Author Archives: Mary Reid

London Mayor candidates in TV debate

The candidates for London Mayor, including Lib Dem Luisa Porritt, will be debating live on ITV this evening.  They can be viewed on the ITV London News slot at 6pm.

#itvdebate

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Reactions to the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer

Liberal Democrats have been commenting on the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer.

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New play celebrates Floella Benjamin’s childhood

Lib Dem peer Floella Benjamin’s book about her life as a child is to be turned into a stage play. In her children’s book Coming to England she wrote about her journey from Trinidad to the UK at the age of ten, and about the racism her family experienced. But, as anyone who has met her or heard her speak will expect, the tale is essentially optimistic and encouraging, providing inspiration to children to overcome their own difficulties.

Floella has written some 20 books and pursued a career as an actor and singer, but is best known as the charismatic presenter of Play School in the 1970s and 1980s. She has used that fame to campaign on children’s issues and has been honoured with a place in the House of Lords as well as being made a Dame.

The Birmingham Rep has announced that it will present the premiere of a stage adaptation of her memoir during its forthcoming season.

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Local elections broadcast


Enjoy!

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Government’s LGBT panel disbanded

Last month three members resigned from the Government’s advisory panel on LGBT issues, which had been set up by Theresa May.

Jayne Ozanne was the first to go. It is worth watching the news clip, in which she reveals that she has also resigned from the Conservative party over this issue.

The main concern of those who resigned was that the Government was not acting as promised on gay conversion “therapy”.

And now Liz Truss has disbanded the rest of the panel, to disbelief and anger from campaigners across the political spectrum.

Wera Hobhouse, Lib Dem Equalities spokesperson, said:

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Breaking news: Shirley Williams

We have just learnt the very sad news that Shirley Williams has died, at the age of 90.

Ed Davey said:

This is heartbreaking for me and for our whole Liberal Democrat family.

Shirley has been an inspiration to millions, a Liberal lion and a true trailblazer. I feel privileged to have known her, listened to her and worked with her. Like so many others, I will miss her terribly.

Political life will be poorer without her intellect, her wisdom and her generosity.  Shirley had a limitless empathy only too rare in politics today; she connected with people, cared about their lives and saw politics as a crucial tool to change lives for the better.

As a young Liberal, Shirley Williams had a profound impact on me, as she did on countless others across the political spectrum. Her vision and bravery, not least in founding the SDP, continues to inspire Liberal Democrats today.

Rest in peace, Shirley. My thoughts and prayers are with your family and your friends.

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Lib Dem Council leaders slam decision to end remote meetings

During the pandemic local Councils have been permitted to hold formal meetings online, and this has enabled them to carry on Council business through lockdowns and other restrictions. The Government has now announced that this ruling will be withdrawn after 7th May and Councils will have to meet in person after that date.

This is quite bizarre in the short term because meetings are not permitted under current Covid rules. According to the roadmap, from 17th May groups of 30 will be allowed to meet outdoors, but only 6 indoors.  The earliest date at which meetings could be held indoors would be 21st June. In stark contrast, Parliament will continue to allow remote attendance until 21st June.

But it is also worrying in the long term, since the current practice has made it possible for councillors and members of the public to attend meetings even when they could not physically attend easily for reasons of health or disability.

Some 90 Lib Dem Council Leaders and Opposition Leaders have signed an open letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and to Luke Hall MP,  Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government. Here is the text of their letter:

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Ed Davey: We will not support the extension of the Coronavirus Act

Yesterday Ed Davey attracted quite a lot of media coverage when he asked this question during Prime Minister’s Questions:

He explained his reasoning in more detail in an article in The Independent titled Why the Liberal Democrats won’t vote to renew the Coronavirus Act.

He writes:

When Boris Johnson asks MPs to renew the Coronavirus Act on Thursday, he is asking us to give his government a blank cheque to reduce everyone’s rights and freedoms for another six months. No MP should vote for that.

It’s important to remember what this vote is not about. It’s not about lockdown, or quarantine, or the requirement to wear face-coverings – all of which the Liberal Democrats have consistently supported as necessary to contain the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

Despite its name, the Coronavirus Act doesn’t actually include the most important Covid laws. Even though the Act originally passed through the House of Commons on the same day the prime minister announced the first national lockdown – a year ago yesterday – the lockdown itself was implemented through completely separate legislation, under the 1984 Public Health Act.

So what does the Act cover?

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Kirsty Williams’ farewell speech in Senedd

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The Lib Dem Education Minister for Wales, Kirsty Williams, is stepping down from the Senedd in May. She has just given her valedictory speech to the chamber, and here it is:

Llywydd,

It has become a little too fashionable to decry politics, to do down democracy, to undermine our own parliament and government.

Well, I agree it might not be perfect. And I don’t think we’d want a perfect system, empty of the debate and discussion which

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How Lib Dem Councils respond to emergencies

For many years I have groused that Conference makes celebrities of our MPs but ignores our Council Leaders, many of whom exercise far more power than their Westminster colleagues.

Ed Davey gets that, not least because some of us in Kingston have been bending his ear for years. He notably asked Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council (which Lib Dems have held for 35 years or so), to summate on the Carers motion, which was so close to his heart. And he frequently references his wife, Emily, who is the portfolio holder for Housing on Kingston Council.

I am unashamedly reporting on a fringe that not only focussed on local government but also drew on experiences in my own patch. The meeting, held yesterday evening, was run by the Lib Dem group on the Local Government Association, under the title 2020: Managing a crisis and major incidents, from Covid to flooding.

Cllr Ruth Dombey popped up again, ably chairing the session. The panel consisted of the Leaders of York City Council (Keith Aspden) and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council (Caroline Kerr), with portfolio holder colleagues (Darryl Smalley from York and Tim Cobbett from Kingston). They all emphasised that the strong community involvement and partnership working that characterises Lib Dem run Councils put them in a very good position to respond to the Covid crisis.

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Midge Ure talks about the impact of Brexit on British creative industries

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We were promised a real treat yesterday evening.

Those of us who remember the 80s will know that Midge Ure was the lead singer of Ultravox. Significantly he was also one of the organisers of Band Aid and Live Aid, as well as co-writer of Do they know it’s Christmas. And here he was ‘in conversation’ with the BBC’s Gavin Esler and Lib Dem peer Paul Strasburger at our own Conference.

Of course, he had an axe to grind. If you think Covid-19 has damaged the music industry – and that is certainly true –  it is also reeling from the impact of Brexit. Back in January LDV highlighted the Lib Dem campaign about the huge bureaucracy that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for British musicians to tour and perform across Europe.

Gavin Esler began by stating that the creative industries in the UK are admired across the world – “they are the UK’s soft power”.

All three speakers were keen to explain that the post-Brexit issues not only affect music, across all genres, but also theatre, dance and even trade shows. Touring is the lifeblood of many of the performing arts; and for musicians it is often the best or only way to generate an income, now that streaming has substantially reduced income from recordings. And it doesn’t just impact on the performers but also on the livelihoods of all the support staff.

The difficulties seem to coalesce around two main problems. The first is trucking. Performances given in Europe by orchestras or well-established theatre companies, or by bands playing to large venues, need to move their equipment, instruments, sets, lighting and sound systems in trucks. Under the Brexit deal the trucks are only allowed to do two drops before returning to the UK.  Of course, very many tours will go to more than two venues – indeed they need to do so to be profitable. On top of that a huge amount of documentation is required, listing every item carried by the trucks.

A couple of years ago I was chatting with the Transport Manager for one of the major orchestras in the UK, and was astonished (though I shouldn’t have been) at the complexity of organising a tour across several countries with 50+ musicians plus other staff. One of his aims was to reduce the stress on the artists, so they could perform well. The logistics were challenging then – now they would be almost impossible.

The second problem is obtaining the temporary work visas required by at least 10 European countries for everyone in the entourage – performers, sound engineers, roadies etc. This is a bureaucratic nightmare.

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Updated Agenda and Directory for Conference

You can now read online or download an updated version of the Conference Agenda.

For the first time this includes all the amendments to motions, and they have been inserted after each relevant motion. The original page numbering of the motions has been cleverly maintained by giving the inserted pages numbers like 16B. That means we can all refer to the motions without confusion, no matter which version we have to hand. The updated version of the Agenda is only available online and not in print.

You can also read or download the latest version of the Conference Directory, which includes a number of additions and corrections to the original version.

The two updated documents replace Conference Extra, which in past years covered amendments to motions plus any changes to the fringes, training and the exhibition.

Other papers are available to download:

Consultation Paper 144: A Federal England
Policy Paper 140: Giving Consumers a Fair Deal
Reports to Spring Conference
 

 

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Wendy Chamberlain speaks in the International Women’s Day debate

Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem MP for North East Fife, spoke today in Parliament’s International Women’s Day debate.  She called for action to address domestic abuse and misogyny and reflected on her own experiences as a police officer dealing with sexual offences. Here is an extract:

Here is her speech in full:

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Jane Dodds selected as candidate for Senedd

Jane Dodds, the Leader of the Welsh Lib Dems, has been selected as the top name on the Mid and West Wales list for the Welsh Parliament. At the last Senedd election in 2016 we came very close to winning a seat in this region.

Jane was briefly MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, winning a by-election in 2019, but sadly lost the seat in the bloodbath that was the General Election later that year.

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Assessing GCSEs and A Levels

So, clarity at last about the assessment of GCSEs, A Levels and vocational qualifications in England this summer.

You would have thought that, after the algorithm chaos last summer, consultations about 2021 grading would have begun as soon as we went into the second lockdown at the end of October. By that point it would have been clear that students working towards GCSEs and A Levels in 2021 were going to be seriously affected by the disruptions spread over two school years.

In fact, that is exactly what did happen in Wales, where Lib Dem Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, announced in November that external terminal exams would not be held for the current cohort. Instead teacher assessments would be used, although these could include some assessments which would be externally set and marked. Scotland and Northern Ireland also announced their plans some weeks ago.

Back in England the consultation did not begin until this year, and it is only today that decisions have been unveiled. In the Commons today Gavin Williamson announced that grades will be allocated according to teacher assessments. The assessments will be based on what students have been taught, not by what they missed, and will take a variety of formats.

I welcome this outcome – I have been saying for a long time that the learning of the current students in Years 11 and 13 will be much more severely compromised than those in the year ahead of them, bad as that was. But I do not welcome the timing – the Government has piled further stress on students by leaving this announcement so late. And the stress affects teachers as well; they have been having to revise programmes of learning on the hoof. They now have to rapidly develop assessment procedures at the time when they are fully stretched in preparing for the return of all pupils on 8th March.

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Layla Moran calls for compensation for key workers who have long Covid

Layla Moran has been talking to the media today about long Covid. She makes the case that it should be recognised as an occupational disease, and that compensation should be given to key workers who suffer from it.

She is appearing on Question Time this evening, so she may well take the opportunity to press her argument.

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Local elections to go ahead in May in England

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The Government has confirmed today that local Council and PCC elections will go ahead as planned on 6th May in England, in spite of some lobbying to postpone them.

The option of an all-postal ballot has been ruled out, and Councils are being given an extra £31million to install plastic screens and hand sanitiser. Voters will have to bring their own pens and wear masks.

People who are shielding will be encouraged to vote by post. We have already learnt that the rules on proxy voting will be relaxed allowing anyone who has to self-isolate the opportunity to ask for a proxy vote right up until 5pm on polling day.

Schools will not be used as polling stations this time.

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Lib Dems advertise for new Party Treasurer

Mike German is standing down as the Party Treasurer so HQ is advertising the post. It emphasises that the role is voluntary and that the holder is elected by the Federal Board.

There is a full job description here and the deadline for applications is 12th February.

Mike has been splendid in the job – amusing us all with his entertaining fund raising speeches at Conference as the buckets circulate before the Leader’s speech. He will be a tough act to follow, but given the breadth of experience and professional skill within the party there should be members who can measure up to and exceed the requirements.

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Ed Davey’s thoughts on Holocaust Memorial Day

Apologies for not posting this yesterday.

Ed Davey writes:

Today we remember every single life cut short during the Holocaust – the Jewish lives and the countless others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

It is vital that we remember these innocent victims and tell new generations of the unspeakable things people experienced in Nazi death camps and ghettos, from the torture to the mass exterminations.

It’s vital because we must never forget the lesson – that every human life should be valued and cared for.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day – be the light in the darkness – is the lesson we can all choose to live out. That as we struggle with what the world confronts us with – we can all choose to be a force for good. And that choosing to be a light in the darkness will always be a necessary choice.

For as we say again, “never again”, we must recognise that the depravity, evil and lies that led to the Holocaust still exists in our world today.

For the path to genocide starts with words, hate speech and discrimination, and will unfold still further if people are indifferent or passive.

As a Liberal, I hope we all remember Pastor Niemöller’s poem, beginning “First they came for the Communists, And I did not speak out, Because I was not a Communist.” There can be devastating consequences if we choose to turn a blind eye to hate and injustice.

We know the poison of anti-Semitism still exists. We know that venomous racism is still rife. We know that prejudice and discrimination still disfigures the lives of millions across the world.

So as we reflect on this Holocaust Memorial Day, let us pledge to be lights in the darkness. To nurture the values and freedoms that lead people to care about others, to care for the stranger and to care for the rights of individual human beings across the world.

Thank you to everyone involved in marking this important day.

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LibLink: Vince Cable asks “What if the vaccine isn’t enough?”

Vince Cable has written in the Independent today asking that rather worrying question.

Most of us, including the government, are assuming that if the mass vaccination goes ahead speedily we shall see relaxation of the Covid restrictions in March and be largely free of them in the summer. The economy will bounce back and we can begin to enjoy the Roaring Twenties with a good holiday in the sun. My own sense of optimism is fuelled by the fact that I am in line to get my first vaccine jab this week and I already feel safer and freer.

But maybe that is wishful thinking? What if the vaccination rollout is slower than we hope (and impeded by idiotic NHS bureaucracy, such as the requirement that volunteers should have a level 2 “safeguarding” qualification in case they encounter children)? What if another variant of the virus arrives that requires new vaccines and repeat vaccination programmes? What if there are sufficient numbers who fail to get vaccinated – because of ignorance, groundless prejudice or fear – as to keep the pandemic alive?

He says that we need to plan for these eventualities to avoid restrictions through 2021 and beyond. Several actions are required.

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New Year Honours?

The New Year Honours list published last night has a strong focus on all those wonderful people who have supported their communities during the pandemic.

Do you know any Lib Dems who have been honoured in this way? If so, we would love to congratulate them. Please let us know in the comments below.

Updates

From Chris Rennard:

Congratulations to Nigel Priestley, former candidate for Colne Valley, awarded the MBE for services to children and families.

From Paul:

Congratulations to Helen Williams, wife of Mark Williams former MP for Ceredigion who has been awarded a BEM for services to Vulnerable Young Parents and to the Elderly in Borth during Covid-19.

Helen is the Centre Manager at the Borth Family Centre in Ceredigion.

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How many people will miss the vaccine because they don’t have a GP?

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I am looking forward to having the Covid-19 vaccine. Well, not the actual act of having a jab in my arm (twice), but because it will open up my life. Apart from a short window in the summer, we have not had any social visits in our home since March and we still only leave the house for walks or for medical reasons.

We can both be confident that we will be called in for the vaccine at some point in the New Year. But it appears that an unknown number of eligible people may be missed. Thousands of people in the UK are not registered with a GP. We can only speculate on the reasons why anyone may not be registered – it could be down to something simple like moving house, or it could be something more complex around immigration irregularities, even because someone is the victim of trafficking.

To be effective, as many people as possible should be vaccinated, whatever their immigration status. So surely the NHS needs to know how many people in the country are not registered, so they can be traced and contacted?

Munira Wilson asked Health Minister Jo Churchill how many people are not registered in England, and was told “No such estimate has been made.” In other words, they don’t know.

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Do we need GCSEs?

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While all the attention was on students who were due to take their A Levels or GCSEs last summer, I was more concerned about those who will be taking their GCSEs in 2021. They are younger than A Level students, and most have not yet fully developed the skills of self-directed study, so still need a high level of teacher input and support.

The two years leading up to their exams next year will have been seriously disrupted. In Year 10 they were learning at home from March to July, and we are all aware of the huge disparities that produced, exacerbating existing disadvantages. In their current Year 11 they have just spent a strange term during which many will have had to quarantine at least once.

It seems headteachers have welcomed the arrangements that the Government has just announced for next summer’s GCSE exams. Students who miss their exams because they are self-isolating will be able to take backup exams in July or will be given teacher assessments. Hopefully, with a vaccine imminent, this will only affect a small number.

Of more significance is the news that the grading will be more generous, and that students will get advance knowledge of some of the topics that will be examined. This will help to compensate for the inevitable reduction in coverage of the syllabus by this cohort.

But this does make me wonder, not for the first time, why we have GCSE exams at all. The UK is the only country in Europe that still has formal public exams at 16. Of course, it made sense when the majority of young people left school at 16, as the results helped them find a pathway into work or into the next stage of education. However, today, between the ages of 16 and 18, all young people have to be in education or work-based training.

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Ed Davey and National Carers Rights Day

The pandemic has opened all our eyes to the importance of carers, whether employed in the care sector or unpaid people who care for family members.

Today is National Carers Rights Day, an event co-ordinated by Carers UK. Their research has unearthed the astonishing statistic that unpaid carers in the UK have saved the state £530 million every day of the pandemic – that is a staggering £135 billion so far.

It is essential that carers know their rights – what they are entitled to and sources of help. There are plenty of pointers here.

During the leadership campaign Ed Davey made respect and support for carers a key issue. He has been doing some serious work on the policy area since then, inspired by his own experiences as a carer, first for his mother when a teenager, and more recently for his disabled son.

He has now launched a campaign to raised the Carer’s Allowance by £1000 per year.

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The Activate Fund supports two Lib Dem candidates

The Guardian has covered the launch of the Activate Fund which supports women into politics – and the first two women to feature in the photo accompanying the article are both Lib Dems. So congratulations to April Preston and Nukey Proctor who have been endorsed by the fund, which is run by the Activate Collective.

Activate is funding 11 women running for five different parties in the spring local and mayoral elections across five parts of England – London, the Midlands, North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber. The list includes eight women of colour, one disabled woman and one care leaver. Seven of the 11 women are from low-income households or identify as working class.

April Preston is a Liberal Democrat candidate for Withington in next May’s Manchester City Council elections. She says:

I am absolutely delighted to have the backing of Activate Collective, a cross party group with the sole aim of improving political representation, their backing is vital for people like me not just in Manchester but across the country.

I along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues have worked tirelessly to demand better for our area and having their funding and support has given me the boost in motivation I need to make sure other people who are underrepresented get the support they need.

Nukey Proctor, a Liberal Democrat Council Candidate in Sherbourne Ward, Coventry City Council, is also endorsed, and says:

So excited to share that I’ve been been backed by Activate, a new UK fund supporting women from underrepresented groups to run for political office, today announces its first list of candidates.
I am beyond thrilled to be associated with this amazing initiative.

You can read more about both women here.

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Why does it take so long to count votes?

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I’m not an expert on elections in the USA, but am I the only one to be puzzled about the length of time it is taking to count the votes?

I have been seriously drawn into this election, staying up for a silly length of time watching CNN, which does seem to give the clearest coverage. I do appreciate that each state sets up its local voting arrangements, and that this privilege is enshrined in the Constitution. As a result, states vary enormously in how efficient they are at counting ballots.

The rules about mail-in/absentee/postal voting vary, so that in some states (and crucially in most of the swing states) they are only opened after the in-person votes are counted.

In the UK, postal votes are opened and verified in batches as they arrive at the Council, then locked away securely. Verification involves checking that the ballot paper is a genuine one and that the signature matches the one given on the application form. At the count, after the polls close, the ballot papers from the polling stations are verified by being counted and the total checked against the numbers of electors recorded at each polling station. But once the postal and non-postal ballots have been verified they are all mixed together, so that each counting officer is given a random collection of ballot papers to sort into baskets labelled with the candidates’ names. (Apologies to you activists who know all this already…)

Postal ballots must reach the Council before polling day, or can be handed in at a polling station on the day. Unlike the situation in some states in the US, postal votes that arrive late in the UK are not counted.

Having attended many election counts in the UK, some as a candidate, some as a counting agent, I can see how labour intensive the process is. In spite of that, most of our counts finish overnight, only occasionally spilling over into the next day, even though polling goes on until 10pm. So, apart from the necessary delay in dealing with late arriving mail-in votes where they are allowed, why are the American ones taking so long?

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LibLink: William Wallace on the House of Lords

Last week The Yorkshire Post published an article by William Wallace on “House of Lords plays vital role in democracy but needs reform“.  William is our spokesperson for the Cabinet in the House of Lords.

In the article he writes:

The House of Lords is indefensible in its current form.  But it plays a vital role in our executive-dominated democracy.

Formally, the UK has parliamentary sovereignty.  But when one party has a secure parliamentary majority, government proposals usually sail through the Commons without careful examination. A former Conservative Lord Chancellor once described British democracy as ‘elective dictatorship’ – when his own party was in government.  The Lords is the chamber that examines bills and regulations in detail, forces ministers to justify them clause by clause, and quietly wins concessions before they become law.

He lays down this challenge:

Are you a democrat or a supporter of strong government?

If you are a democrat, you have to support reform of the Commons as well as the Lords, and tackle the weakness of local and regional representation as well.  If you believe in strong government, beware that governments without parliamentary challenge become authoritarian and corrupt, and take note that billions of pounds have been handed out to large consultancies and outsourcing companies this year without open contracts, that many of these companies contribute to Conservative funds, and that retiring ministers are offered large sums to advise them.

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Isolation diary update: Isolating again

The view across London from Epsom Downs, with quarter of a rainbow

So lockdown comes to England again, but it doesn’t make much of a difference to us.  Ian has received an email from Matt Hancock reminding him that he is “clinically extremely vulnerable” – which is hardly news to him. It advises him to stay at home as much as possible but to go outside for exercise and to attend health appointments.

We have been doing exactly that for the last three weeks, impatient once again with the slow response by the Government to the widespread re-emergence of Covid-19. Back in the summer our local Council and hospital were preparing for a second wave in October, so it was hardly unexpected.

However, there are some crucial differences for us this time. In the first lockdown we literally did not leave our house, apart from a trip to the hospital, from mid-March to the end of June. Looking back that seems an extraordinary thing to have done. Actually, it didn’t feel like a hardship for us at the time – the weather was good and we have a small garden – although I appreciate that it was really tough for many people.

Since then we have been going out for walks almost every day, and, when we were allowed to drive a short distance, we started exploring many places we hadn’t been to before. It has been a revelation – we have found three beautiful lakes, riverside paths, ancient heathland, and many walks through the woods, all within three or four miles of our home.

This time we are being encouraged to go out for exercise, which does make sense as it feels a very safe thing to do. Other walkers are always careful when passing and we never stand within 2 metres of anyone else.

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Mike Dixon on lessons from the US election

Mike Dixon, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, has written to members, musing on the US elections. It’s worth quoting at length:

I woke up this morning to Trump saying he’d won the election and that no more votes should be counted.

I can’t remember a darker speech by a major world leader in my lifetime.

A lot will be written about this election. But here are two important lessons for us:

  1. Campaigns run into trouble when they pull back on contacting voters.It looks like the Democrats stopping knocking on doors because of coronavirus – with the Republicans continuing – in some key areas has mattered a lot. Over the coming months before the elections in May, we need to keep talking to voters and getting our message across – safely and responsibly.

    There is a lot we can do through lockdown.

    Don’t give up or hunker down.

  2. Many people hoped this result would be a firm rejection of a divisive, fake news approach to campaigning.

    It hasn’t been.

    And that means the tactics Trump has used will be adopted even more aggressively in May and in 2024 by many of our political opponents.

The rollercoaster of emotion we’ve all felt today must be a wake up call. We can’t take anything for granted.

You can take action to stand up for a better, fairer world.

Yours in the fight for a better future,

Mike Dixon
CEO of the Liberal Democrats

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Review: ‘I never promised you a rose garden’ by Jonny Oates

Last week Jonny Oates published his memoir “I never promised you a rose garden” (BiteBack). Jonny is best known to most Lib Dems as Nick Clegg’s Chief of Staff during Coalition, and as our current spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change in the House of Lords.

Many years ago Jonny was the twenty-something political assistant to the Council group in Kingston, and I first met him then, so I skimmed through the book to find the chapter where he talks about people I know. It is, amazingly, halfway through, so there was obviously a lot I didn’t know about him.

I started the book again, and read it properly, and it is certainly worth doing so. By the time you get to the account of Ed Davey’s first, and astonishing, election as MP for Kingston & Surbiton in 1997, you can understand how Jonny, as agent, alongside the legendary Belinda Eyre-Brook, achieved the impossible, in overturning a 15,000 Tory majority.  This is a man of deep integrity who is quietly determined, possessing the qualities of a team leader (but never a bully) and a sharp political mind, honed in the extraordinary politics of post-apartheid South Africa.

But as a teenager he was conflicted. He writes candidly about his own mental health and his struggles to come to terms with who he was, to the extent that he ran away to Ethiopia at the age of 15 and contemplated suicide. He tells us about the good people who came into his life and guided him with compassion, and the recognition that his parents’ love was unconditional after all.

Of course, Lib Dem Voice readers will be particularly interested in what he has to say about his time as Director of General Election Communications for the 2010 Election, and subsequently as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister. Jonny gives us a slightly different, but not contradictory, perspective on the Coalition negotiations from those of David Laws and others.

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