Author Archives: NewsHound

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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LibLink: Layla Moran: It’s time for the UK to recognise the state of Palestine

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, the first MP of Palestinian descent, has written for Politics Home about why the UK should recognise the state of Palestine:

As things stand now the peace process is nowhere to be found. It is a fallacy to think that there is still an ongoing peace process and the international community are ignorant if they think anything else. The political agenda has been hijacked by extremists on both sides and I am very clear that as a part of that, Hamas must go: their presence is setting the dialogue back considerably.

With this breakdown of the peace process, and the US now missing from the international effort, it is more important than ever that the UK steps up and uses its influence and voice. The UK can help restore a sense of hope for Palestinians, we can help bring the parties back to the negotiating table, and we can help level the playing field. But we can only do that if we recognise the state of Palestine. Saying that we believe in a two-state solution without recognising one of those states ourselves would be laughably hypocritical if it weren’t so damaging.

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Christine Jardine: A tax on women just for being women is plain wrong

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine describes seeing an offer for deodorant for £1 in a pharmacy. Men could buy a full size can. Women got a travel size.

That encapsulates the problem that she is trying to sort out in a Bill aimed at tackling the so-called “Pink Tax” she is introducing today.

The women’s movement has come a long way. Parliament itself is an example. We don’t have a perfect gender balance yet, but we do have the largest number of women ever elected, and the green benches are beginning to look vaguely like the country we are there to represent. But discrimination is still there in everyday life in so many ways that often we simply don’t notice.

Next time you are shopping take a careful note of some of the prices on the shelves. You may not notice it at first but over time you may begin to see a trend.

I hadn’t really noticed that the so-called ‘Pink Tax’ was an issue until it was pointed out to me by a colleague, so I went into a high-street pharmaceutical store to see for myself.

It seems that women get hit with a double whammy: they make less for doing the same work, and then they pay more for the same product or service just because it’s ‘for’ women. Discrimination on gender grounds is illegal, and whether women are paying more for a pink razor, deodorant from the same brand, or for an identical piece of clothing, it’s time to say enough is enough. There is absolutely no reason why men and women should pay different prices for exactly the same products or services.

In an article that starts with a reference to her hero, Billie Jean King, and is crammed full of tennis metaphors, she goes on to talk about Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women, which is being published this week. This describes the gender data gap:

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LibLink Jane Dodds: Why the Welsh Lib Dems want to trial Universal Basic Income in Wales

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds supports the Universal Basic Income as a means to tackle poverty and inequality.

She explains why in an article for Nation Cymru:

In Wales, like the rest of the UK, we are seeing increasing homelessness and food bank use.

We need to look for progressive solutions and to continue to oppose government policies that demonise the poor.

One possible solution is Universal Basic Income (UBI), an idea that has been the subject of much debate across the political spectrum, including within my own party.

UBI is rooted in the idea that people seek purpose and, if given the opportunity and freedom to do so, will make the best decisions about their lives. As a Liberal I strongly believe everyone should be able to make decisions about their own lives and live a life they are proud of.

UBI would give people a guaranteed minimum income, giving them the freedom to live their lives and make decisions of their own free will, not on the basis of where their next paycheque comes from.

Opponents of UBI argue that it would damage economic growth and lead to fewer people in work, but I think this view underestimates people. Money is only one factor driving us to work and I suspect that most people would take the freedom UBI would give them to pursue the job they’ve always wanted to do, not quit work altogether.

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Lib Link: Shas Sheehan Government must defend DFID’s autonomy and expertise

Enshrining the 0.7% GDP for international aid provision in law was a brilliant Lib Dem achievement brought about by former Lib Dem Secretary of State Mike Moore.

Now it is coming under threat by Tories who have always opposed it. In an article for Politics Home, Lib Dem peer Shas Sheehan writes a blistering defence of it.

Enshrining in law the UK’s aid commitment was a hugely progressive step. But it has been haunted by years of attack from Conservative MPs such as former and current DFID Secretaries Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt. The latest person to take aim at this life-saving budget is Boris Johnson.

Boris’ backing of the paper Global Britain: A Blueprint for the 21st Century is shameful. The paper calls for a severe, multi-billion-pound cut to UK’s Overseas Aid budget and closure of DFID. It shrugs off the fact that this budget has played a major role in the fight to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development across the world. It dismisses the fact that it has helped to transform people’s lives and lift many out of inhumane conditions.

Far from positioning post-Brexit Britain as a global player regaining its place on the world stage, slashing the UK aid budget and threatening our place in the OECD’s forum of major international donors instead paints the UK as an inward-looking island no longer in step with the realities of the contemporary world. As Save the Children have said, the UK is an International Development superpower but these suggestions risk that. Brexit is already threatening our seat at the top table, we must not allow Conservative whims to threaten it further.

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“Playing chicken with the country” – and the possibility of revoking Article 50

Lib Dem MPs have been out and about in the media this week.

Christine Jardine took Labour to task for their abject failure to oppose the Government properly.

Layla took to Twitter to give a Valentine’s Day message – and she mentioned the possibility of revoking article 50 if we get to March 29th and there is still no deal. Like Christine before her she talked about May’s game of chicken with the country. Definitely a theme here. .

On Bloomberg, Jo Swinson took a coach and horses through Theresa May’s Brexit policy from the beginning, saying that public opinion had changed and the best way forward was a People’s Vote.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Ministers must properly address the Special Educational Needs and Disability funding crisis

Vince Cable is holding a Westminster Hall debate on funding for special educational needs and disability this afternoon.

In an article for Politics Home, he outlines the impact on families when they don’t have the support that they need…

A single mum in a small flat with a child who needs constant attention while she tries to look after other children, and hold down a job to make ends meet; a couple who have sacrificed careers, holidays and a social life to care for a child with severe, complex needs, seeing the child growing up to an adulthood of continued dependence while they themselves are ageing and their own relationship is falling apart. There are numerous variations of these.

Of course, there are also happier stories.  Stories where support provided in school or via the local authority or health service makes all the difference.  But for every family who does not get the support they need, there is an unacceptable impact for parents and children alike.

Local authorities are under huge financial stress, however:

At a human level a painful conflict results between parents who want the best for their children (and have the law on their side) and local authorities who want to do their best but are under financial stress after years of painful cuts. More and more requests for EHCPs are being declined or delayed, and funding cuts have led to reductions in the specialist teachers and educational psychologists who provided expert advice to schools teaching SEND pupils. Rationing has taken the form of foot-dragging over ‘statements’, now ‘care plans’.  And attempts to mandate adequate local schooling rather than what parents consider to be superior specialist schools, often leading to tribunals, with additional cost, emotional stress and anger.

So is it just a question of more money?

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Lib Dems challenge use of civil servants to advise Tory compromise seekers

Politics Home’s Ross Kempsell reported today that eight of the eleven Lib Dem MPs have written to the Cabinet Secretary today. They want to know whether it’s ok for our impartial civil service to be diverted from their jobs to advise the group of Tory MPs who are trying to thrash out a Brexit compromise.

Surely our Civil Servants have something better to do than look for a sticking plaster that is going to keep the Tory Party together for the 15 minutes they have to spend in a voting lobby?

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Don’t let healthy scepticism about China become paranoia

A tasty breakfast

As Business Secretary, Vince Cable was responsible for global trade and had to deal with the growing economic might of China. He writes about this in an article for City AM.

He has a stark warning for those seeking a trade deal. It’s not going to be much fun without 27 of your mates to watch your back:

And while the EU with its combined heft is able to be both tough and constructive, Britain on its own will be a largely powerless supplicant. I suspect that the Chinese, seeing Britain desperate for a trade deal of its own, will

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4 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Welsh Liberal Democrats recommit to supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing

To mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week (4th February – 10th February), the Welsh Liberal Democrats are recommitting to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Wales’ children and young people.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister has taken a number of steps intended to promote mental health and wellbeing in schools. This includes developing a whole-school approach to mental health, connecting schools with mental health expertise, and taking forward curriculum reform with a strong emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, commented:

The

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LibLink: Martin Thomas invokes the Bribery Act…

The noble and learned Lord Thomas of Gresford, QC, waded into the debate on “Government investments in communities where Labour MPs might be willing to support the Government” in a letter to The Times on Saturday.

PORK-BARREL BRIBES

Sir, The offer of cash subsidies to an MP for the benefit of his or her constituents provided the MP votes for the government’s withdrawal agreement is a breach of section 1 of the Bribery Act 2010 (“May woos Labour MPs with cash to back Brexit”, Jan 31, and letters, Feb 1). The MP party to such an agreement is in breach of …

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2-3 February 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Cavity appearing in NHS dental workforce
  • Product safety symbol another Brexit hit for businesses
  • Nuclear treaty withdrawal risks global instability
  • Cable: Nissan decision symbolises the loss of confidence in the UK

Cavity appearing in NHS dental workforce

Responding to the reports that 1 in 4 new patients not currently on the books with an NHS dentist have tried and failed to secure an appointment due to recruitment problems, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

This statistic is appalling and should be to Matt Hancock and those in the Conservative Government. As we see more and more dentists leave the NHS, it is clear that it

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1 February 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Tories failing to act on modern slavery in car washes
  • Lib Dems: Nobody should take lectures from Liam Fox
  • Landmark conviction in fight to stamp out FGM
  • Tories leading us to a Brexit wasteland

Tories failing to act on modern slavery in car washes

The Liberal Democrats have called for urgent action to tackle modern slavery in hand car washes after Conservative Ministers rejected a licensing scheme in their response to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Commission.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

Yet again the Tories are failing to take the necessary action to tackle modern slavery, even though

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Vince: The time will come for the People’s Vote

So, Vince’s The Leader column on the Party’s website looks like it’s becoming a regular thing.

This week, he talks about Tuesday night’s Brexit votes:

If there is a big loser from yesterday it is Jeremy Corbyn; his speech was beyond abysmal, embarrassing to his own side. It was the culmination of two years of procrastination: sitting on the fence over Brexit. A Labour rebellion last night helped the government snuff out a whole series of constructive amendments which would have probably opened a way forward, perhaps to a People’s Vote.

So where do we go next? The Prime Minister has been sent to Brussels to renegotiate, reopening the Withdrawal Agreement on the ‘Irish Backstop’ which she has been told repeatedly is not negotiable. There is a possibility that, in search of a quiet life, the EU Heads of Government and the Commission give in and abandon Ireland. I think not.

So what happens next – soon the People’s Vote has its chance:

So after two weeks pursuing her backbenchers’ fantasies (more time wasting), Theresa May then comes back without a new agreement and we finally reach a dead end: the deal which she originally negotiated versus ‘no deal’. No Deal then becomes a live possibility – no longer just bluff in a dangerous game of chicken. I believe that if we reach that choice, sanity will prevail. Theresa May will see the logic in taking her deal to the country in a People’s Vote against the option of remain.

He spoke to Japanese companies this week and suggests that we are in for a quiet exodus:

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LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt writes about the need for a new politics in Britain

We seldom consider the view of British politics from beyond our shores, something even Liberal Democrats are poor at. So, here’s a perspective from someone whose view matters, regardless of what his opponents might say…

Guy Verhofstadt has written for Project Syndicate on what he sees as being necessary for Britain to move beyond Brexit. He starts with a précis of the current position;

The populist revolts in the United States and the United Kingdom have each reached a critical juncture. At the start of his third year in office, US President Donald

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Vince Cable tells Theresa May, “the votes may be there for a People’s Vote”

Yesterday, Vince Cable wrote to Theresa May, offering her a way to solve her Brexit crisis…

Prime Minister

I appreciate the opportunity to have had a proper conversation with you about our views on the way forward on Brexit and my colleagues have had a useful discussion with yours about the practicalities of a referendum and its timing. We have followed up the discussions with a note to David Liddington setting out our views on how a People’s Vote could be organised quickly.

Our positions are, at first sight, far apart. But I reiterate the point that, as it currently stands, your plan

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: A People’s Vote is the only way for our country to move forward

Alistair Carmichael emerges from the shadows of his Chief Whip’s role to make the case for a People’s Vote in the Herald in his own inimitable style. First he sets the scene.

Instead of trotting out platitudes (“Brexit means Brexit” – remember that one?) and promising the undeliverable to the insatiable on her own right wing and the DUP (we shall leave the Customs Union AND have no hard border between the North and the South AND we shall have no border in the Irish Sea) she could have built a consensus in the House of Commons.

There are two obstacles to sorting this out – one is May’s intransigence. The other is Jeremy Corbyn:

Challenged in yesterday’s confidence debate the self-styled Leader of The Opposition was unable to say whether, in the event of winning his general election he would press ahead with Brexit or not. That apparently would be up to his party.

When I asked him then if he would follow the policy endorsed by his party members at their conference in September and back a people’s vote after the confidence motion had failed his answer was also less than unequivocal.

As they might have said aboard the Starship Enterprise, “It’s leadership, Jim, but not as we know it”.

The Lib Dems first came up with the idea of a People’s Vote two years ago and it didn’t exactly catch on:

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WATCH: Jo Swinson argue with Labour’s Richard Burgon

It’s not the wisest thing in the world to take down someone who agrees with you and is instinctively going to do what you want.

Shadow Labour Justice Spokesperson Richard Burgon was excessively grumpy with Jo Swinson this evening.

Having gone on about how the big enemy was the Conservatives, he chose to then go on the attack about the Coalition. You’d never think that Labour had been propping up the Conservatives and enabling their Brexit shambles. Any half competent main opposition party would have made sure that Theresa May was coming back from Buckingham Palace in a taxi within an hour of tonight’s vote.

Jo handled it really well.

Jon Snow intervened to tell Richard hew as being “awfully beastly.”

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Don’t leave it to someone else

At the end of last year, the local party in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk chose Jenny Marr to fight the seat at the next General Election.

She’s written about the importance of getting involved in the political process by voting and beyond for the Scot Women Stand website.

It’s another thing to add to the to do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there’s the appeal of Love Island or similar which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.

But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right – some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know.

My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.

He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.

And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

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Generosity, compassion, 3am phone calls and no watching rugby – David Laws’ heartfelt tribute to Paddy

It’s still hard to get our heads round the fact that Paddy is no longer with us.

So many tributes have been paid to him. One particularly touching one was published on Somerset Live at the weekend. David Laws, who worked for Paddy and who succeeded him as MP for Yeovil, talked about life with this great character. Here’s an extract:

But those who knew Paddy best, most valued his personal qualities, not the titles or impressive CV.

He was a voracious worker, a natural leader, a person of great courage and conviction, and of a generous, compassionate and progressive spirit. He was, also, a deeply loyal friend and loving family man.

Politics is generally a profession of long hours and hard work, in spite of its reputation. But even in this field, Paddy was exceptional. Work was completed swiftly, with ruthless efficiency.

Party conference speeches had reached draft number 20, a month before they were needed. No holiday of his was ever truly a rest. No hour in the morning was too early for an urgent call, no time at night too late.

Indeed, Paddy once asked me to keep my pager to hand after 2am, in case he needed to be in touch “around 3am”!

And he never, ever, stopped. I remember telling him, after we had completed one lengthy five-hour Advice Centre in Yeovil on a Saturday, that I was going home to see a rugby match on TV.

“What!”, he said, “Spend over two hours doing nothing but watching sport?”

He was genuinely mystified that anyone could want to stop productive work for so long.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

LibLink: Olly Grender Paddy Ashdown leaves behind a legacy of profound decency and kindness

Olly Grender, who for so long was one of Paddy Ashdown’s closest colleagues, has written a lovely tribute to him in the New Statesman.

She highlights how he was willing to say things that weren’t popular but showed his commitment to liberal and humanitarian values:

“As Liberal Democrat leader (from 1988-1999) he “banged on about Bosnia” every week in parliament, to the groans of most MPs, but he was vindicated: a humanitarian atrocity was happening on Europe’s doorstep. He fought for the Hong Kong Chinese to obtain British citizenship, a deeply unpopular position

Posted in News | Tagged | 5 Comments

LibLink: Christine Jardine Death at Westminster shames world’s fifth largest economy

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine has what she calls a “proper pointy-fingered rant” about homelessness:

“I won’t use the word I’m thinking, it’s what you might term unparliamentary language. Let’s just leave it at I am disappointed. Yes, there are often social, medical or family issues responsible for people sleeping rough, and most people who are homeless are not on the street. I also agree that we need to tackle those issues in very different and specific ways. Building more houses will not help those who need social care, perhaps because they got into a spiral

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 32 Comments

LibLink: Layla Moran: MPs should not get Christmas off in the middle of this Brexit crisis

MPs should be in Parliament sorting out the Brexit crisis, argues Lib Dem MP Layla Moran in an article for Times Red Box (£). She put up the text on her Facebook page:

It’s time to cancel Christmas. Well, for MPs at least.

I’ve been struggling to put into words my anger and frustration at this clustershambles of a government and this inept official opposition over the past few days.

In the real world outside this Westminster bubble, any company facing such an existential crisis would not allow its executives time off. Let’s not forget that we are less than 100 days away from an event so theoretically cataclysmic in the case of no deal that soldiers have been put on standby to prepare for it.

People understandably expect us to be in the office and sorting things out — Christmas or no Christmas. It is time for MPs to step up and get this national crisis sorted.

Leaving this crisis unresolved until January makes parliament look so inept and out of touch to the voters who rightly expect better. Billions of pounds is being spent by the government on preparing for a no deal and as businesses, the NHS and other public services start to put in place no-deal contingencies, parliament could not look any more out of touch — taking weeks off for Christmas while the fire burns all around us.

Liberal Democrats demand better — by having these debates and the meaningful vote now. If that means we have to vote between Christmas and new year, or even on Christmas Day itself, then so be it.

It is worth saying that claims that the choice is between Theresa May’s deal or no deal are a lie. A no-deal scenario can and will be stopped. We can move to a public vote on the deal at any time and moreover parliament can revoke article 50 if necessary. The government needs to stop trying to hoodwink us into believing that no deal is still on the table.

But to get to that point there are hoops we need to jump through first. Let’s get the inevitable defeat out the way so we can move on and find a way forward.

Let’s get on with the vote of no confidence (if Jeremy ever decides to do some opposing). Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid and the Greens have put down a proper confidence motion compliant with the rules of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. All it takes is for Jeremy to add his signature.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments
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