Author Archives: Mark Valladares

I’m a veteran Party bureaucrat, having joined the old Liberal Party at university. And, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, I’ve held a range of positions since then - everything from Secretary-General of the Young Liberals to being a member of the ALDE Party‘s Financial Advisory Committee. Returning Officer, Presidential consort, committee secretary, you name it, I’ve probably done it. These days, I’m a parish councillor in a (very) small rural village in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley, and a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee. Never let it be said that life is dull…

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?

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 2)

We pick up where we left off earlier

William Wallace

This Bill, and the agreement it transposes into domestic law, commits us to continuing negotiations across a very wide range of issues, in which the UK will be the dependent partner. I mention two issues only out of the many that remain unresolved. The issues of data access, and the adequacy of data protection, are vital to the future of our economy. Three-quarters of UK data exchanges flow between here and the European continent. Sovereign independence on data regulation for the UK is not on offer; our choice is between closer alignment with American or European regulation. We will pursue the Government on this.

Mutual recognition for cultural professionals, musicians, actors and artists is left out of the agreement, as has already been mentioned. I declare an interest as a trustee of the VOCES8 Foundation. Many of us will seek written assurance from the Government that mutual recognition will be negotiated.

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Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 1)

And, for completeness and, indeed, because they were excellent, we bring you excerpts from the speeches of our Parliamentary Party in the Lords during the debate on the Future Relationships Bill

Jeremy Purvis

Liberal forebears joined together to ensure the widest benefit of free, fair and open trade well over a century ago. We fought relentlessly against Conservative protectionism at the turn of the last century. We split from the Conservative and National Government over their imposition of tariffs all round. Now, a century on, we need to try to militate against the worst elements of this poor agreement. We will have to be in the vanguard of supporting women entrepreneurs in the service sector to tackle the new barriers, helping our businesses export against the new burdens and supporting those wishing to seek advantage not by moving out of the UK but by staying in it and working with others to reconnect with Europe. I never thought we would need to rejoin this fight, but we do—we must, and we will with vigour.

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Liberal Democrat Voice’s most read posts in 2020 (part 4)

Welcome to the final instalment of our most read posts of 2020. For those of you late to the “countdown”, the earlier posts can be found by following the following links;

It would be naive to suggest that the 2019 General Election campaign was a success and, for good or ill, much of the blame fell upon Jo Swinson and her advisors. In the fifth most read post of 2020, Paul Walter highlighted the views of the former Chief Executive of the Party, and former MP for North Devon, Sir Nick Harvey. He wasn’t particularly supportive

At number 4, we noted Jo’s response to defeat, looking back at what might be fairly said to have been an eventful decade. She suggested that she might not be finished either…

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Lord Newby explains why we have opposed the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill

And, to balance the red benches with the green, we bring you Dick Newby’s speech from the Lords. It is, fortunately, rather longer than that of our Leader in the Commons, thus allowing for a rather more complete exposition of our Party’s stance on the deal.

My Lords, some four and a half years after the referendum result, we can now see in the treaty that we are discussing today the outline shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, yet we have had no real opportunity to read it and no chance to consider its implications. It is the

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Ed Davey condemns the Future Relationship Bill

Just before noon today, Ed Davey spoke in the Second Reading debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, and we bring you his speech now. It should be noted that, due to the number of MPs wishing to speak, his intervention was limited to four minutes.

Watch here. The text is below:

Our country is gripped by two crises: Britain’s hospitals are overwhelmed and Britain’s economy is in the worst recession for 300 years. A responsible Government, faced with those crises for people’s health and jobs, would not pass this bad deal, for it will make British people poorer and British people less safe.

This is not really a trade deal at all; it is a loss of trade deal. It is the first trade deal in history to put up barriers to trade. Is that really the Government’s answer to British businesses fearing for their futures and British workers fearing for their jobs? We were told that leaving the EU would cut red tape, but the deal represents the biggest increase in red tape in British history, with 23 new committees to oversee this new trade bureaucracy, 50,000 new customs officials and 400 million new forms. Some analysts estimate the cost of this new red-tape burden for British business at over £20 billion every year. This is not the frictionless trade that the Prime Minister promised.

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Liberal Democrat Voice’s most read posts in 2020 (part 3)

Welcome back to the third of our four articles featuring the most read posts on the site in 2020. If you missed the earlier posts, posts 16-20 can be found here, and posts 11-15 here

June saw the tearing down and immersion of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol. At number 10, Chris Bowers wrote for us suggesting that supporting what was, in strictness, a criminal act, was a troubling step. It would be fair to say that opinions were split, and the debate about when, or if, it is appropriate to break the law in order to advance a cause ran on for three days.

Our ninth most read piece came from our Wednesday Day Editor, Tahir Maher, who may not have expected his piece in mid-April justifying lockdown to spin off into a debate on the economics of the national debt. It is one of the charms of LDV that the comments threads can occasionally stray quite a long way from the primary topic…

At number 8, Paul Walter reviewed the findings of the General Election Review and was as honest as the authors were. I’m not a campaigner, and I wondered about some of the strategy applied, but these things aren’t usually quite so blunt. Will we learn the lessons for next time, or will we fight the last war again?

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Liberal Democrat Voice’s most read posts in 2020 (part 2)

Welcome back to the second instalment of the most read posts on Liberal Democrat Voice this year, featuring the posts ranked at positions 11-15 (part 1, featuring posts 16-20, can be found here).

In September, our number 15 post saw us still debating what to do next in terms of Brexit, and ten of our former MEPs attempted to convince us that then was not the time to campaign to rejoin the European Union. Admittedly, that argument still rages to some extent, and there will be many Party members and supporters who are keen to start such a campaign as soon as possible, preferably yesterday.

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The curious tale of a 5G mast in Bath

There was a curious, and rather unlikely piece, in the Guardian on Boxing Day, courtesy of that well-known friend of Liberal Democrats, Nick Cohen, suggesting that Liberal Democrat councillors in Bath had opposed a new 5G phone mast for reasons linked to the theory that 5G was responsible for occurrences most politely described as conspiracy theories.

Naturally, proper research was not involved, nor did he actually speak to anyone linked to the decision to refuse planning permission.

It always puzzles me that so many people, including Liberal Democrats, claim to be sceptical about our media, yet seem willing to believe unreservedly anything …

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Liberal Democrat Voice’s most read posts in 2020 (part 1)

It’s the time of the year when a Day Editor is minded to look back at the year’s highlights and, given how interested some of our readers and contributors are in such things, I thought that I’d look at our data and see what drew most interest. Today, I start with numbers 16-20 (in reverse order, naturally)…

At number 20, the announcement of the findings of the General Election Review, courtesy of the Party President, Mark Pack. It was, in fairness, rather more hard hitting than some of its predecessors, but it was certainly time for some home truths…

There was a time when Liberal Democrat Voice was, how can I put it, a bit more edgy. At number 19, James Belchamber suggested that Nick Clegg be condemned for his work on behalf of Facebook. And, if truth be told, Facebook went on to have a less than entirely positive impact on international politics… Is the money really worth it, Nick?

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