our saintly Steve Webb – the Lib Dem pensions expert who became Pensions Minister during the coalition – created the triple lock pledge on pensions. Here he is talking about its history.

And the only thing that Liz Truss did that was commendable on the economy – admittedly under pressure – was to reaffirm the triple lock in her final Prime Minister’s Questions last week.

As a reminder, the triple lock on state pensions means that they will rise by average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, whichever is the highest.

So it is hugely disappointing to realise the Rishi Sunak is refusing to commit on the triple lock, which presumably means that it is “under review” in the run-up to the Budget on 17th November.

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Wendy Chamberlain’s Carer’s Leave Bill

Today Wendy Chamberlain spoke on her Carer’s Leave Bill, which has cross-party support and passed its second reading.

Carer’s UK have described this as a ‘landmark’ piece of legislation which would help carers to better balance work and care.

Last month Wendy held an event with major employers to explain her proposals, which were met with widespread support. She points out this is only a small step to recognise the vitally important work of unpaid carers but one that will be appreciated. There are already systems in place to support parents in their caring responsibilities, but nothing for those who care for adults, usually family members.

Scottish Lib Dems added their support.

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The fallout

Lib Dems have been busy today dealing with the fallout from the resignation of Britain’s shortest ever Prime Minister. I’ll rephrase that – the British Prime Minister who served for the shortest time in office EVER (although the original version is probably also true, if of no political significance).

First, all departing Prime Ministers are entitled to an annual allowance for the rest of their lives of £115,000 to cover office costs. This was covered in a press release yesterday, where Christine Jardine is urging her not to take it. Today Ed Davey told LBC radio:

Most people have to work at least 35 years to get a full state pension. I think working 45 days shouldn’t give you a pension that is many many times what ordinary people out there get after a lifetime of work.

Second, traditionally Prime Ministers can hand out peerages and other honours in a resignation list. Boris Johnson has only just honoured 29 people in that way. Another tranche following so soon from Liz Truss would be completely inappropriate. Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem Chief Whip, has written to the Chair of Parliamentary and Political Service Committee:

As you know, it is traditional upon a Prime Minister’s departure from office for them to issue a ‘Resignation Honours’ list. This list signifies individuals who are to be rewarded with an honour from the King which, in turn, would be considered by your committee.

However, because of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Liz Truss’s tenure and resignation, I am writing to urge you and the committee to reject any Resignation Honours list put forward by her.

Liz Truss will be the shortest serving Prime Minister in British political history. It is possible that by the time she formally resigns, she will not have held office for more than 50 days.

I do not believe that it would be appropriate for Liz Truss to be permitted to issue a resignation honours list, given the extremely short length of her tenure.

I urge you to make it clear that you and your fellow committee members would not sign off on any such honours, which would be the second list in a matter of months.

Third, there is a lot of concern that Boris Johnson is thinking of entering the leadership contest. This was, of course, the Prime Minister who was only persuaded to stand down after 50 ministers resigned. As also mentioned in press releases our MPs have now tabled a motion to stop anyone who has broken the law while in Government from ever becoming Prime Minister. It reads:

That this House believes that the upholding of standards by its Members is of vital importance to the functioning of UK democracy; believes that it is vital that the Prime Minister and Ministers uphold these standards; and therefore resolves that any honourable or right honourable member that is found to have broken the law whilst in Government should be barred from holding Prime Ministerial Office.

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Ed Davey gets no comfort in Prime Minister’s Questions

Today at PMQs Ed Davey asked about carer’s allowances. He started by referring to the daily care that one disabled child needs and asked how carers can meet the additional costs this winter. In particular, he demanded that carer’s allowance should be raised in line with inflation.

Mr Speaker, millions of family carers have been forced to cut back on food and heating. One told Carers UK: ‘My son is incontinent… if we don’t wash him in warm water several times a day this will cause him to physically decline. So how do we pay for the gas to heat the water if we are currently at max budget?’

Vulnerable people and carers are struggling enough already in this cost-of-living crisis, Mr Speaker. So will the Prime Minister guarantee that support for the vulnerable – including Carer’s Allowance – will rise by at least today’s inflation rate of 10.1%?

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Meet the candidates for Party President

Update: Since this post was published we understand that the date for the hustings for England will be rearranged. We will update you as soon as we can.

Following on from the Newbies Guide to the party elections we now have the dates for the presidential hustings.

There are three candidates for President of the Liberal Democrats:

  • Lucy Nethsingha
  • Mark Pack
  • Liz Webster

Three online hustings have been arranged, one each for England, Wales and Scotland.

  • England: Sunday 23rd October, 6pm to 8pm  New date Thursday 27th October, 6pm to 8pm
  • Wales: Wednesday 26th October, 6pm to 8pm
  • Scotland: Sunday 30th October, 1.15pm to 2pm.

These meetings are for members only. You do need to book here in order to receive the link to the online event.

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Lib Dems demand Parliament must sit tomorrow

On a fast moving day in Downing Street, Lib Dems have called for Parliament to sit tomorrow so that Jeremy Hunt can deliver a new fiscal statement. This is sorely needed to calm markets before they open on Monday.

Sarah Olney is our Treasury spokesperson and she says:

This government has overseen a slow-motion car crash as Britain’s economy barrels towards disaster. For weeks Ministers have sat on their hands as their mini-budget unfolded. Parliament must sit tomorrow so we can hear from this new Chancellor.

Every day this disastrous Conservative Government staggers on, it plunges Britain into more turbulence and pain. Rather than show leadership, they’ve just delivered more chaos and confusion. After shamefully cutting her press conference short this afternoon, the Prime Minister and her new Chancellor must come to the House of Commons tomorrow to face questions from MPs.

As the revolving door at Number 11 continues the very least the latest one can do is come to Parliament tomorrow and deliver an urgent statement putting the final nail in the coffin of this budget.

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Reactions to the churn

So Kwasi Kwarteng is out and Jeremy Hunt is in. How long can Liz Truss last after today’s extraordinary moves?

Prominent Lib Dems have, of course, been giving us their take on the news:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think we can see a clear message here!

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Daisy Cooper on PMQs

Daisy Cooper had a question about hospitals with dangerous roofs at Prime Minister’s Questions today. Bizarrely Liz Truss seems to be answering a totally different question.

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Candidates announced for internal party elections

Nominations for the party elections closed this week and the full list of candidates has now been published.

There are three candidates for Party President: Lucy Nethsingha, Mark Pack and Liz Webster, but only one for Vice President: Amna Ahmad.  Only three people have been nominated for the three places for Scottish representatives on the Federal Council, but all the other committee places are fully contested so we can expected lengthy ballot papers.

The ballots, which for most of us will be online, will be sent out on 25th October.

The makeup of each body is subject to diversity rules which you can read at the bottom of this page.

Note that this post is announcement only. We have turned off comments to avoid references to individual candidates.

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How will the Coronation affect local elections?

It has been announced that the Coronation of King Charles III will take place on Saturday 6th May 2023 (although that news on the BBC was quickly eclipsed by the information that he will be appearing in The Repair Shop).

So how will that affect the local elections due to take place on Thursday 4th May? These will include elections to a number of metropolitan, unitary, district and parish Councils that elect by thirds, together with many where the whole council will be elected, plus some directly elected Mayors.

There are several factors to take into account:

  1. Many Councils now do the count on Friday during the day, instead of overnight, and some carry on into the Saturday, especially where there are elections at several levels. Parish Councils are normally counted on Saturday.
  2. We would expect a day to be announced as a Bank Holiday in lieu of the Saturday. Could that be on the Friday?
  3. The week will be full of news on all media of the preparations for the Coronation which could deplete turnout.
  4. Is it possible that the coverage in the run-up to the event, with a lot of patriotic fervour, may sway voters?
  5. If the results are bad for the Conservatives – which would not be surprising! – this news will be conveniently buried.

Your thoughts, please.

Note that this is a post about the impact of a major national event on local elections – it is not about the monarchy itself. 

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Vast majority of burglaries are unsolved

You would think that police would be obliged to attend all household burglaries, wouldn’t you? Apparently they don’t. And even when they do the chances of them actually finding the criminal is very slim.

In England and Wales last year 73% of all domestic burglaries were unsolved. An even smaller percentage (3.5%) resulted in someone being charged. Put another way, in the last five years 1.4 million burglaries went unsolved. And the percentage resulting in a charge has gone down year on year so that by last year it was less than half that in 2017 (which was bad enough, anyway).

These figures were provided in a press release today from the Lib Dem Media Team. You can see the police figures, broken down by area, here.

So now we hear that police forces in England and Wales have pledged to attend every home burglary. This would appear to be the minimum expectation on a police force. I can’t imagine how devastating it would be for a person to come home to find their home has been broken into, and items stolen, but when they report it to the police no-one comes to investigate. However we have to ask whether this will increase the clear-up rate. Or more pertinently why the clear-up rate is so low.

We have a comment from Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael:

It is devastating for victims that the overwhelming majority of burglaries go unsolved.

While this is a positive step, without proper resources from the Government this pledge risks being nothing more than a box-ticking exercise.

The Conservatives are letting down victims and allowing burglaries to run rife.

Ministers must give police the officers, time and resources they need to properly investigate crime.

The fear of crime has a noxious effect on our social lives, whether it makes women afraid of going out after dark, or keeps people who live alone awake at night. Sales of home security systems with cameras have rocketed, but it seems that even where there is an image of a burglary or attempted burglary the chances of anyone being arrested are very low. Burglary must seem like an attractive career choice to some.

Posted in News | 7 Comments
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