Author Archives: NewsHound

SNP spend more in Shetland by-election than across whole of Scotland for EU referendum

So the election spending returns from the Shetland by-election are out.

We spent £64k and won.

The SNP were right up against the limit, spending £99k.

But they only spent £90k in 2016, across the whole of Scotland on the EU Referendum.

As a Remain campaigner in West Lothian, I found it deeply frustrating that SNP activists kept saying that they were too tired from the Holyrood elections to fight the EU referendum.

If something is important, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. You get to sleep in a few weeks.

I don’t, to be honest, think that David Cameron’s insistence on holding the referendum just weeks after the Holyrood election was fair, but it was where we were.

We got out there and fought. And the SNP were tired. Even though they spent three years in the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014 hanging around on every street corner trying to persuade people to their cause.

Alistair Carmichael, MP for the Shetland Scottish Parliament seat, who welcomed so many Lib Dems up there in August, said:

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LibLink: Luisa Porritt MEP: Britain’s Democracy Gap

In an article for Politico, Deputy Leader of Britain’s Lib Dem MEPs Luisa Porritt argues that the behaviour of the British Government is damaging democracy in this country.

A British government that is threatening to march the country out of the European Union because it claims its institutions are “undemocratic” shut down its own country’s parliament last month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson uses incendiary language and accuses those who disagree with his Brexit policy of “terrible collaboration” with the EU.

Britain today is increasingly out of step with the basic principles of democracy it once would have championed.

The Brexiteers, ironically, decry the EU as undemocratic. That’s simply not true:

Compare that with what’s happening in Brussels. While my British parliamentary colleagues were shut out of their chamber against their will, members of the European Parliament have been pressing on with urgent issues.

The European Parliament is scrutinizing the incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s new team and has taken a strong stand against nominees with potential conflicts of interest. MEPs have also set an ambitious agenda to tackle the climate emergency and ensure that the EU’s member states uphold the rule of law — something our own government needs reminding of.

How far, she notes, we have fallen:

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LibLink: Willie Rennie We can change the course of the UK with Jo Swinson

Willie Rennie writes for the Herald, saying that the Liberal Democrats can win big in the coming election because we have the solutions to the current chaos.

He explains why we have to wait a few weeks to have that election:

So we want an election before the end of the year but I’m afraid we can’t trust the Prime Minister to abide by the law of the land and request an extension to negotiations with Europe. So we need to hold his feet to the fire until he does and until we have seen an end to the no deal aspirations of this reckless Prime Minister. That means waiting until November before we choose a new Parliament.

Jo offers fresh leadership at a time of crisis and we can stop Brexit.

It’s not necessary or desirable to break up the UK in response to the possible break from the European Union because we have another way. We can stop Brexit together across the UK.

I draw hope from millions who marched in London to stop Brexit or the six million who signed up to revoke Article 50, or the hundreds of thousands of people who backed the Liberal Democrats in the European Elections.

And we are absolutely going for it:

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Siobhan Benita says she can be London Mayor

Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita has been talking up her chances of winning the capital’s mayoralty in an interview with City AM.

She takes the fight to Sadiq Khan, criticising Labour’s equivocal position on Brexit:

Benita says the Lib Dems are now perfectly positioned to capitalise on votes that would have otherwise gone to Labour. “The fact that Sadiq has stayed in the Labour party that is facilitating Brexit is a huge thing against him,” she says.

“For Sadiq, it’s going to be about how is he going to continue to justify being in a party that is keeping us in this mess?” It is not enough that Khan has spoken out against anti-semitism, another issue that is hurting Labour, or has campaigned for a second referendum, she says.

She was less hopeful of a Remain Alliance with the Greens:

Benita said she was “very open with working with the Greens but they have made it clear they are not”.

“I’m really disappointed in Sian,” Benita says. “She has really attacked the Lib Dems and has been fighting old battles about the coalition. She sees us as a real threat in London and is still blaming us for austerity. But Brexit is a much bigger and more immediate risk.”

And she had some interesting ideas about freedom of movement post Brexit:

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LibLink: Chuka Umunna: Don’t let these reckless Brexit gamblers claim they speak for the British people

Chuka Umunna writes in the Independent about how the Brexiteers are trying to manipulate us:

Ministers know that a no-deal Brexit will involve an immediate shock to the economy which is one reason why they will seek to hold an election almost immediately after exit day – if it hasn’t happened beforehand – so it takes place before the pain is really felt.

Michael Gove even floated the idea of announcing a bank holiday on 1 November in an attempt to delay the inevitable chaos until after people have been to the ballot box. There is a description for this type of behaviour – vote rigging.

He argues that the Government doesn’t have a mandate for no deal

Parties representing a majority of electors in 2017 had set their faces against a no-deal Brexit. So any mandate claimed for a hard Brexit died at this point – something the Vote Leave cabal in government have never accepted.

They try to deny the parliamentary arithmetic but the fact they could not get their extreme form of Brexit through the House of Commons this year has provided something of a wake-up call. Now they are seeking to force their no-deal Brexit through even if Johnson’s administration – to all intents and purposes, a Vote Leave government – has lost the confidence of the House of Commons before 31 October.

This is definitely unconstitutional and, quite possibly, unlawful. It is certainly hypocritical given they argued for Brexit, in part, on the basis that it represented a reassertion of parliamentary sovereignty.

Let’s put aside the issue of leaving without a deal for one moment, and turn to the core question of whether we leave the EU at all. You see, if the Remain/Leave question were put to the public again in a referendum, the opinion polls have pretty consistently had Remain in the lead since 2017. Today it would be 52.2 per cent Remain to 47.8 per cent Leave.

He offers an insight into Labour thinking on a no deal Brexit.Is this why they are not embracing initiatives to stop it?

All Tory rebel MPs and, indeed, a substantial minority of Labour MPs would not give the Labour leader that confidence but would be open to other suggestions. The bottom line, though, is that for it to work Labour would have to support it and Labour has ruled out an emergency government. Shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, was the latest to reject it last night.

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Listen to St Alban’s candidate Daisy Cooper: People are voting Lib Dem because of our values

St Albans’ Lib Dem candidate Daisy Cooper was on The World at One yesterday talking about how people’s voting patterns are shifting and people are turning to the Lib Dems because of our values.

St Albans voted heavily to remain in the European election and they have a Leave supporting  Conservative MP who’s quite happy with no deal.

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LibLInk Kishan Devani: Jo Swinson, our future Prime Minister

Just over a year and a half ago, Kishan Devani joined us from the Conservatives.He writes for AsianLite International about Jo’s election as leader and what that means for the Liberal Democrats and the country:

It was evident to me and all those present we were not looking at the leader of a UK political party, but in fact, we were witnessing the making of an international leader who can take on world issues and still care for the injustices felt by people domestically. Her courage to call out Trump so openly shows that she is not scared to take on

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: The Lib Dems represent modern Britain and we’re aiming for the top

It’s been a busy first week as leader for Jo Swinson.

She’s questioned two Prime Ministers, been all over the media, headed to Brecon and Radnorshire to campaign with Jane Dodds ahead of the by-election next Thursday and has found time to write for the Evening Standard as well.

She contrasted the hype and the reality of our new Prime Minister:

Earlier this week, when Boris Johnson, London’s former Mayor, finally got the keys to No 10, he promised a Cabinet that represents modern Britain. But as all Londoners know, promises made by Johnson tend to be less impressive in reality than they are in rhetoric. In his reshuffle this week, he gave jobs to people who have supported the death penalty, who have bragged about not being a feminist, and who are completely opposed to abortion even in cases of rape. He has also sacked the only LGBT+ member of the Cabinet.

It shouldn’t surprise us that these are the people Johnson picked. Just look at him and what he has said. He has compared Muslim women to letterboxes and described elite women athletes as “glistening like wet otters”. He is determined, despite all the evidence on how damaging it will be to our economy, to pursue a no-deal Brexit. And yesterday, when I asked him to fulfil his reassurances that the three million EU citizens — our friends, family and neighbours — would retain their rights after Brexit, and to back a Lib Dem Bill to that effect, he was all talk and no trousers.

It’s enough to make anyone cry -but there is hope.

From Aberdeen to Cornwall, and everywhere in between, I’ve met so many people who believe that Britain should celebrate our differences, not just tolerate them; who believe that we should embrace the cultural diversity that has made Britain great, and who believe that we are at our strongest when we work with our European neighbours, not when we turn our back on them.

Those fundamentally liberal values — openness, inclusion, internationalism — are what truly represent the best of Britain, and it’s those values that I’m determined to fight for as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

And when she fights both Johnson and Corbyn, she is doing it as their equal.

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Jo: A General Election? Bring it on….

Jo Swinson was on Newsnight talking about the new Cabinet. She said that she had written to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to call a Vote of No Confidence. When asked about whether she wanted to see a General Election, she said: “Absolutely. Bring it on.”

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LibLink: Chuka Umunna: London’s young people know how to stop the knife crime epidemic – here’s what they told me

Chuka Umunna used his Independent column to talk about knife crime. He described how he visited at least one school in his constituency every week and discussed the issue with young people.

They identify a huge variety of things that need to happen in order to tackle a problem that is ruining so many lives:

Unsurprisingly, one of the boys told me his mum wanted his family to move as they did not feel safe on his estate – many parents come to my constituency surgery asking for help to do just that. Another described how he had found drugs and what he thought were bullets in the field where he and his mates play football. A little girl told me how she fears for the welfare of her teenage half-brother.

These children have had to witness things no one should have to see as an adult, never mind as a young person. Their understanding of why it is happening and what should be done about the violence is sophisticated and well thought through. They told me that they supported stop and search and believed it certainly helped reduce the numbers carrying knives but that it was important the power was used appropriately and sensitively by the police and not used to discriminate. They wanted to see tougher sanctions for possession and for those who stab others, with far more police on our streets to enforce our laws, but did not believe that would solve the issue.

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LibLink: Chuka Umunna: Boris as PM would tell world Britain brazenly tolerates prejudice and hatred

So, it’s Chuka Umunna’s LibLink debut.

And he’s used his Independent column to talk about Boris Johnson’s unsuitability to be Prime Minister.

Chuka contrasts the Tory membership with the population as a whole:

The average age of a UK citizen is 40, over-65s make up around 18 per cent of the population, and those aged between 18 and 24 make up 9 per cent of the population. On this measure, the Tory party is in no way representative. The project found that the average age of a Tory party member is 57, significantly older, with 38 per cent of Tory party members aged 66 and over, and 7 per cent between 18 and 25 years old.

And it doesn’t get better with other diversity characteristics:

The population is split more or less equally between the genders, yet three-quarters of Tory members are men. Whereas around 14 per cent of the population is of an ethnic minority background, just 3 per cent of Tory party members are non-white.

And then we get to Boris and his greatest transgressions:
He has described black people as “piccanninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. Last summer, he compared Muslim women wearing veils to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. And, this weekend, none other than Steve Bannon, right-wing populist and former campaign manager to Donald Trump, revealed that he worked with Johnson on his government resignation speech last year. I don’t know whether Johnson is a racist or not – only he can answer that question definitively. But there is no doubt that the aforementioned comments are racist and, at the very least, they reveal a complete disrespect and condescension towards those of a different ethnicity.

He describes how his fellow panellists on Politics Live last week dismissed Johnson’s remarks:

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: As I grieved my husband, internet trolls attacked

In her Scotsman column, Christine Jardine describes the pain of losing her husband during the election campaign in 2017 – which was then added to by attacks from internet trolls:

Two years ago, at the most difficult time in my personal life, a political activist who thought they were clever decided it was OK to launch a nasty, and untrue attack.

During the 2017 general election campaign, my husband had died from a sudden and unpredicted heart attack.

The circumstances were particularly difficult. We were separated, he was living on his own and, because my name on his list of next of kin was different from his, the police opted for the other person whose name was the same.

It was my daughter who took the call.

The next few days were a blizzard of emotional conversations until we received the results of a post-mortem which detailed how sudden and irretrievable his attack had been.

There were newspaper stories and obituaries to read from journalists and a media he had worked in for 30 years and who were keen to show their respect.

I struggled with the inevitable questions that come from a loved one’s death, exacerbated in this case by the guilt that came from decisions that had set us on different paths after 30 years together.

On the evening of the funeral, the attacks started:

I discovered I was accused on Twitter of breaking the cross-party agreement not to campaign as a mark of respect to the Manchester bombing.

At first I thought it was a mistake, and explained I had been at what I described as “a family funeral”.

Internet trolls started vying to see who could be nastiest about me, while others piled in to try and defend and one or two did send me an apology.

Next day it was all over the papers. There were demands for an apology aimed at the political party whose activist had started it all.

And at the centre of it all my daughter, who was trying to deal with the death of the father she adored, was now dealing with a vicious attack on her mother.

So what’s the way out of all of this?

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WATCH: Christine Jardine’s office flooding….

Flash floods hit Edinburgh this afternoon, and Christine Jardine paid the price of having a constituency office at the bottom of a hill on one of the busiest roads in Scotland.

That video now seems to have ended up on most outlets in Scotland and, once the waters had receded, Christine talked to the BBC, Forth, The Evening News, Heart FM and The Sun among other media outlets.

Her main message was to encourage people to look out for elderly neighbours.

The office sofa bed was sacrificed to stem the tide.

Part of the problem was that every time someone drove past the office, it made things worse:

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Sal speaks on the momentous steps forward for the Lib Dems

In her monthly column on the Lib Dem website, Sal Brinton talks about how far we’ve come in the last month!

One thing is evident: the high calibre of our councillors and MEPs. We are back with a campaigning zeal and will be able to fight for residents, our country and against Brexit. I certainly plan to keep campaigning until we stop Brexit so they can stay there for the full five years until 2024 and I know you will too!

And on Friday we welcomed Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, to the Liberal Democrats. He has worked with us over the last three years to help fight Brexit, and defeat the Government. He recognises that we are the pro-European, liberal, centre-ground party and I am delighted he has made the decision to join us. He’s already working with his local Liberal Democrats!

I also want to welcome to the more than 20,000 new members of the Party this newsletter is going to for the first time!

She talked about our very clear message and how this has helped us cut though.

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Mistaken identity.

Oh dear.

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LISTEN: Alex Cole-Hamilton on Good Morning Scotland talking about medicinal cannabis

Karen Gray lives in the west of Edinburgh. Her six year old son, Murray, has a rare form of Epilepsy called Doose Syndrome which causes him to have multiple seizures every day. She has been battling to get Medicinal Cannabis for Murray.

The drug was licensed last year but Karen faces challenges trying to get it prescribed.

The BBC followed her to the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago, where she brought stocks of the drug back to this country, which is still technically illegal without an import licence.

You can see the difference the drug has made to Murray’s condition:

You can watch the whole documentary, which was broadcast last night, here.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: The Women’s World Cup is a fantastic force for equality but it is only the start

The Women’s World Cup is on at the moment. Christine Jardine writes for the Independent about what this means for equality in sport.

As a child I loved playing football, and nagged my parents until they bought me my own football strip. But there were few people who didn’t find my girlish enthusiasm either amusing or something to frown upon.

This is why the knowledge that six million viewers thought it worthwhile to tune in to watch two teams enjoy a platform previous generations could only dream of filled my heart with joy.

But we are still far from equality – prize money, for example, is still much higher for men than for women:

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Follow Christine Jardine during Diabetes Week

Diabetes UK is highlighting the challenges faced by people with Diabetes this week by getting 3 MPs to learn about daily life with the condition. Our Christine Jardine is taking part.

Follow her on Twitter to find out how it is going.

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The words of Trump coming from Lib Dem MPs

A video has emerged of Lib Dem MPs reading the words of Donald Trump.

Ed Davey, Jo Swinson, Christine Jardine, Tom Brake and Alistair Carmichael repeat some of his most egregious quotes.

And some of them get scarily into character.

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Who’s that with Gerald Vernon-Jackson?

The City of Portsmouth hosted world leaders for today’s D-Day commemoration.

Its Lib Dem Council Leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, captured the solemnity of the occasion.

But he found time to invoke the jealousy of 100,000 Lib Dem members by grabbing a selfie with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Kishan Devani: Lib Dems back in business

Kishan Devani joined the Liberal Democrats from the Conservatives 18 month sago and has since become a Vice President of the LIb Dem Campaign for Racial Equality.  He wrote for Asian Lite International about the fantastic results in the recent local and European elections.

Remain voters have surged to overtake anti-Brexit parties in the European elections in the UK last week, with us the Liberal Democrats achieving our best results ever! This is clearly an endorsement of our ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ & ‘Stop Brexit’ message. It is now evident that the British people want to end this madness & shambles of a process – putting an end to this entire undeliverable fantasy.

We came 1st in London and topped the poll in a number of councils where the Labour Party had won in the last European Parliament elections in 2014.

Our party which is unashamedly campaigning to cancel our exit from the European Union, came into the elections with just one representative in the European Parliament – we now have 16!

We also topped the polls in Remain-voting areas in the south east which we are targeting for the next general election, like Kingston upon Thames, Richmond Upon Thames, St Albans, Cambridge, Oxford, and Cheltenham.

Kishan says we are back in business

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LibLink: Jo Swinson Lib Dems reaped the rewards of unapologetically supporting a People’s Vote

Somewhere in the long night on Sunday, when she was dotting about between various media outlets, Jo Swinson found the time to write an article for the Times Red Box looking at the reasons for the spectacular Lib Dem success. Being clear about what we were about paid dividends.

Our message at the elections was crystal clear and it worked. Voters recognised the Liberal Democrats are the largest and strongest Remain party. For the past two and a half years we have been unapologetically making the case for a People’s Vote and we have successfully built a cross-party, cross-country movement in support of it.

But while Labour and the Tories lead the country to a disastrous Brexit, we have more to do:

Even as we celebrate these excellent results, we can’t ignore that the Brexit Party made significant gains, that the favourite in the Conservative leadership contest panders to the far right to advance his career (and is certainly not fit for public office), and that the leader of the opposition is yet to take a stance on the biggest issue of the day.

Brexit has turned us into a laughing stock internationally. It’s detracted attention for the real challenges we face, such as the climate emergency, widening inequality and struggling public services. And it’s preventing us from making the most of the technological revolution right ahead of us.

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LibLink: Ed Davey: Sajid Javid’s knife ASBOs won’t work. Here’s a better solution

In the New Statesman, Ed Davey writes that knife crime must be treated as a public health and education issue and that Sajid Javid’s punitive approach will not work.

First he outlines the problems with Javid’s Knife Crime Protection Orders:

I can’t imagine what it is about the experience of ASBOs makes Javid think they’ll work for knife crime. In some communities, ASBOs were seen as a “badge of honour”. Many young people openly flouted them. The threat of prison simply doesn’t work as a deterrent for a lot of young people.

Even worse, ASBOs consumed a lot of police time and resources, whether applying to the courts to get one or enforcing its conditions afterwards. And that was at a time when we had far more police.

If Javid doesn’t remember what a failure ASBOs were, he should just ask his boss. Theresa May, as Home Secretary, described them as “bureaucratic” and “gimmick-laden”. “They were too time consuming and expensive,” she said. “And they too often criminalised young people unnecessarily, acting as a conveyor belt to serious crime and prison.” She was right, and that’s why as Home Secretary, she abolished them.

He suggests a different approach:

I’m proposing knife ABCs: Anti-Blade Contracts.

They could be imposed the first time a young person is caught with a knife, but could also be used proactively for children involved in gangs or who might be considering carrying a knife. The young person would sign a contract saying “I will not carry a knife.” In return, they could be guaranteed services to help them feel safer: a police officer or social worker to call whenever they need them, for example.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine We all deserve the same quality of mental health care as my late husband

Christine Jardine’s column is a bit different this week. She writes about how her late husband, Calum, was affected by Bipolar Disorder. Calum Macdonald was a brilliant journalist, working for the Herald in Glasgow for many years. Although they were separated at the time of his death from a heart attack during the 2017 election campaign, they remained close.

Christine described how the quality of care Calum received helped him so much. Sadly, others aren’t so fortunate.

When we needed it, our GP was there straight away and offered daily support.

Calum had a consultation within 24 hours and the help he needed, from that moment for the next 22 years.

I will be forever grateful that we had that time, and that medical support allowed my daughter to know the affable, tolerant Calum.

But the fact that she also saw, at times, the problems her father faced has also, in some way, brought its own benefits. When I ask her, she says that she has learned to never make a concrete judgement on anyone. There may be a fuller story than the one we see.

What she argues is that the fragility of mental health can affect any of us and should be regarded with the same understanding as if it were a broken leg.

She recounted how it had first become apparent that Calum was ill:

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LibLink: Jo Swinson To secure our future, make climate change risk reporting mandatory

Jo Swinson has always been one to ask awkward questions. In an article in today’s City AM, she describes asking about corporate social responsibility during a seminar when she was a student:

…my classmates looked at me with puzzled expressions, as if I was rather off-topic.

Gone was the 1960s radicalism of the institution, and instead chasing the highest-paying banking internship was very much in vogue. When, after graduating, I chose a job placement with a small start-up company in Yorkshire on a £12,000 salary, the puzzled looks turned into disbelief.

She sets out three big changes to the way business should operate, putting responsibility to people and planet at their heart:

So, let’s start rewarding investors who are in it for the long-run and limit the powers of those who are in it just to make a quick buck. We can increase voting rights the longer an investor remains with a company, and we can taper the rate of tax for every year an investor keeps their share in the business.

Second, let’s put people at the heart of business. Let’s make it crystal clear that directors have fundamental responsibilities to their employees, their consumers, and the communities on which they depend.

Last, and by no means least, let’s get serious about the fact that we are the last generation that can stop irreversible harm to our planet. Any business that thinks it is immune to the threats we are facing is utterly deluded and is risking its own survival

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LibLink: Christine Jardine Your nationality won’t matter if we wreck the planet

Politicians must heed what young people, concerned about the future of our planet, are saying, writes Christine Jardine in her Scotsman column:

Too little time recently has been dedicated to looking at how we are damaging the planet, undermining the future of generations to come and destroying the natural world. More importantly we are letting the valuable and scarce time we have left to change things slip through our fingers.

That was also not my only encounter this week with a younger generation frustrated at the adult world’s lack of action to protect their environment. On Friday morning I visited a group of pupils at Cramond Primary School in my constituency to see their campaign to clean up the air they breathe every day.

Their presentation was impressive but so too was their commitment that their world is under threat and that we are all responsible. Everything they said echoed what I had heard earlier from Greta, and not just about climate change.

She  described the benefits of being part of the More United group of MPs working together where they agree.

She went on to talk about the distractions of Brexit, and, now, the prospect of another Scottish independence referendum and how those are overshadowing what’s important.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: May’s local elections should be about housing, social care and the environment. Not Brexit

In an article for Politics Home, Vince Cable sets out what should be the priorities for this year’s local elections:

The first is housing. The dearth of affordable housing for purchase or rent is an issue almost everywhere, and is felt by young people in particular. The depletion of the stock of council housing through ‘right to buy’ and the lack of social house building because of central government restrictions has contributed to extreme problems, including homelessness, at the bottom of the housing ladder. Yet good councils have used the planning system and their borrowing powers to get housing, especially social housing, built and have made sure that there is a safety net of hostel accommodation for the homeless (as I have recently seen in York, Watford and Somerset with Lib Dem-led councils).

A second is social care. It is now generally recognised that many of the pressures with in the NHS are caused by the inability of cash-strapped local councils to provide adequate social services support – through domiciliary care or residential homes – resulting in ‘delayed discharge’ (it used to be called ‘bed blocking’) for many sick and elderly people. The failure of central government to confront the social care issue is resulting in mounting problems, and local government is bearing much of the burden.

Thirdly, there is the environment. Those who are motivated by the big environmental issues of the day – climate change, plastics recycling and air quality – realise that local communities and individuals can and do make a contribution in either direction.  Environmentally aware local councils are rightly declaring climate emergencies; there is a race to install electric charging points for zero emission vehicles; and recycling rates and methods are under scrutiny.

But the b-word will get in the way – which will also be good for us.

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LibLink: Alistair Carminchael: The people of Hong Kong look to the UK to keep the promises we made to them

This week in Parliament, Alistair Carmichael asked an urgent question on the Foreign Office’s lack of action per the conviction of Hong King’s Umbrella Movements’s leaders. The Umbrella Movement had protested for 79 days for free and fair elections in 2015.

This week nine of the Umbrella Movement’s leaders were convicted of rarely used public order offences from the days of colonial rule. Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, described it as being “appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014”.

The response of our own Foreign Office was a silence. How embarrassing, and not for the first time.

It was only 1997 that the UK handed Hong Kong back to China. It was a handover that allowed the UK to divest itself of another vestige of empire while entering into a treaty with China which sought to provide autonomy of the former colony and a continued progression towards democracy. It was Chris Patten’s not insubstantial legacy which gave both Britain and China obligations for fifty years until 2047.

He was quick to point out a former Lib Dem leader who had stood up so vociferously for the people of Hong Kong:

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Brexit – two party system is held hostage by their extremes

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at two events in Parliament last week that she said made the place look like a black comedy:

The first came as MPs gathered in the House of Commons’ chamber for the start of what was billed as, potentially, yet another defining moment for Brexit, only to see semi-naked protesters super-glue themselves to the perspex screen in front of the public gallery. Ironically, the screen has separated the public from politicians since protesters from Fathers for Justice threw flour bombs into the chamber in 2004. This time the protest was about global warming, yet another subject which has slipped down the agenda since the ‘Deal, No-Deal or No Brexit’ drama began to dominate parliamentary life.

We have, of course, debated global warming, and the profusion of plastic waste in our seas, but these have been at the behest of backbench MPs. The UK Government had other business.

The second was the leak into the Commons Chamber in the middle of a debate on HMRC loan charges.

I doubt even the most cynical of comedy writers would have thought it a believeable plot line, but there we were. In the Mother of Parliaments, it felt as if even the building was making a comment on proceedings and I couldn’t help but agree.

She then talked about MPs gripped by frustration and fear:

However in truth, at the moment, I don’t think I am alone amongst MPs in feeling that the dominant emotions at Westminster are frustration and fear. Frustration that so many of us are agreed that we need to find a way forward out of this morass and then put it to the people, but are unable to overcome the trench warfare that has come to dominate our two-party system.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: All consuming Brexit is making this country a less caring place

Sarah Newton resigned as Disabilities Minister 3 weeks ago but she still hasn’t been replaced.

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine outlined why a new minister was needed and soon.

The Personal Independence Payments system is broken, she said, highlighting a local example:

Alexandra Mitchell from Cramond, has already highlighted the shortcomings. Born with a disability and entitled to a Motability car for years, she was mysteriously told she no longer qualified for the support, with no adequate reasoning behind the decision. Although we managed to have the decision overturned on appeal that, in itself, is not good enough. Nor is it an isolated, or even unusual, incident.

That wasn’t the end of the story, though, for Alexandra:

I again raised the case of Alexandra Mitchell who has now been told that there is an ‘end date’ of her lifelong disability. Wow, who knew the department had such powers? That they could end disability at the stroke of a pen. They can’t. And to get to the bottom of why the department thought it could, I was due to have a meeting with the Minister for Disabilities in the very week she decided that she could no longer stomach her own Government’s approach to Brexit. Since then, there has been nobody in Government tasked with addressing those issues, of which there are so many, that myself and other MPs have been keen to raise. Fortunately I had also arranged a meeting with Amber Rudd, the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to ask if she would consider changes to a Universal Credit system that has proven not fit for purpose. Again Brexit, as ever, intervened and foreshortened our meeting, but not before I had grasped the opportunity to confront the Secretary of State with the problem. To be fair, she asked me to send details of Alexandra’s case directly to her and I have.

Christine highlighted the ridiculous amount of money that the Government spends on holding appeals, most of which are upheld:

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