Author Archives: Mary Reid

Two million extra people in higher tax bracket

Since the General Election in 2019 two million extra people will have found themselves paying tax in the higher income tax band.

Now my first reaction to that news was to think that, when there are serious levels of poverty, then taxing the wealthy is the way to go. But a comment in the Mirror by former Lib Dem MP (and Pensions Minister) Steve Webb made me think again:

Paying higher rate tax used to be reserved for the very wealthiest, but this has changed very dramatically in recent years.

The starting point for higher rate tax has not kept pace with rising incomes, and the current five-year freeze on thresholds has turbo-charged this trend.

People who would not think of themselves as being particularly rich can now easily face an income tax rate of 40% and around one in five of all taxpayers will soon be in the higher rate bracket.

So although it is not the most pressing issue while dealing with the cost of living crisis, it certainly deserves some attention. And it rather undermines the Conservative vision of a low-tax society.

Christine Jardine has issued a statement:

It is time Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson stopped taking the British public for fools. You can’t call yourself a low-tax Government then hike them to record levels.

Britain’s squeezed-middle is being crushed by a barrage of tax hikes.  Britain needs an emergency tax cut before its too late for millions of families and pensioners on the brink.

This Government has proven itself to be completely out of touch with the cost of living crisis and people will never forgive them for these tax hikes.

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Populations up and down – bad news for some local authorities

The census data on population in England and Wales makes for interesting reading. The media have homed in on the changes in age profiles and the impact these will have on various public services, especially the NHS and adult social care.

But my attention was caught by the changes in population at local authority level, because government grants to local authorities are based on population. The specific timing of the census during the pandemic means that the population figures may not accurately represent the situation once it is over.

You can read the ONS report here. It usefully includes this interactive map which shows the changes in each local authority.

 

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Victory Rally in Tiverton

You can watch this live (or on catchup) from 11am today on BBC News or Sky News.

“It’s time to show Boris the door”

 

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While you are waiting …

While you are waiting for news from Tiverton & Honiton we can also offer you some encouragement from two other elections, on top of the excellent result in Highley in Shropshire.

First, from the London borough of Kingston upon Thames. Last month Lib Dems had a resounding victory by winning 41 of the 45 council seats. But the contest in one ward, New Malden Village, was deferred after the death of an independent candidate just a few days before polling day, leaving the three seats still vacant.

This created a rather odd campaigning environment – our squeeze message evaporated as there was no danger of another party taking control. Predictably, opposition literature emphasised the fact that people could now abandon tactical voting and vote with their hearts. The other parties also homed in on the very small opposition on the Council, which needed to be strengthened – a fact which had also worried the Lib Dems, as we have always seen Scrutiny as a function of the opposition.

This is traditionally a Conservative facing area, the small Labour representation having been wiped out completely in 2010.

So we are delighted to report that not only did we win all three seats convincingly, but the Conservatives were knocked into third and fourth places by a coalition of Greens and Independents.

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On the road

Beth Rigby, the Political Editor at Sky News, has been chatting with Ed Davey.

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Ed Davey: Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes. That’s nonsense

The train strike has already had a devastating impact on businesses and on the general public.

Ed Davey has written an article in The Guardian under the headline: Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes. That’s nonsense.

He writes:

The Liberal Democrats are against the rail strikes and if a summer of discontent is not to turn into a winter of discontent and full-on stagflation, ministers must step back from the brink.

The position of lower-paid workers across our country should be at the forefront of ministers’ thinking – not that of the highest earners in the City, whose pay and bonuses the government announced this week would not be limited in any way.

The solution?

The solution to such distressing stories is clear: instead of strikes, there should be dialogue between government ministers and union bosses.

Ministers must now clean up their own mess. Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency Cobra meeting to kickstart a practical compromise and to keep Britain moving.

And here is Christine Jardine (our Treasury spokseperson) telling the BBC what Grant Shapps and the Government should do. It is a national emergency so it would be appropriate for Cobra to meet.

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Why does the PM need an Ethics Adviser?

Yes, indeed.

This reminds me of a question posed to my husband when he was Mayor. He was visiting a school and the Mayor’s attendant that day was also a children’s entertainer, and some of the children recognised him. One of them asked “Why does the Mayor need a magician?”.

But back to the Prime Minister. The role of an Ethics Adviser (technically the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests) was established in 2006. The adviser is appointed directly by the Prime Minister.

The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests is appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him on matters relating to the Ministerial Code. The post holder is independent of government and expected to provide impartial advice to the Prime Minister. (Terms of reference)

The previous Ethics Adviser, Sir Alex Allen, was asked in 2020 to investigate bullying claims against Priti Patel and had found that she had broken the Ministerial Code, which would normally result in resignation . Boris Johnson backed Priti Patel and stated that he had full confidence in her, so Alex Allen resigned.

And now a second Ethics Adviser appointed by Boris Johnson has resigned. Lord Geidt informed the Prime Minister of his decision on Tuesday and last night his resignation letter was published (after some anger at its delay).

The trigger for his resignation was when Boris Johnson asked him to approve a plan to extend tariffs on steel imports, which would have broken World Trade Organization rules.

Here is the key extract from Lord Geidt’s letter:

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“Mind blowing” errors in pensions

Are you using software on your laptop that dates back to the 1980s? It sounds unlikely, although some standard office applications do go back that far –  a pre-cursor to Word was first launched in 1983 but it has gone through massive development since then. Indeed everyone who uses it is aware of its frequent upgrades and patches.

However it seems the Government is still using software dating from the 1980s which has not been properly maintained and updated. The BBC reports that millions of people have been receiving an incorrect pension for years, because of the failure to update the Pension Strategy Computer System to take account of Graduated Retirement Benefit.

It seems the individual discrepancies may be quite small, with some pensioners being overpaid and others underpaid, but the accumulated impact could be large. And last year a different issue was found with the system which had resulted in substantial underpayments for 134,000 people.

But the truly worrying fact is that this error has been known about for at least 20 years. Apparently the DWP decided it would be too complicated to fix.

Steve Webb – the Lib Dem pensions guru and former Pensions Minister – says:

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Lib Dem MPs submit Private Members Bills on carers and worker protection

Of the 460 MPs who entered the ballot for Private Member Bills only 20 were selected. And two of those were Lib Dems – Wendy Chamberlain and Wera Hobhouse.

Unfortunately only the top seven are guaranteed debating time so the others have to hope they can be squeezed in somewhere. Wendy was at position 10, and Wera at 15.

So we should be watching the progress of these two (quoted from Politics Home):

10. Wendy Chamberlain: Carer’s Leave Bill

The Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife is proposing a bill to make provision about unpaid leave for employees with caring responsibilities.

Chamberlain said: “Unpaid carers are the absolute backbone of our society. According to government estimates, there are at least 2.3 million working carers who could be eligible for leave under this bill: a huge number of people who currently receive far too little support.

“This bill will help carers juggle work and care whilst supporting employers to maximise retention and wellbeing. Passing it will be a significant step forwards from all sides.”

And

15. Wera Hobhouse: Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill

This legislation – the unofficial name of which is the Protection from Workplace Harassment Bill – makes provisions about the duties of employers and protection of workers under the Equality Act 2010.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Bath said: “My winning number on the ballot was 461. I chose this because I was the 461st woman to be elected to Parliament. This encouraged me to choose an issue that will tackle violence against women and girls as harassment in the workplace is experienced by 40 per cent of women in the workforce in their career.

“This bill would shift responsibility from the individual to the institution and make employers responsible for protecting their employees. There is no place for harassment anywhere. At a minimum, sexual harassment is experienced by 40 per cent of women in the workforce. It causes various harms, and employers should be morally and legally required to take all reasonable steps to stop harassment from occurring.

“Workplace harassment has no place in our society and this bill will take steps to prevent cases of harassment.”

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Gove approves gas drilling alongside Surrey Hills

Surrey Hills is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and yet this Government, in the person of Michael Gove, has just given planning permission for oil and gas drilling adjacent to it.

The report by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities states that “there are significant harms to the character and appearance of the landscape from the proposal,” and that it would “degrade the quality of the setting of the AONB.” But it dismisses these concerns and claims they are outweighed by the benefits of gas exploration.

Where to begin? Are we or are we not in the middle of a climate emergency? Oil and gas drilling should not be permitted even in the ugliest of industrial landscapes, but to allow it here, in a precious and unique landscape, is simply vandalism.

Ed also said:

The best way to improve energy security is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, by investing in renewables and insulating people’s homes. Instead this Conservative government is trashing our environment by allowing oil drilling in green fields for years to come.

He is joined in condemnation by our two Parliamentary candidates in the area:

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LibLink: Ed Davey says Tory MPs are now responsible for Johnson’s behaviour

The Guardian has a round-up of views across the political spectrum (although, not surprisingly, no loyal Tory MPs have contributed) under the headline “Boris Johnson survived the no-confidence vote. Can he cling on to power?“.

Ed Davey writes:

Tory MPs are now responsible for his behaviour

After months of defending the indefensible, Conservative MPs had a golden opportunity to finally put an end to Johnson’s sorry premiership. Instead they doubled down, narrowly choosing to put the career of a lying lawbreaker over the good of the country.

The scenes prior to yesterday’s no-confidence vote made clear that the Tories are headed for a civil war while this desperately weak prime minister attempts to cling on to office. This will mean a summer of discontent for the rest of us. For Johnson, the cost of living crisis and spiralling NHS waiting times are merely collateral. His entire focus is self-preservation. His selfishness is hurting our economy and harming families up and down the country.

In spite of the spinelessness of most Conservative MPs last night, what is clear beyond all recognition is that the people of Britain have lost confidence in Johnson. They recognise that he is not fit for office. So why can’t Conservative MPs? Liberal Democrats are fighting this Conservative government in seats across the country. The people of Tiverton and Honiton will speak for Britain in giving their verdict on Johnson in two weeks’ time – the Conservative party will have no choice but to listen.

And here is Ed in a reflective mood, but with the same message.

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Queen’s Birthday Honours

We have scanned the Honours List but couldn’t spot any Lib Dems this time.

Of course, members may be honoured for their professional  as well as their political achievements, so do please tell us of anyone we should be congratulating. Drop an email to [email protected] and we’ll add them to this post.

 

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Stuck at the airport?

The scenes at the airports this week have been rather worrying.

OK, so in the grand scheme of things arriving a day late at a holiday destination may not appear to be a serious matter, but for the families involved it can be very challenging. Some are trying to have their first family holiday since the pandemic, and in many cases this has involved some belt-tightening as the cost of living spirals upwards.

Anyone who has travelled with young children will know how frustrating it can be when plans are upset. Amongst those caught up in the chaos are people with disabilities, children on the autistic spectrum and elderly people, all of whom will not find the delay and long queues easy.

Sarah Olney is our Transport spokesperson and she issued this statement yesterday:

The scenes at our airports are nothing short of a disgrace. Families are being left marooned for hours on end with no guidance from airlines or Ministers.

We need action now to break the deadlock and to save families from yet more travel carnage.

Yet travellers haven’t even heard a peep from Grant Shapps this week. The Transport Secretary has gone missing in action when the public will be looking to him for help. This is nothing short of a failure of leadership on his part.

It’s about time he fronts up for that failure with an apology to those who have had their travel plans derailed, and finally begins giving daily press conferences on the situation. Hiding away isn’t good enough – Shapps must face the music and scrutiny about his lack of preparedness for the Jubilee Bank Holiday logjam.

Since then Shapps has popped up and made some comments, mainly blaming the travel companies for overselling holidays. He has asked for a meeting with the leaders in the travel industry.  He said:

Despite government warnings, operators seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver. This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer – the first post-Covid summer season.

Sarah has made this suggestion:

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Quotas, targets and strategies – how to get more female councillors

I have been asked how we consistently manage to elect a diverse group of Lib Dem councillors in Kingston, reflecting the local community in terms of gender and ethnicity.

I want to focus specifically on gender in this post, and that got me thinking about quotas and targets.

Quotas

Amongst the many strategies to get a better gender balance in education, employment and political representation, quotas have had their day. There is one simple problem with quotas – they are perceived as unfair all round.

Quotas in general carry the implication that those in the under-represented group are not able to achieve parity on their own worth; access can only be addressed by imposing restraints on selection. Quotas also create resentment amongst well-qualified people who do not fit the quota but who feel they have been overlooked in favour of someone who may be less qualified.

I do understand that quotas can be seen as a rebalancing exercise, but they are not sustainable unless they address the underlying causes of the imbalance. For that reason I was never a fan of all-women shortlists. They were seen as a quick fix to a specific problem in Westminster, although in the end the voters fixed it for us in a much more brutal way.

Targets

Targets can be helpful as a way of focussing attention on something that needs to improve. But they can also have unintended consequences, especially if resources are limited. For example, setting a target for treatment waiting times by the NHS for certain illnesses may result in resources being diverted from treatment for other illnesses.

When thinking about setting targets for recruiting Council candidates we must ask three questions:

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Reactions to the Sue Gray report

Ed Davey spoke in the Commons following the Prime Minister’s statement on the Sue Gray report.

As you might expect, other Lib Dem MPs also expressed their anger.

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Partygate – what advice?

We are expecting Sue Gray’s report today, so I thought you might like to be reminded of the advice we were being given by the Prime Minister during the pandemic.

For example, this was from the very early days of lockdown.

Ans this one was a few days before the party in the garden at Number 10.

And this one, just two days before a gathering at Number 10 to say farewell to two members of staff, which the Police have said did breach the rules.

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Richard Foord selected as candidate in Tiverton and Honiton by-election

Congratulations to Richard Foord who has been selected as our candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election on 23rd June!

Richard lives in the constituency and is a former Army Major who served as a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo. He currently works for a University and volunteers for the Scout movement. He has also run the London marathon for the Royal British Legion.

You can read more about him on his personal website here and on the Liberal Democrat website here.

Ed Davey said:

Richard is an incredible candidate, whose dedication to others has shone not only through his career, but also in his voluntary roles in the community.

This by-election will be a two-horse race between Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and hard-working Liberal Democrat local champion, Richard Foord. This Conservative government has taken Devon for granted with local health services being neglected and botched and with trade deals undercutting farmers at every turn.

The Liberal Democrats are the clear challengers to the Conservatives in Tiverton & Honiton. On 23rd June, you can elect a strong local champion who will stand up for our communities and help kick Boris Johnson out of Number 10.

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Finding lost cats – all part of a councillor’s role

The local paper in Banbury, in Oxfordshire, sings the praises of a newly elected Lib Dem councillor, David Hingley. When a note was posted through his door in Bodicote alerting him to a missing cat he set off for a walk round the village. And he found it a few streets away, safe and well, but lost.

The cat’s owner was delighted. David said “I was very pleased to be able to help reunite Poppy with her owner. It’s one of my first acts as a new councillor for the ward. It’s nice to already be giving back to the community after having only been elected two weeks ago.”

Of course, that’s what Lib Dem councillors do. They are embedded in their communities and are well placed to respond to any cry for help. In this case, the cry arrived in the form of a printed note, but it could just as well have been in the village Facebook group. Nothing political, just a simple act of neighbourliness.

I must say that is what I enjoyed most about being a councillor – dealing with very localised and individual problems.

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Eastbourne declares cost of living emergency

The Independent reports that, at a Council meeting today, Lib Dem run Eastbourne Council will be the first to declare a cost of living emergency.

You may well know Eastbourne as a prosperous south coast town, but much of the local economy derives from tourism, so it has been particularly badly hit by the pandemic.

According to the article:

Eastbourne Foodbank has been the busiest in the UK over the past year – distributing more parcels per head than any other food bank, according to the Trussell Trust network.

Councillor Josh Babarinde said the emergency declaration would help Eastbourne Borough Council work more effectively with charities, as well as offering a “wake-up call” to Boris Johnson’s government.

“We need immediate action from the government – they have to realise that this cost of crisis has become an emergency because of their inaction,” said the Lib Dem councillor.

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And so we remembered Shirley Williams

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Memorial Service for Shirley Williams in Westminster Cathedral yesterday.

I should point that I really did mean Westminster Cathedral, not Westminster Abbey. The Cathedral is the mother church of Roman Catholics in England and Wales and is located near to Victoria Station.

I arrived early, and as I hadn’t visited it before took the opportunity to look around. It is a large, handsome building with extensive use of decorative brickwork, typical of the late Victorian period when it was designed. The inside is lined with a series of chapels dedicated to various saints, and the ceilings of almost all of them incorporated stunning gold mosaics. The ceiling in the chapel dedicated to the fisherman, St Andrew, shimmered with fish scales.

The seats started to fill up with the great and the good of the party and beyond –  mainly peers, because the MPs were still debating the Queen’s Speech – plus a smattering of other Lib Dem campaigners from across the country.

It was good to see the two remaining members of the Gang of Four – Bill Rodgers and David Owen – as well as David Steel who brokered the Alliance between the SDP and the Liberals.

I also spotted John Bercow, and, rather surprisingly, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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Eve of Poll

My colleague Mark Valladares regularly entertains us with his “Welcome to my day” posts. So today I want to share with you my Eve of Poll day.

I have been campaigning for the Lib Dems (and Liberals and SDP before that) since the mid 1970s. I was asked to stand as a paper candidate in 1978 in the ward where I lived. I declined but I doubt whether I would have made much difference to the 6% vote.  Only 8 years later we won the ward with 58% and after a further 8 years we reached an astonishing 76%. (I can claim no credit for that as I was then employed by the local authority and not able to stand.)

I like to tell that story because it says two things. First, politics is a long game, and in normal times we should aim for incremental gains rather than massive turnarounds. Second, the old strategy of “pick a ward and win it” does work – not always, but it’s worth a shot.

As a party we are brilliant at by-elections, both Parliamentary and local. So many of our members love joining in a campaign, and we make it fun. But by-elections can give a distorted impression of how we win seats in regular Council and Assembly elections. For the most part success follows years of campaigning – “Working for you all the year round, not just at election time”. True, we can sometimes benefit from the mood of the country, but we should always view that as a bonus.

So tomorrow I will be excited to see long-term efforts paying off across the country.  Good luck to all candidates and campaigners!

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“Girls don’t like hard maths” according to Social Mobility Commissioner

My ears pricked up when government’s Social Mobility Commissioner, Katharine Birbalsingh, was asked why so few girls take A level Physics. Her response was: “I just think they don’t like it. There’s a lot of hard maths in there that I think they would rather not do.”

You see, I took A Levels in Double Maths and Physics back in the 60s and then went on to take Maths as part of my degree. The majority of the students taking Maths in my year at University were women. So Katharine Birbalsingh’s comments seem, well, odd. She also added that she thought this was “natural”, and was not concerned that only 16% of the A Level Physics students in the school that she leads were girls, compared with the national average of 23%.

It is very difficult to know where to begin when someone in her position comes out with that kind of lazy and insulting generalisation. And indeed she is sternly taken to task by a number of academics and politicians. For example:

Dame Athene Donald, a professor of experimental physics and master of Churchill College, Cambridge, said the comments were “terrifying” and “quite damaging” and questioned to which research Birbalsingh was referring in suggesting that girls had an intrinsic lack of appetite for maths and physics.

And …

Dr Jess Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London who campaigns for equality in science, said: “I honestly can’t believe we’re still having this conversation. It’s patronising, it’s infuriating, and it’s closing doors to exciting careers in physics and engineering for generations of young women. Whilst girls and boys currently choose A-level subjects differently, there is absolutely no evidence to show intrinsic differences in their abilities or preference.”

Munira Wilson (who is our Education spokesperson) challenged Katharine Birbalsingh to apologise.

Wilson said ministers had “failed to challenge the culture of misogyny and unconscious biases in our education system for years”, and that every child should get the chance to “thrive and follow their passions during their time at school”. She added: “The government must finally step up to the plate and act. We need new measures to challenge these biases, backed up by legislation, and Katharine Birbalsingh should apologise for her remarks.”

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Dents in the blue wall?

There are stirrings in Dominic Raab’s constituency of Esher & Walton.

You might imagine this to be solid blue wall territory, but trouble started for him in the 2019 General Election when he scraped in with just 49% of the vote, closely followed by Liberal Democrat Monica Harding on 45%.

Raab’s constituency lies entirely within the Borough of Elmbridge, which is currently run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats, Residents and Independents. Indeed all but three of the wards in Elmbridge lie in the Esher & Walton constituency, so any changes in Elmbridge on 5th May could be quite significant for him. Note that elections here are by thirds.

Looking at the 39 Borough ward seats that actually make up the constituency of Esher & Walton, only 14 are currently held by Conservatives. There were 16 Conservatives, but in February Councillors Christine Richardson and Alan Kopitko resigned from the party and now stand as Independents.

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Strengthening – and extending – London’s yellow wall

In exactly two weeks from today, 32 London boroughs will be holding their four year all-in/all-out elections. (The City of London has already done its own thing).

And this is what it looked like in 2018:

As you can see we do have our own yellow wall in the southwest corner of Greater London where Lib Dems control the three adjacent boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, all with substantial majorities. In Richmond we currently hold 39 seats out of 54, in Kingston 37 out of 48 and in Sutton 32 out of 50. All three are Tory facing.

Our first priority is, of course, to retain control of those Councils.

I spoke with Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, and this is what she told me:

Things are going well in Sutton. After 36 years of running the Council, we’re quietly confident (but never complacent!) that we’ll reach our fourth decade, We have exciting plans for the future and are determined to ensure we can see them through. We have lots of new, enthusiastic and diverse council candidates and we can’t wait to see them elected to Sutton Council.

There will be some media attention on Kingston, given that Ed Davey’s constituency of Kingston & Surbiton lies with the borough.  (It’s confusing but Kingston functions both as the name of a London borough and also as one of the old towns within it, alongside New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington). But we also want to extend outwards and develop new patches of yellow in other parts of the capital.

For example, Merton Borough is adjacent to Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, and has a lively local party who are keen to develop.  They currently hold 6 seats out of 59. They face Conservatives, Labour and Independent Residents in different wards.

Hina Bokhari is a councillor in Merton and also a London Assembly member. She told me:

There’s no denying there’s plenty of excitement in Merton for a good result here for the LibDems. I have had Conservative voters so utterly appalled by the government and Johnson that they cannot bear to vote for them anymore.

And as it was reported recently in the Guardian, Tory activists have had a “a bit of a disastrous reception” at the doors here in Merton. Voters are very aware of what happened here in the 2019 General Election. Even Labour Party members are telling me that “Labour can’t win here”.

Over in Bromley the local Lib Dems are looking for a breakthrough – at present the Council is dominated by Tories, which presents them with a number of opportunities to (as Paddy said) “Pick a ward and win it”. Wendy Taylor told us how her father Brian did just that and won the first ever Liberal seat in Bromley in the 50s.

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By-election round-up – terrific Lib Dem gains

Three excellent results for us today.

Surrey Heath

Huge congratulations to Liz Noble for a stonking win, in Michael Gove’s constituency.

Maldon

And another superb result for us in a Tory area. Congratulations to Paula Spenceley.

The previous Independent councillor was disqualified because of his behaviour.

Hatfield

We also took a seat from Labour in Briars ward on Hatfield Town Council.

Congratulations to Helena Goldwater!

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Caption time

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

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Davey: Inflation at 7% is “frankly frightening”

You might have been forgiven for not spotting one serious piece of news today that was not all about Johnson and Sunak.  It was announced that inflation has risen to 7%, the highest rate in 30 years.

The rise was partially driven by the hike in petrol prices, which of course have a knock-on effect on the prices of all consumer goods, including food.

Ed Davey has been commenting on this to the media in between talking about partygate. He says:

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are too busy trying to save their own jobs rather than saving pensioners and families from spiralling prices.

These new inflation figures are frankly frightening. Every day the cost of living crisis worsens yet our law-breaking leaders simply don’t seem to care. This is no way to govern Britain.

This country needs a new Chancellor in place next week to deliver an emergency budget to protect households on the brink. Pensioners and hard pressed families need urgent help with their energy bill and unfair tax hikes to be immediately reversed. It is now or never to save Britain from this cost of living crisis, and it is clear this Government is not up to the job.

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Church leaders join to oppose trans conversion therapy in a beautifully written letter

The letter below was sent by a number of prominent Church leaders to the Prime Minister.

It may not be immediately obvious to all readers that the signatories represent a wide range of viewpoints and theology with the broader Christian church, but they have united around this one theme.

Whether you have a faith or not, I think we must all agree that the letter is beautifully written, and expressed with great humanity.

To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

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Today’s stories

We hope you enjoyed this morning’s post.

This time last year we were musing on whether the party should take over a cruise ship for our Autumn Conference. It seems The Guardian has had a similar brainwave in relation to the superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs.

Meanwhile, Tim Farron had a splendid idea.

He also seems to be involved in this tweet with some dodgy Dad dancing.

And again.

Now Nick gets in on the act.

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Thousands of Ukrainian refugees left in limbo

We have all been shocked (though perhaps not surprised) to learn of the bureaucratic processes that have faced Ukrainian refugees who want to come to the UK.

New statistics on the Homes for Ukraine scheme reveal that fewer that 10% of applicants have been granted a visa. That actual figures are 2,700 visa issued against 28,300 applications under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

Alistair Carmichael, our Home Affairs spokesperson said:

More than 150,000 families are offering to welcome refugees into their homes, but the Conservatives are offering only red tape and delays. Their response has been appallingly slow and chaotic, leaving thousands of Ukrainians in limbo trying to get a visa.

Ministers need to work harder and faster to match the compassion shown by the British public.

Ukrainian refugees should be allowed to come to the UK now, without first having to apply for a visa. And the Government should set up a fast, ambitious resettlement scheme, working with refugee agencies to bring Ukrainians directly to the UK.

The media are united in their outrage.

The Guardian: ‘False hope’: refugee charity attacks UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme

The Independent: ‘Woeful’ 2,700 visas granted under new Ukrainian refugee sponsorship scheme

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