Author Archives: NewsHound

LibLink: Wera Hobhouse: Solving the housing crisis means using the empty houses we’ve already got

Housing spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has written for the Huffington Post about how a Liberal Democrat amendment passed in the Lords this week will help alleviate the housing crisis.

Politicians have a moral obligation to help solve this crisis, and one part of the process must be bringing empty properties back into use. Of course, we must build more homes – 300,000 per year to be precise – but bringing empty properties back into use is an excellent way in the short-term to help families in desperate need of a home, whilst saving valued green belt land from development. Equally, by bringing empty homes back into use, we can help regenerate struggling communities. After all, regions with the highest number of vacant dwellings are often also the areas that have been left behind in terms of economic growth.

Last year was the first year since the recession that the number of empty homes in England did not decrease. This is unsurprising. Tory Government cuts to local authorities hamper their enforcement capabilities. All dedicated empty homes investment programmes, programmes that my colleagues in Coalition fought tooth and nail for including my predecessor in Bath Don Foster, were severed in 2015. It was a 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto promise to reduce the number of empty homes by 250,000, and that is something they delivered in Coalition and can be incredibly proud of.

t is clear something must be done. The Liberal Democrats strongly supported the calls to double the council tax on empty homes, but now we have gone one step further. Yesterday in the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrat amendment, which increases council tax the longer you leave it empty, has been adopted and passed by Parliament. There are of course exemptions, for example where a resident is in residential or nursing care or when a member of the armed forces serves overseas for long periods. These premiums on council tax are not statutory. Councils have the flexibility to apply them or not.

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LibLink: Layla Moran: Don’t be fooled: The Chequers Plan is economic suicide

You might be fooled into believing, because of the gnashing of teeth amongst the Tory Brexiteers, that the plan thrashed out at Chequers, on which today’s White Paper was based, is hardly any Brexit at all.

Don’t believe that fiction, says Layla Moran, writing for Politics.co.uk.

First, though, she compares and contrasts two holders of that high office of state of Foreign Secretary:

The contrast between Carrington and Johnson is striking. Carrington served in Churchill’s cabinet yet was the more modern figure, seeing the importance of nations working for the common good. Johnson, in contrast, invited a photographer to capture for posterity his

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LibLink: William Wallace Aggressive language from political extremes and media will spark violence against MPs

Our William Wallace writes for Politics Home about the dangers of the language used in political discourse.

Almost at the same time, the Telegraph tweeted this:

Tom Brake was quick to call them out:

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LibLink: Sal Brinton; The NHS can’t work without a sustainable social care system

As the NHS turned 70 this week, Sal Brinton looked back at the development of social care policy and outlined the Government’s failings:

… since 2015, the new Conservative Government has dithered and delayed, repeatedly promising that they would sort out the social care funding problem.

We still await the Green Paper promised in the Conservative 2017 Manifesto – with a side skirmish of the Dementia Tax, a form of inverse Dilnot, which so outraged voters it was dropped mid election.

Councils have faced massive cuts to all services, including making £6bn savings in adult social care since 2010. They are still being

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LibLink: Ed Davey: Terminally ill homeless people are dying on our streets. They deserve dignity like the rest of us

Here’s Ed Davey talking about the latest developments with his Bill to make sure that homeless people who are terminally ill are provided with appropriate accommodation and support. If you thought that this must automatically happen, then you are sadly mistaken.

In an article for …

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LibLink: Wera Hobhouse: Upskirting will prove to be a meteorite to Westminster’s political dinosaurs

Wera Hobhouse has written for the Huffington Post about how Christopher Chope’s objection to her bill to outlaw the awful practice of upskirting brought people together, cross party, to fight for change, giving the bill a new lease of life. She describes how, last week, working with the Justice Minister, the Bill was ready for presentation in the Commons. Then came a bombshell:

The following day we found out that none other than the honourable member for the Jurassic Coast, Sir Christopher Chope, was planning to object to the bill. I lobbied his peers, they lobbied him, I even cornered him and tried to change his mind, but all to no avail. The sad reality is that Chope is sitting on a majority of 25,000, and with no governmental ambitions, feels secure in doing whatever he pleases without fear of retribution. He will block any Private Members Bill on principle, regardless of the bill’s content and merit. On the same day as upskirting, he blocked a bill to make it illegal to stab police dogs, to give carers free parking at hospitals, and has previously blocked a pardon for Alan Turing. The list goes on. True to his word he objected and was subsequently vilified for exactly what he’s been doing for the last 20 years. For a long time he has deliberately restrained progress in this country, and my sympathy for him is limited at best.

Yesterday my bill, which has been adopted by the government, was passed by the House to proceed to the Second Reading Committee. This means the second reading will be much earlier than expected, Tuesday 2 July. This type of legislative journey is very rare and reserved for legislation that is deemed uncontroversial. The decision to move so quickly is testament to how widely the bill is supported, both in Westminster, and across the country. I was glad to see no-one objected yesterday and now that sufficient progress has been made by the government, I have withdrawn my own bill.

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Seven steps you can take to fight Brexit

Jo Swinson has written for the New European on Brexit. In the style of her excellent book, Equal Power, she explains the problem and then gives you a whole list of things you can do about it.

We wake up to headlines every day which emphasise the many reasons why Brexit is a bad idea. As well as one of the key protagonists and funders of a Leave campaign having more contact with the authoritarian Russian Government than is seemly (for the avoidance of doubt, none would be seemly), the Government’s own papers suggesting we’d run out of

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Jamie Stone’s identity likely “stolen by a drug dealer in Manchester”

In a debate on cyber security this week, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone talked of his shock at receiving a letter threatening him with a fine and points on his licence for a traffic accident in Greater Manchester.

This is how it all unfolded. The Speaker started it off:

Order. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) has just sent me a most gracious letter of apology in respect of a matter for which he has no reason whatsoever to apologise. I think we ought to hear the fella.

Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

I received a letter last week from Greater Manchester police that informed me that on 18 April I was involved in a vehicle collision in Salford and that, if I am convicted, I will face a fine of £1,000 and get six points on my licence. As many Members will testify, I was in this place on 18 April. This is a clear example of identity theft. Greater Manchester police have been most helpful and told me that it is likely that a drug dealer in Manchester has stolen my identity. You will be interested to know, Mr Speaker, that he has put down my occupation as “cobbler”. I would be interested to know what the Minister has to say.

Mr Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record with considerable alacrity.

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LibLink: Dorothy Thornhill: Harry Potter and my spell as England’s longest serving woman mayor

This month, Dorothy Thornhill stepped down as Mayor of Watford after 16 years in tole. She was always very popular and left a great legacy for her successor, Peter Taylor.

She wrote for the Guardian this week about her years as Mayor, which included supporting the establishment of the Harry Potter Experience.

She looked at the advantages of towns having a directly elected Mayor:

At one level mayors have no more direct power than council leaders. But they have more soft power. You are the mayor of a place, not just the leader of a council. The mandate from the public gives you

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Labour discord over Lewisham East selection as Lib Dem Lucy Salek starts work

Lucy Salek is getting on with her campaign for Lewisham East after being selected by local Lib Dem members last night, just 3 days after the by-election was called.

Labour’s defence of the seat has not got off to the most harmonious start as there has been a row over …

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LibLink: Alex Cole-Hamilton: No such thing as a right to sex

Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has written a powerful column in the Edinburgh Evening News in which he takes apart the awful “Incel” movement’s bizarre and misogynist arguments.

He lays bare some of the stuff these people believe.

A warped political ideology has germinated in the dark chatrooms of this scene. There are lengthy and rambling discourses which amount to a deranged manifesto, preaching the need for a “global redistribution of sex”. This involves a sexual caste system where women will be forced to have sex with incel men as a punishment for being promiscuous or if they use too much make-up.

There’s no such thing as a right to sex, he points out:

Because there’s a fundamental difference between needs and wants. You need shelter, clean drinking water and access to healthcare, these are your rights. You may want sex, but no human rights lawyer is going to take the fact you aren’t getting any to Strasbourg.

Put simply, if something you want requires the enthusiastic consent of another, then you don’t have a right to it

And education about this is vital:

Whether we’re considering rape or harassment, we need to change our culture and that starts with how we raise our young people. We need to equip our children with an understanding of what an appropriate, respectful relationship looks like. Teaching young people about birth control and STDs is second nature nowadays, but when, as parents or teachers, we awkwardly ask them to carry a condom, we need to have the confidence to, in the same breath, make it clear that obtaining enthusiastic consent is just as, if not more, important.

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Former Conservative Councillor joins Liberal Democrats

Former Torbay Conservative Councillor Mark King has joined the Liberal Democrats. He left the Conservative group on the Council 6 months ago and has now joined us. From Devon Live:

He said: “It is about the failures of the Conservatives to understand the impact of their policies on the bay and the fresh start the Liberal Democrats promise in Torbay and across the UK. I want to see them take control of the bay in 2019.

“I am very concerned about the increasing economic decline of the resort, the increased poverty and deprivation and the growing housing crisis I have tried hard to counter in an Executive role.

“The Liberal Democrats understand the need to generate business and build economic success from the grassroots while ensuring council services meet community needs with the protection of the vulnerable being paramount.

“Anyone who agrees that Torbay needs to see change will know that only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Conservatives under our electoral system. Votes for anyone else just help the Conservatives win.”

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Creative industries face serious threat from Brexit

Edinburgh relies on the creative industries. For a month a year, the city is home to all sorts of weird and wonderful productions from all over the world during its iconic Festival and accompanying Fringe. It’s not surprising that the city’s Lib Dem MP is a massive supporter of the creative industries. Christine Jardine has written for the Scotsman about the damage Brexit stands to do to evens like the Festival.

She outlines the threat to the creative industries:

UK Music has warned that touring and live events will be at risk because of the potential loss of technical talent from the EU. And all events will lose a valuable stream of talent from the EU. Talent which is its life blood.

But it’s not just the impact on culture. It will have an impact on the tourism it supports. Tourism is worth around £127 billion a year to the UK. That’s about 9 per cent of GDP. Across the UK, it supports approximately 3.1 million jobs. It incorporates about quarter of a million small and medium-sized enterprises. Its growth is on a par with the digital sector we hear so much about.

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LibLink: Ed Davey: New Data Law could lead to more Windrush scandals

There’s a nasty little clause in the Data Protection Bill soon to be finalised by Parliament which means that the Home Office is under no obligation to tell people why they’ve made their decisions.

The Home Office has a fairly consistent record of showing that it needs much more accountability rather than less.

In an article for Politics Home, Ed Davey sets out the issues:

This “immigration exemption” clause would allow the Home Office to cover up its mistakes – indeed, not even find out when it had made a mistake. Because the applicant to the Home Office – or more likely their lawyer – wouldn’t be able to get access to their file, the very information used to make a decision on their future.

So, if the Home Office acts incorrectly, as they have done with Windrush documents, an individual wouldn’t be able to challenge the decision – because they won’t be allowed to know the reasons why they are being thrown out of the country. By using the new law to block the “Subject Access Requests” lawyers use to check the Home Office has got the right information on their client – and even the right person – the Home Office will become party to huge injustices. This could lead to hundreds of deportations of people who have the right to be here – people who are British citizens.

MPs who work week in, week out, know the sheer scale of the mistakes the Home Office make, every day. Latest figures from the Law Society revealed how the Home Office lose 50% of cases on appeal. And specialist lawyers have provided MPs with plenty of examples of gross Home Office errors, where the Home Office gets the wrong identity, reads their own files incorrectly and doesn’t even acknowledge the decisions it previously made about an individual.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder: Brexit threatens the very fabric of the Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday agreement works to keep the peace in Ireland and Brexit threatens it, says Catherine Bearder in an article for the New European. She illustrates the difference it has made to one community:

In the early days of the Troubles, the British Army opened a barracks in Forkhill to accommodate around 600 soldiers right next to a housing estate. Helicopters regularly took off and landed over the roofs of these homes, some even damaging them. The army controlled the television signals as well as the street lighting. It was one of the most dangerous places for British soldiers.

No one wants a return to those days.

The residents of Forkhill had been looking towards the future, not the past. On the site of the old barracks they are building a community garden and a wider project called the Peace Forest Ireland Initiative which aims to plant 4,000 trees on both sides of the border in memory of those who died during the Troubles. This is an ex-military site being redeveloped as a clear signal that the local community is moving forward, putting the past behind it.

Brexit puts all that at risk, she argues, so those who have to live with the consequences should get the chance to say if they agree with the Brexit deal:

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LibLink: Robin Teverson: It is the fuel poor who are destined to feel the post Brexit chill

There are many ways in which Brexit will harm the poorest people in our society. The cost of heating their homes is one which Lib Dem Peer Robin Teverson highlighted in a article for Politics Home this week:

The good news is that excepting a major failure in replacing the Euratom regime that regulates our nuclear power sector, and if we manage to replicate Euratom’s nuclear cooperation agreements with our overseas nuclear equipment and fuel suppliers, Brexit blackouts are not the threat.

But even here there is little room for complacency. Our home-grown replacement for Euratom – the beefed-up Office for Nuclear

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Liblink: Christine Jardine: My shock at Islamophobia wrapped up in Union flag

Twice recently, Christine Jardine has visited a Mosque in her constituency.

When she’s posted the pictures on social media, the nasty, racist comments started to flow. She wrote about that experience in the Scotsman this week:

I was brought up in Glasgow where sectarianism is almost commonplace. But I had never experienced anything like this. After removing a string of offensive and abusive comments from my page, I posted another comment asking people to be more respectful. That was a waste of time. It seems my offence was to cover my head, something my Church of Scotland-going grandmother long ago taught me

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WATCH: What’s Christine Jardine’s hidden talent?

Those nice people at Core TV have been interviewing MPs so we can find out more about them.

Remember Jamie Stone, the ferret and the pantomime dame?

Christine Jardine’s interview was very different. There was some light-hearted stuff about her hidden talents, but also some very personal reflections on the death of her husband during last year’s general election campaign which will resonate with anyone who has suffered that sort of loss.

Find out, too, what motivates her in politics, who she’s there for.

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The town that wants its own Brexit

A campaigning group in Stratford-upon-Avon believes that Brexit does not go far enough. Or rather, come close enough. They want to implement Brexit locally, so that the townsfolk can enjoy the advantages in advance of the national negotiations, without being held back by delays or transition periods.

Jack Prince and Dick Vos, leaders of the new movement, see no reason why the principles behind Brexit cannot be rolled out immediately to benefit everyone in the town. The group they have founded, dubbed STRIP (Stratford Independence for the People), has expanded from a founding nucleus of 6 to a present total of 28.

“We are hoping the public will not refer to us as strippers, like they call UKIP voters kippers”, says Prince. “So far this doesn’t seem to have happened; I think people recognise that we have a perfectly serious point to make, which deserves to be respected”.

The aim of the group is to let locals take back control of their own affairs, without interference from bureaucrats in London who do not understand the town’s history and special status.

“Stratford was a great place in Shakespeare’s day, and we want to make it great again”, explains Vos, “but we must cut the red tape that has tied our hands for so long. Give the town back to those who actually live here, not the ones who are just passing through, taking advantage of all our facilities”.

Thousands of foreign tourists invade Stratford every year, traipsing through Shakespeare’s birthplace, causing damage for which locals must foot the bill.  Not to mention the traffic congestion and additional road repairs needed. So should a wall be built for security, following the example of York and other famous English towns in the past? 

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LibLink: Sal Brinton: Ministers must protect our NHS against privatisation

This week, Sal Brinton and others argued in the House of Lords that action was needed to ensure that Brexit didn’t open the door to privatisation of the NHS.

She wrote about the issue for The House magazine:

If you asked most people what effect Brexit would have on our health service, regardless of how they voted in the Referendum, I suspect they will cite that large red bus from the Leave referendum campaign stating the EU costs the UK £350m per week, which on leaving could be invested in the NHS. Not only was this untrue, but there are now figures to show that the cost of leaving to our economy could be equal to £350m per week. And, at a time of unprecedented pressure on the NHS, it needs urgent and real investment to prevent it crumbling.

However, one of the lesser known pillars of protecting our NHS is also at risk with Brexit. With more and more parts of its services being put out to tender, the NHS has been protected by the EU Directive on Public Health Procurement. This directive governs the way in which public bodies purchase goods, service and works and seeks to guarantee equal access and fair competition for public contracts in the EU markets. It was approved in 2014 and includes protection for clinical services and more legal clarity on the application of procurement rules.

She also looked at some of the wider impacts on the Health Service that Brexit will have:

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Jo Swinson on leadership, the importance of humility and meeting a hero

This afternoon, Jo Swinson will be speaking at the “Aye Write” book festival in Glasgow.

Ahead of that, she gave a long interview to the Sunday Herald. Here are some of the highlights:

She talked about how the author of the book she had requested as a prize at school had got in touch with her:

When Jo Swinson was a teenager, studying at Douglas Academy in Milngavie, she was awarded the Senior Dux prize for achievement, and was given a trophy plus a book of her choice. What she opted for, as she describes in her book Equal Power: And How You Can Make It Happen, was a popular title by Kate White, a journalist who would later go on to edit Cosmopolitan. It was called Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do.

Swinson croons her enthusiasm when I mention the book. Recently, she tells me, she gave it a mention in a World Book Day article and as a result the author got in touch with her. “I’m just so over the moon about this,” says Swinson. “I got this email from her last week, out of the blue, saying I’m so touched that this book made such an impact. She said she’d like to meet up for a coffee. I’m so beside myself with excitement that I’ll have to try not to be a dreadful fan girl.”

She also explained why she had not gone for the Lib Dem leadership last year.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Brexiters wanted to take back control but we risk losing control of Ireland

Nick Clegg has been in Ireland this week talking about Brexit with fellow Remainers Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis.

In his iPaper column, he talks about the massive problems Brexit will cause.

We also share responsibility for a precious peace in Northern Ireland. But too many ministers, including the Prime Minister, have treated these obligations as inconvenient obstacles on the way to the hardest of Brexits. It was the same situation during the referendum, when leading Brexiteers were quick to dismiss any concerns about the Irish border. But there is no avoiding the obvious consequences of the British government’s determination to interpret the 2016 referendum result as a mandate to take the UK out of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Doing so will see a land border created between the EU and the UK for the first time, and if the tariffs, standards and regulations adopted by the UK diverge from that of the EU, then a working border, with customs checks, will be unavoidable.

So how do we get out of it? Parliament, Nick says, can vote it down, but some people just shouldn’t bother turning up because they just won’t help:

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Swinson: EU nationals won’t be convinced by Labour

Buzzfeed has done an analysis of our prospects in this May’s elections. They talked to former LDV co-editor Mark Pack and the party’s Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.

The Party is going after EU Nationals’ votes and has invested in a series of social media adverts targeted at various nationalities.

Swinson said EU nationals would not be convinced by Labour’s stance. “They are pretty furious at the current government and also not too impressed with Labour’s position because Labour are really letting the government off the hook when it comes to Brexit,” she said.

“In terms of the front benches and the direction

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Jess Insall’s clarion call for gender-neutral school uniforms

Given that there has been some comment about this policy proposal in the media and in some Liberal Democrat circles, it seemed like a good idea to publish Jess’s speech to Party Conference this weekend by way of answering some of the sceptics…

Thank you Chair, thank you Conference.

I am bursting for positive change. As a feminist, as an LGBTQ+ rights activist, and as a liberal democrat.

And we are making so many positive changes, but our schools are being caught short. There is one problem that causes so much harm, but is so

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Liberal Democrats call for new housing revolution

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a major overhaul of the powers of local councils to meet the goal of ensuring that everyone in Britain has a home.

The package, passed by the party at its Spring Conference in Southport, calls for new powers that will see local authorities able to build and invest in more affordable and social housing. This includes greater access to borrowing for local authorities, strengthened powers to bring empty homes back into use and the power to direct the use of otherwise unwanted public land. Alongside measures to allow local government to abandon Right to Buy …

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Tories must ditch red lines for the Rock

In this week’s New European, Vince Cable says that the British citizens on Gibraltar must not be sacrificed in the Brexit negotiations.

Clause 24 of the EU 27’s joint negotiating position, published in April last year, included a Spanish veto over the application of any deal between the EU and UK over Gibraltar. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said it was “plainly obvious” that such a veto would be part of the EU’s negotiating guidelines. Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, described clause 24 as “discriminatory and unfair”.

A footnote to the draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement published last month confirmed that this veto would also apply to the transitional period. The Gibraltarian government has rightly pointed out that “by its very definition, transition is a continuation of the existing European Union legal border” and therefore this veto cannot apply.

Spain’s claim to Gibraltar is fatally undermined by the statistic that 98% of Gibraltarians want to remain British and there is no sign of that view changing. The Conservatives’ first act in response to the publication of the joint negotiating position should have been to insist on the removal of clause 24 – instead they gave us a general election that further weakened the Prime Minister’s bargaining power in Europe, because she ended up losing her Parliamentary majority.

Fortunately, Spain’s hard-line stance has slightly softened. Foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has been clear that he doesn’t want a border closure, which last occurred under General Franco in 1969. Such a move would be mutually damaging: disastrous for the 13,000 people who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar and leave the Rock with a staff shortage.

But the veto remains and Gibraltar’s politicians have sounded out legal opinions that would see them take the European Commission to court over clause 24.

Moreover, Spain continues to demand joint control of the Rock’s airport, which is, after all, British infrastructure on British soil. This might seem a reasonable suggestion for a post-Brexit relationship, but this should be seen in the context of even the seemingly reasonable Dastis pointing out that “sovereignty is something we aspire to, that we are not renouncing”.

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Lib Dem Councillor Suzy Horton mentioned on Amnesty’s Suffragette Spirit map

Portsmouth Lib Dem Councillor has been named one of Amnesty’s Suffragette Spirit human rights defenders.

Suzy represents the city’s Central Southsea ward. From The News:

While over in Southsea, Councillor Suzy Horton’s dedication to inspiring people to think differently on issues from homelessness to equality.

She recently tabled a motion to commemorate the centenaries of both women’s suffrage in the UK and the election of Portsmouth’s first female councillor.

From an earlier News article:

Liberal Democrat Councillor Suzy Horton has proposed a motion to have a blue plaque installed at number 2 Kent Road,

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WATCH: Layla Moran talk about gender neutral school uniforms

The quality of education only improves if people feel comfortable in what they are wearing

So said Layla Moran on yesterday’s Daily Politics in a discussion about gender neutral school uniforms.

Watch the whole thing here:

Posted in News | 12 Comments

“Cook along with Miriam”

Spotted in Saturday’s Guardian, an article in a series of celebrity cooking with a difference, where Stephen Bush attempts to cook meals suggested by celebrities and comments on how he got on. It would be fair to say that he wasn’t impressed with Paul Newman…

Miriam González Durántez, on the other hand, seems to have been rather more convincing;

On Wednesday I make meatballs. Because González Durántez – or “Notorious MGD” as I have taken to referring to her – is a badass, her recipe for her children’s meatballs includes a glass of white

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TUC General Secretary to meet with cross-party leaders to set out Brexit concerns

The TUC’s General Secretary has accepted an invitation to speak to a group of cross-party opposition leaders about the TUC’s position on Brexit.

Frances O’Grady will meet with the Westminster leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party to discuss the need for a Brexit that protects workers’ rights, jobs and livelihoods of millions of people across the UK.

The General Secretary will also set out why the TUC believes that single market membership and customs union should be on the table for the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

The meeting is set …

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