Author Archives: Holly Matthies

Introducing Lib Dem Immigrants

When I moved to the UK, I couldn’t see myself joining any party that wasn’t pro-immigrant – seeing as now, suddenly, I was one. Sadly there’s not a lot of competition there, but it helped make it clear that the Liberal Democrats were right for me. I’ve always been glad to share the party with people who share my conviction that immigration is a good in itself (when the best you’ll get from most other parties is that we have to hold our noses and accept it for the economic benefits) and, at least as importantly, that immigrants are fellow humans who deserve to be treated well.

Now I’m part of a new group seeking official recognition by the party, called Lib Dem Immigrants. The name has the potential to be ambiguous – people have already asked “can people who aren’t immigrants join?” (the answer is resoundingly yes) – but I think it’s worth it to center the focus of our group on immigrants as people rather than immigration as an abstract subject for debate.

The first piece I wrote for Lib Dem Voice was about how the UK immigration system had harmed my mental health, and in my experience that kind of anecdote – the immigrant, not immigration – is more effective than figures and economic arguments, true as those things may be, in convincing people that a liberal approach to immigration is best for us all.

If we as Lib Dems exist to promote and protect freedom from povery, ignorance and conformity, immigrants are suffering on all three counts. 

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How to Address Concerns about Immigration

Every time I say something liberal about immigration or immigrants, people swarm to tell me that I’m being silly and idealistic and we have to respect people’s genuine, legitimate concerns.

Since they rarely say “these are my concerns” – there’s a lot of hand-waving and a lot of pre-emptive defensiveness about how not-racist they are – it’s difficult to figure out sometimes what the concerns are.

Sometimes the acceptably non-racist immigration concern is the “drain on infrastructure,” but the tide is already starting to shift on that one as people realize the infrastructure is underfunded by local and national governments rather than overused.

Sometimes the concern is about symbolic threats: hearing many languages on the bus, seeing a shelf of Polish food in the supermarket, Muslims celebrating their own holidays, and the general sense that the UK is not in control of its borders. That last point was made by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner as quoted by the Telegraph near the end of Labour’s conference: “Immigration is a good thing for the UK but what is not good is when people don’t know about what numbers we have. I think you do have to talk about those things. People raise that on the doorstep all the time and it is important that we deal with those concerns.”

Posted in Op-eds | 129 Comments

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Witney….

Dave Page Hilly Mathies broken down by motorwayYesterday, Dave Page, one of the Sarah Browns and I came down from Manchester to help the by-election fight in Witney. It was very good of Dave to do all that driving especially when, on the way, he had to deal with a minor car breakdown, on the side of the motorway…(see right)

Undeterred, we were soon back in the car and made it to Witney and the HQ. But only for a few minutes – as Dave said, it’s a great feeling to come into a well-run by-election HQ, but you’re not there for long because they’ve sent you out with something to do – that’s how you know it is a great by-election HQ.

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Happy Bi Visibility Day

Bi Visibility Day 2016Since 1999, 23 September has been a day to recognize and celebrate bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual community and culture, and all the bisexual people in our lives.

The day has gone by various names: Celebrate Bisexuality Day (or International Celebrate Bisexuality Day), Bi Pride Day, but has really become well-known to a broader audience in recent years as Bi Visibility Day. This has been extended in America to the whole week being known as Bi Awareness Week (and to some extent internationally, thanks to the internet; it’s been #biweek all over Twitter).

So Why Do Bisexuals Need Their Own Day?

Most non-bi people probably assume bisexuals are sufficiently included in other “days,” like Pride or IDAHOBIT (the International Day Against Homophobia, BIphobia and Transphobia). The councillors among you might have had requests for your town hall to fly the rainbow flag at such times.

But bisexuals suffer for being “lumped in” with LGBT all the time. Bisexuals’ experiences tend to differ not just from heterosexuals but from gay men and lesbians as well.

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The Liberal approach to immigration

The Liberal approach to dealing with the unpopularity of immigration and immigrants is to challenge that concern. It’s to robustly make a positive case for immigration as a policy and — crucially — immigrants as human beings.

The Liberal approach is to shift attention unfairly directed at them to where it belongs: Government unwillingness to fund housing, the NHS and other public services.

The Liberal approach includes strongly differentiating between migrants and refugees, which lately have all too often conflated by media and politicians, so that everyone understands the different reasons that people want to be welcomed into the UK, be they economic migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, students, or any of a host of other categories that people in different circumstances will find themselves in.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 63 Comments

Blogging Against Disablism Day

 

As well a day for dancing around maypoles or celebrating workers and labour, the first of May is Blogging Against Disablism Day.

As explained on the blog of the person who started it, “This is the day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism).  In this way, we hope to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.”

There’s an example of disablism in a recent Lib Dem Voice article by Henry Foulds. He says he was told “by a senior activist that I should crop my cane from campaign photos or somehow hide it, I was horrified. I stumbled over my response and changed the subject. I’ve since explained to them that disability is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.”

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Opinion: To be free from poverty, ignorance and conformity, our society must have robust support for disabled people

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015. It’s the tenth annual day for disabled and non-disabled people to blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism). It aims to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.

An online acquaintance of mine said he was going to write for #BADD2015 in terms of the political parties’ manifestos. Good Lib Dem that I am, I looked forward to hearing some positive stuff about my party. I know there’s lots to talk about.

The Lib Dems have budgeted the £8 billion a year the NHS will need during the next parliament, which is bound to be relevant to the lives of people with disabilities and other long-term conditions, as many of us do seem to see doctors, nurses and specialists often enough to be on a first-name basis with many of them!

The Lib Dems’ unique dedication to improving mental health care is also relevant to many disabled people, both those whose disability is primarily or entirely a matter of mental illness, and those who experience poor mental health as a result of other disabilities. Mental illnesses are some of the most common, and most “invisible,” disabilities in the UK, and at the moment the mental health care many people receive (or fail to) not only doesn’t help them but can actually make their mental health worse.

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Opinion: How the UK immigration system damaged my mental health #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015I wanted to talk a bit about how immigrating to the UK has affected my mental health, because both mental health and immigration are subjects on which I ‎look to the Lib Dems to support me with, via good policies and campaigning.

I’ve been in the UK nine years now, but when I’m standing in that non-EU passports line (I’ve long been eligible for citizenship but I can’t afford the application fees), I can’t help but hear similar interrogations going on to the ones I remember when I first came here and was interrogated by a big scary scouser for two hours– how long are you staying? how much money have you got with you? — I can’t help but think “that’s how it started…”

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must let our values define our approach to mental health #timetotalk

Time to talk day“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” Kevin Spacey tells us, and it’s a bit like that with depression too. It’s so insidious precisely because it tries to convince you it isn’t really there, that these black thoughts and difficult days are all there is for you, and that this entirely your own fault.

This is why feeling about to talk about it at all, to be open, has such power: it lessens the isolation, fights your negative thoughts about yourself with positive ones from people who love you, and helps all of us live in a better, healthier society, because Mentally Interesting people have a hell of a lot to contribute. And while fighting stigma isn’t the only problem we face, it can be as hard as dealing with the mental illness itself.

So what can we as Lib Dems do?

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