Author Archives: Mark Valladares

Another “Alston Report” – why some of you may not be using buses any more…

It is just over two years ago that a Liberal Democrat Peer, made the following intervention;

My Lords, the reality on the ground is that rural bus services have been in decline for some years now, to the extent that there are many quite large villages which no longer have any kind of bus service at all. Have the Government made any assessment of the impact this is having on residents’ ability to access essential public services such as health and education?

As it turned out, the Government rather hadn’t. But now, Philip Alston, along with colleagues Rebecca Riddell and Bassam Khawaja, has published “Public Transport, Private Profit – the Human Cost of Privatizing Buses in the United Kingdom”. And, as someone who lives in a village which lost its last scheduled bus service a decade or so ago, you might not be surprised that I took rather more interest than might otherwise be the case.

But, of course, it’s not just small, rural villages that are now cut off from the bus network. As the authors note, some 3.34 million people could not reach any food stores within fifteen minutes by public transport. That adds costs for the rural poor, adds traffic to the roads and leads to those who can’t drive for whatever reason to be forced towards larger communities in order to function more easily.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Pandemic restrictions are over… sort of… Where do we go from here?

You might find yourself wondering why, when the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Health are all self-isolating, and new cases have reached the peak levels seen last over the New Year, today is a good day to declare as “Freedom Day”. And yet, for all of the bombast that the Prime Minister offered in the days leading up to today, even he is now quoted as saying;

So please, please, please be cautious. Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to present.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Welcome to my day – 19 July: Freedom (to ignore the consequences) Day?

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the new “new normal”, when we’re all encouraged to throw off the shackles of Covid restrictions and return to our old lives. That is, unless you’re immuno-compromised, or minded to take into consideration that those around you might be cautious, or unvaccinated, or… well, you know the rest…

So, what have we got today?

Katie Hopkins (you remember her, yes?) is awaiting her deportation flight from Australia, having been flown in by a local television station to take part in their version of Celebrity Big Brother (and yes, the definition of “celebrity” is clearly being stretched gossamer thin here). Flouting Australia’s incredibly tight quarantine rules was one thing – telling the world via Instagram that you were doing it and deliberately so quite another. What is it about faux-libertarians and consequences?

Posted in News | 70 Comments

ALDE Party eCouncil – a comfortable seat, a nice cup of tea and a cast of hundreds…

Friday morning and, for those of us that aren’t naturally early risers, the hour time difference between Brussels, the nerve centre of the ALDE Party, and the United Kingdom was the cause of a slightly hurried morning routine for your correspondent.

First, there was a rather sad piece of business, as the Congress was asked to make a decision on how to proceed following the sad demise of Party President Hans van Baalen. There had been some consultation as to whether or not a by-election should take place to fill the vacancy, amidst rumours that a candidate was already “working the room”, and our delegation had concluded, having read the Statutes, that it should wait until the regular Autumn Congress, on the basis that the post would have been up for election then anyway.

We apparently weren’t alone, as Congress voted pretty overwhelmingly to postpone, leaving the senior Vice Presidents, Senator Timmy Dooley from Fianna Fáil and Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP from the Bulgarian Movement for Rights and Freedom, to act as joint President for the time being.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 1 Comment

ALDE Party eCongress opens today with policy discussions

Whilst the observant amongst our readers will be slightly puzzled by the headline, the postponed 2020 ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party eCongress opens this afternoon in offices and homes across Europe with the first of two working groups to consider eleven of the twenty-two resolutions submitted for debate, as follows;

  • Responsible and smart spending for sustainable growth and jobs
  • Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Borders – The Core of the European Idea
  • Spending reviews as a path towards prioritizing durability
  • Religions and LGBTI Rights: A Liberal Perspective
  • Towards a more inclusive society:

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Roman Protasevich abduction – time for Britain to act?

The criminal hijacking of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, with a Belarussian anti-government activist on board has led to calls from across Europe and beyond for firm action to be taken against the Belarus Government led by Alexander Lukashenko, whose agents advised the flight crew that there was a bomb onboard, and then seized Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, whilst the plane was on the ground in Minsk.

Layla Moran was quick to call upon Dominic Raab to respond;

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, in advance of today’s European Council meeting, demanded;

  • The immediate release

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Welcome to my day – 10 May 2021: reasons to be cheerful?

It’s been a tough decade or so to be a Liberal Democrat – losing sucks, and watching your friends and colleagues fight unsuccessful campaigns doesn’t exactly raise the spirits. But this year felt a bit better, despite the losses in some places, some familiar faces were pictured smiling, and there were plenty of new faces doing the same. We’ve demonstrated some relevance and proven that, with hard work, spirit and persistence (and, occasionally, a fair wind), Liberal Democrats can win pretty much anywhere.

That’s not to say that the results are great. Caron, who knows far more than I ever will …

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Hans van Baalen (1960-2021)

It has been announced that Johannes Cornelis “Hans” van Baalen, President of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party, passed away this morning after a short period in hospital, having recently been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A member of VVD (The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), he served as a member of the Dutch Parliament between 1999 and 2002, and from 2003 until 2009 until he took his seat in the European Parliament. His political career started as the International Secretary of VVD, the first step in what became a love of international politics that saw him rise to the top of European and international liberalism.

Posted in Europe / International, News and Obituaries | Tagged and | Leave a comment

A European Super League – do politicians need to step in?

The breaking news that a group of the most prestigious football clubs across Europe (in reality, Western Europe) are expected to announce the formation of an elite league has triggered widespread reaction across the British (actually, make that English) political spectrum. As Ed Davey put it;

Indeed, all three Party leaders have publicly condemned the proposal.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments

21 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 2)

  • Reverse “deadly” aid cuts, say Liberal Democrats
  • Liberal Democrats call for greater measures to increase accessibility in education
  • Government must commit to 10k refugees a year, Liberal Democrats say

Reverse “deadly” aid cuts, say Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to reverse “unprincipled, unjustified and downright deadly” cuts to international aid.

The motion passed at its Spring Conference reaffirmed the Party’s commitment to the UK contributing 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance and slammed the merging of the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office.

It also demanded the UK Government play a ‘proactive role in debt forgiveness and relief initiatives’ for developing countries struggling with the economic and health impact of Coronavirus.

Speaking after the motion was approved, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development Layla Moran said:

The UK’s global reputation is disappearing fast. The decision to cut aid to the world’s poorest is not only wrong but short-sighted and strategically incompetent. The Conservatives are putting nukes before prosperity.

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21 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 1)

  • A real-terms pay cut is an insult to NHS workers
  • Patel must drop proposals to restrict right to protest
  • Liberal Democrats call for Autism support

A real-terms pay cut is an insult to NHS workers

Liberal Democrats have pressed the Government to give NHS workers a proper pay rise during an emergency motion passed at the party’s Spring Conference.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Social Care and Wellbeing, welcomed the motion being passed:

A real-terms pay cut is an insult to all the NHS workers who have gone above and beyond during this time of national crisis.

This Government seems obsessed with wasting millions of pounds on vanity projects yet can’t find a penny more to give nurses a proper pay rise. What kind of Prime Minister prioritises a new multi-million pound press conference room and expensive flat renovation at the expense of giving nurses a pay rise?

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

20 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 2)

  • Government must fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Liberal Democrats review to plot paths to closer relationship with EU
  • We must get serious on Russia for the sake of our democracy

Government must fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the Party’s Spring conference.

The proposals include plans to fix the Government’s approach to self-isolation through better and more generous support; ensure Test and Trace makes better use of local government; and securing the rollout of surplus vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.

The party also called for an immediate independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, as promised by the Prime Minister last autumn.

Munira Wilson MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Health, said:

The Government failed to learn the lessons of the first wave of the virus and they did not act to stop the pain and suffering this terrible disease inflicted on the UK in the second.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

20 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 1)

  • Small businesses must be at the heart of our recovery
  • Liberal Democrats champion a fairer deal for consumers
  • Liberal Democrats call for emergency £2.6bn carers support package
  • Small businesses must be at the heart of our recovery

    Liberal Democrats have passed a motion at their Spring Conference calling for a comprehensive package of support for small businesses and the self-employed, including:

  • Dedicated support schemes for the worst-affected sectors, such as hospitality, tourism, charities and the creative industries.
  • More support for businesses as we return to normal, by extending business rates relief, VAT reductions and tax deferrals.
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19 March 2021 – the day’s press release

We haven’t been publishing Party press releases for a while now, as we weren’t receiving any. However, the ‘teleprinter’ has suddenly sprung back into life…

Government letting down disabled workforce

Liberal Democrats have backed a new policy at its Spring Conference demanding better support for the disabled workforce.

The motion noted that the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ in response to the pandemic made only one reference to disabled people and “contained nothing to address the specific challenges facing disabled people”.

The Liberal Democrats are proposing a range of measures to support disabled people into work, including a Jobs Guarantee for unemployed disabled people …

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Reflections on my day – 15 March 2021

Usually, if I can, I write something at the beginning of the day. Today, however, I didn’t, as I wanted to leave space for Caroline Pidgeon’s powerful piece on violence against women.

And, at the end of the day, having looked at the comments, I’m pretty depressed. A series of men either blaming a small minority, or changing the subject, or just being blind and deaf to the words of those who actually suffer from abuse and violence. Bluntly, it isn’t a small minority of men, unless they’re awfully active given the statistics indicating that most women have been victims. And let’s change the subject, why don’t we? Anything rather than face the fact that, because of the behaviour of some men (yes, I know, not all… nada, nada, nada), women and girls make decisions that restrict their freedom of action because of the risks that exist. We, as a society, need to address that and, sadly, because the overwhelming proportion of violence against women is at the hands of men, the attitudes of men have to change. Some of you whose comments suggest that your liberalism is more polite veneer than instinctive – acknowledging that some of you aren’t liberals anyway – make me more than uncomfortable. The word is embarrassed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Corporation tax – is Rishi Sunak having a Laff(er curve)?

It was Private Eye, perhaps unsurprisingly, who nailed the Conservative U-turn on corporation tax rates. They note Boris Johnson’s quote at the Conservative leadership hustings on 5 July 2019 that;

Every time corporation tax rates have been cut in this country it has produced more revenue.

Perhaps Rishi Sunak wasn’t listening, or perhaps he thinks that the Laffer curve is a bit old hat, but the proposed increase in corporation tax effectively reverses most of the Coalition Government’s cuts in tax rates – George Osborne inherited a basic rate of 28% and a small profits rate of 21%. If the Laffer curve …

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The Party’s disciplinary processes – justice delayed is justice denied?

It sometimes seems as though the Party has been adjusting its internal conduct and discipline system since its foundation. And, of course, you have to have one because not everyone is reasonable, and people don’t always behave reasonably towards each other in an organisation where the idea is to convince people of the rightness of your views, to win the argument, if you like.

The problem is that, with any process, you have to supply the resources to make it work, and if the experiences of too many people are to be believed, that simply isn’t the case currently. It would be very easy to blame the professional staff responsible for managing the system but, from painful personal experience, I can vouch that they are too few in number to manage the flow of complaints, and too dependent on volunteers to fill all of the roles that the process requires.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 3 Comments

Welcome to my (International Women’s) Day – 8 March 2021

Heavens, is it Monday already? Apparently so, and not just any Monday, but International Women’s Day, so there’ll be some content to reflect that, courtesy of our Editor-in-Chief.

I should take this opportunity to point readers towards Parliament’s celebrations of both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month Although, somewhat curiously, both Houses will be marking it with debates on… Thursday.

Otherwise, I’ll be offering some thoughts on the Party’s disciplinary processes – which reflect some comments I’ve received from others who will remain nameless but may recognise the points that I’m making.

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Vaccine passports – good, bad or indifferent?

I was challenged by one of our readers, having opined on the Shamima Begum situation, to apply a similar logic to the question of vaccine passports and whether or not they should be mandatory. And I suppose that my answer is a fairly straightforward one – that they shouldn’t be made mandatory.

That’s the simple answer. A more complete answer is rather longer.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a sense that politicians, and the Government in particular, are following public opinion rather than taking a lead. And I suspect that, with regard to a vaccine passport, public opinion is going to determine how much they impinge on day to day life.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 54 Comments

The Shamima Begum case – why liberals should be defending her rights, if not her freedom

I ought to start by expressing the view that, regardless of what Shamima Begum has, or has not, done, I have little sympathy for her. And, for all the suggestions that she was groomed, or that she was too young to understand what she was doing, Liberal Democrat policy is to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to fourteen from its current level of ten years of age. If she has committed an offence punishable under law, then she should be tried and, if found guilty, sentenced appropriately.

But the Government are arguing something rather different. They suggest that her citizenship can be taken away from her because she is “a bad person” and a threat to national security. That may be true, but the United Kingdom is also a signatory to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Article 8 of the 1961 Convention outlines how and when a State may withdraw nationality, opening with the sentence;

A Contracting State shall not deprive a person of its nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 27 Comments

Welcome to my day – 1 March 2021

Welcome to Suffolk’s Gipping Valley, where another week starts. You may wonder about the picture, which comes courtesy of the Gateway 14 Residents Campaign Group. I’ve been spending the last week or so drafting my Parish Council’s seven page response to a planning application which is exercising local residents, which might reassure John Marriott that, despite my occasionally whimsical view of the world of parish councils, I take my responsibilities as Chair of my Parish Council very seriously.

We’ve got a busy day ahead of us, with articles on British pensioners overseas, …

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The Party President’s report for February… how is it working for you?

As usual, the Party President has graciously contacted us, asking that we place a spotlight on his monthly report. Equally graciously, we would note that you can read it here.

Mark has been President now for more than a year, and it’s been a pretty eventful term so far. But how has he performed? What, in your opinion, has gone well, and what badly? Has he changed your view on the Party Presidency itself?

For me, the jury is out on whether or not Mark has established a profile outside of the Party’s membership. It’s seldom easy, even for …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Tales from a Small Parish – when things go wrong…

If somebody had told me a week ago that a Parish Council sub-committee meeting would go viral, and that the senior official of a County Association of Local Councils would become a celebrity, I would have offered a quizzical glance before returning to my planning application problems. It’s a funny old world…

There’s no doubt that the events at Handforth demonstrated that, regardless of which tier of government you’re in, the scope for egos to rampage across the scenery is always there. It can be a Chair who has gone power-crazed, a Clerk who believes that councillors are merely a legal necessity to be ignored or overridden, or someone who has joined the Council with a particular bee in their bonnet and who just won’t let go.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Welcome to my day – 8 February 2021

And the snow lay round about, crisp and deep and even…

Welcome to a wintry Creeting St Peter this Monday morning! For a rare change, we’re getting some of the worst of the conditions here, but the wood-burning stove is doing its job, there’s no shortage of coffee, and I can still get out for a walk, so service should be as normal.

We bring you today a story of a company that didn’t export anything, but has been caught up in the administrative nightmare that is Brexit. I used to handle double taxation …

Posted in Site news | 4 Comments

Liberal Democrat staffer wins award!

At a time when there are so few things to celebrate – no shock by-election wins to enjoy, and the prospect of delay of the elections currently scheduled for May – it’s nice to be able to congratulate a fellow Liberal Democrat for winning an award.

Naimah Khatun is a Parliamentary Assistant in the Liberal Democrat Whip’s Office in the Lords, and today she’s been announced as The House magazine’s Westminster Staffer of the Year (Crossbench, Independent, Liberal Democrats and Other Parties). Here’s the announcement of the award, and her response.

And here’s the response from the Parliamentary Party in the Lords…

Congratulations …

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Welcome to my day – 11 January 2021

Good morning, everyone!

You’ll have to bear with me this morning, as Creeting St Peter is running on emergency generators this morning following an underground cable failure, and this has had the apparent side effect of shutting down broadband service to the village until at least lunchtime.

Once I’ve dealt with the outstanding household matters, we’ll be bringing you Geoff Reid’s thoughts on an aspect of Englishness, whilst William Wallace has been provoked into comment by events in Washington and the domestic fallout here. We also have some reflections on the US elections from John Surie of Liberal Democrats Overseas.

So, stay tuned …

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Welcome to my day – 4 January 2021

Good grief, is it that year already?

And welcome to another week here at Liberal Democrat Voice. Whilst the Commons is away for another week, entirely thanks to Jacob Rees-Mogg and his fetishistic dislike of virtual working, the Lords is rather more efficient and sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Domestic Abuse, Trade and Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bills are the core agenda, but there are Liberal Democrat Oral Questions from Dick Newby (the future of the Hull-Zeebrugge passenger ferry), Joan Walmsley (the prospects for obesity services) and Jonny Oates (the Green Homes Grant scheme).

Here on the website, we welcome back Geoff Reid, who writes about the importance of accuracy – a useful prompt for the busy Day Editor – and why it matters.

It’s always nice to welcome a new contributor, and today sees Ellen Nicholson’s debut, challenging the right-wing media. She was our candidate in South West Wiltshire (think Westbury) in 2019 and they’ve got all up Unitary elections in May.

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Sarah Ludford summarises our argument against the Future Relationships Bill

The task of summarising the Liberal Democrat argument against the Brexit deal fell to Sarah Ludford, former MEP for London and our frontbench Brexit spokesperson…

The wisest comment on the Johnson deal came from his Conservative Party colleague — if not friend — the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, somewhat puncturing the bluster and self-congratulation. He said:

“We must welcome the news that Brexit does not end in the chaos of no deal, but only with the sense of relief of a condemned man informed that his execution has been commuted to a life sentence.”

What was promised in 2016 was “the exact same benefits” as EU membership and “frictionless” trade. That was a cruel deception then and it is a very bad joke now. No wonder Mrs Thatcher was so keen to promote the single market; this threadbare Tory deal betrays her legacy, and it is not — I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont — membership of the Common Market.

Posted in Parliament | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 4)

Here are the last group of excerpts from Liberal Democrat interventions during the debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill…

Tim Clement-Jones

We have been assured by Ministers countless times of the value they place on the arts, but they have now abandoned one of our most successful sectors, already heavily battered by Covid lockdowns, to its own devices. The noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Bakewell, are absolutely right. In the trade and co-operation agreement, our hugely successful audio-visual sector is specifically excluded. They represent 30% of all Toggle showing location of Column 1881channels in the EU, but if they are not to be subject to the regulators of every single country, they will need to establish a new hub in a member state.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 3)

This morning, we bring you the third tranche of excerpts from Liberal Democrat speeches against the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill in the Lords…

Jenny Randerson

The automotive industry is also at the sharp end. Today’s vehicles comprise parts from many countries. Although there are some useful provisions on rules of origin, it will still require additional paperwork and data gathering, and that means additional costs. The timescale is hopelessly short; the industry believes that a phase-in period is critical, but we are not getting that. Of course, businesses are not ready.

There are huge uncertainties built into this deal, because it is based on today’s standards, and standards change, particularly in vehicle manufacture and aviation, as technology advances. Each change needs a complex approval process, with potential penalties. Of course, this is just a framework deal, subject to endless reviews and supplementary agreements.

Posted in Parliament | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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