Author Archives: NewsHound

Tim Farron on decarbonising steel production and that coal mine

Tim Farron spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on steel production yesterday:

Steel is vital to our green economy. As Britain decarbonises with new infrastructure based on steel, let us make sure that we also decarbonise the processes we use to make that steel.

His comments come in the shadow of the government approving the controversial Woodhouse coal mine in Whitehaven, the first deep coal mine in England since 1986.

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Survation: Majority of Conservative councillors dissatisfied with own party’s performance

This week Survation reported the results of a survey undertaken in the last month. They polled 710 councillors of all parties across the UK. The results are interesting, if painfully predictable for the Tories.

Survation asked the councillors to assess the local performance of their party in 2022. Liberal Democrats came out with a net satisfaction rating of +92% (which is remarkably high); Labour councillors had a net satisfaction of +73%, but the Conservatives came in with a miserable +21%. Note that this is their assessment of their local performance for which they were responsible.

If you think that last figure is low, it gets far worse when councillors were asked about their party’s national performance. On that, the Conservative councillors net satisfaction is a staggering -53% (note the negative). In fact 72% of Tory councillors said they were somewhat or extremely dissatisfied with the performance of the Conservatives nationally, compared with only 19% who were somewhat or extremely satisfied.

Labour and Liberal Democrats managed net satisfaction ratings of their party’s national performance of +65% and +56% respectively.

The survey also explored the favourability rating of the various party leaders. You can read more detail in the report, but it is worth mentioning how the main party leaders were viewed by Lib Dem councillors: Not surprisingly Ed Davey had a net favourability of +80%, while Keir Starmer achieved +5%, and Rishi Sunak was on -76%.

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LibLink: Lib Dems plan ‘Labour squeeze’ in fight for suburban Tory seats

The Guardian has today covered reports that the Liberal Democrats will be attempting to squeeze the Labour vote in key target seats. Now, whilst this may not come as a huge surprise to Liberal Democrat activists, the article does offer some useful quotes from the likes of Zoe Franklin, our PPC in Guildford, noting the issues that arise from younger voters moving out of London;

We’re really aware of this shift of people moving from London,” Franklin said. “They would normally vote for Labour, but now found themselves in Surrey, and one of the things we really need to get

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Sarah Olney criticises “appalling” rush to pass anti Strike Bill

Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney has criticised the “appalling” way the Government is trying to “sneak” through its new anti strike measures with the bare minimum of Parliamentary scrutiny. MPs will have two days to debate the measures.

Reported in the Standard, Sarah said:

It’s appalling for Conservative ministers to try and sneak this sweeping new law through with barely any scrutiny from MPs. It’s almost like they know their Bill would fall apart under even the lightest examination.

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LibLink: Wera Hobhouse – UK must commit to phasing down fossil fuels for good

In an article for Politics Home, Lib Dem spokesperson for climate change Wera Hobhouse argued that 2023 must be the year that the UK finally commits to a timescale for phasing down fossil fuels for good.

This year we witnessed the consequences of climate change first hand. The British summer saw temperatures of over 40 degrees and Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine left us exposed to volatile international markets, unveiling the true cost of our dependence on fossil fuels.

Evidence shows the phasing down of fossil fuel production being vital to preventing temperatures rises above 1.5 degrees. But the United Kingdom is the second largest producer of oil and gas in Europe and is actively encouraging greater North Sea extraction.

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Lib Dems call for government to declare NHS “major incident”

Over the New Year, Lib Dem MPs have been attacking the government’s record on our crisis ridden NHS. Government ministers are conspicuous by their absence and have not yet responded, leaving any comment to civil servants.

Today’s Times, Guardian the Independent and other media report that people are resorting to DIY medical treatments after failing to get face-to-face appointments with GPs. Some go to A&E instead. But up to 500 people a week are dying due to A&E delays according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Several NHS trusts have declared critical incidents. Ambulance staff in some trusts have been urged to conserve oxygen supplies due to a surge in demand.

The British Medical Association said:

The current situation in the NHS is intolerable and unsustainable, both for our patients and the hardworking staff desperately trying to keep up with incredibly high levels of demand.

The BMA has repeatedly invited the government to sit down and talk about the pressures on our health service, but their silence is deafening. It is disingenuous for the prime minister to talk about ‘backing the NHS’ in his new year message, when his own health secretary is failing to discuss how this crisis can be fixed.”

Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem health spokesperson said:

This is a life or death situation for huge numbers of patients. The NHS is collapsing in front of our eyes whilst the Prime Minister and Health Secretary are nowhere to be seen. This is a national crisis and the country will never forgive the Government if they refuse to recall Parliament whilst hundreds of people die in parked ambulances or hospital corridors.

Nobody should lose a loved one because the Government was asleep on the job.

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Only 40 armed forces paramedics are qualified to work in the NHS

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There are only 40 paramedics in the armed forces who would be qualified to work in the NHS, figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The government has admitted in response to a parliamentary question that the armed forces have 107 paramedics, of which 40 are confirmed as meeting the qualification requirements set out by the Health and Care Professions Council. These are the qualifications needed in order to practise as a paramedic in the UK.

The figures were uncovered through a parliamentary question tabled by Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP.

It comes as the government has set out plans to bring in military personnel to drive ambulances and support the NHS during the strikes due to take place this month.

Daisy Cooper said:

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Office for National Statistics: Real wages have fallen by 2.7%

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The Office for National Statistics
has reported that “total and regular pay in the UK fell 2.7% when adjusted for inflation in the three months from August to October”.

Responding to this morning’s news, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

This is just the tip of the iceberg with families facing a nightmarish interest rate rise in just 48 hours time.

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Christine Jardine: Donald Trump is a warning, not an inspiration

Christine Jardine has been sharing her dream in her Scotsman column this week. And it isn’t pretty:

In this sleep-induced scenario, some Donald Trump sound-alike was holding court in Edinburgh, draped in tartan, surrounded by saltires and spouting endless meaningless slogans. Fortunately, they had stopped short of wearing a bright blue Tam O’Shanter bearing the motif “Make Alba Great Again”.

And people in the crowd which had gathered were not all there to cheer and applaud the separatist dream being espoused at the flag-laden centre of events. No. Many of those in the imaginary demonstration were instead calling for help for the nurses and other health workers who have to cope with long shifts looking after wards with too many patients and too few staff.

This echoes the feeling of many Scots that the Scottish Government needs to sort out the crisis in its public services instead of looking to populism to stoke up division over the constitution.

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Vince Cable destroys Braverman’s anti international students rhetoric

This week’s net migration figures have driven the Government to set their sights on reducing the numbers of international students. Suella Braverman has had them in her sights for a while, saying last month:

“We’ve also got a very high number of students coming into this country and we’ve got a really high number of dependents. So students are coming on their student visa, but they’re bringing in family members who can piggyback onto their student visa. Those people are coming here, they’re not necessarily working or they’re working in low-skilled jobs, and they’re not contributing to growing our economy.”

As Business Secretary during the coalition years, former Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable was in charge of international student numbers and had numerous battles with then Home Secretary Theresa May about them.

Writing on Medium, he has taken Braverman to task about her anti student rhetoric.

Preoccupied by the headline numbers, she has promised a ‘crack down’. This is to take the form of cutting visas for dependents — that is, married students — and for those seeking ‘low quality’ degrees. I recall the same pejorative language being used to dismiss any university not in the Russell Group. Other than sheer academic snobbery, it is difficult to see the substance behind this distinction. In ‘left behind’ parts of Britain it is often the less fashionable and less prestigious, but good quality, new universities which are a mainstay of the local economy. It is reassuring to hear that the Chancellor is warning that the proposed ‘crackdown’ will ‘harm the economy’ and that the Education Secretary is committed to defending British universities.

He highlights the benefits that international students bring:

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Warm spaces in Watford

The Lib Dem directly elected Mayor of Watford stars in this video about warm spaces in his borough:

Note, if you can’t see the embedded tweet click here.

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Lib Dems warn on education funding ahead of this morning’s budget

The i reported that figures obtained by Lib Dems from the Commons Library show that due to inflation eating into Whitehall budgets, schools and hospitals will receive £10.7bn less than they were expecting in 2024-25.

Ed Davey, Munira Wilson and Sarah Olney have written to Jeremy Hunt highlighting how current budgetary pressures are affecting schools in their constituencies.

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Families face near £5,000 bombshell from Autumn Statement

A typical family could face an eye-watering £4,900 triple whammy hit from today’s Autumn Statement, analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The research shows the combined impact of expected stealth taxes, energy bill rises and mortgage bill hikes next year. In the year 2022/23, a typical family of two basic rate taxpayers with a mortgage will face a total hit of nearly £5,000.

The party’s research has shown that there would be an additional £680 a year in income tax, due to the freeze of the personal allowance. Households could also face an increase of £1,200 a year in their energy bill, once the energy price cap is unfrozen in April.

Finally, due to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget, a typical family will see an annual increase of around £3,000 in their mortgage payments, due to soaring interest rates in the aftermath of the mini-budget.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement on Thursday, the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to put a proper windfall tax on the profits of the fossil fuel giants. They are also calling for the Introduction of a new Mortgage Protection Fund and to increase pensions and benefits at least in line with inflation.

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++Gavin Williamson resigns from the cabinet

The Guardian reports:

Gavin Williamson dramatically quit Rishi Sunak’s cabinet on Tuesday night after the Guardian revealed claims that he told a senior civil servant they should “slit your throat” while he was defence secretary.

The Cabinet Office minister stepped down after the former Whitehall aide put in a formal complaint to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), piling more pressure on Sunak over his decision to reappoint his ally.

Responding to the news, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

This should be the third and final time Gavin Williamson is forced out of the Cabinet.

Rishi Sunak has serious questions

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Ed Davey on Peston: Braverman, carer support and getting elected

Sir Ed Davey appeared on ITV’s Peston last night.

Peston suggested that since Rishi Sunak had arrived in No 10, the Lib Dems had been in reverse in the polls. Rejecting that and talking about the three by-election wins in Chesham and Amersham, Tiverton and Honiton and North Shropshire, Ed said:

A lot of people said we won because people were turning away from Boris Johnson… I knocked on doors. I talked to people. What we found that they were rejecting the Conservative Party. They were doing it because of health matters, like ambulances, huge delays in getting access to GPs or NHS dentists. They felt the Conservatives had taken them for granted and were just out of touch… We found lifelong Conservatives rejecting the Conservative Party. Whether its Sunak or Johnson it doesn’t really matter.

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Christine Jardine: We should treat Ukrainian refugees with respect, not leave them in limbo

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine takes both UK and Scottish Governments to task for their failures to support Ukrainian refugees and  asylum seekers from other parts of the world.

She highlights that the Home Office is taking way too long to deal with asylum applications:

In a recent Freedom of Information request, the Home Office confirmed to me that, as of July, fewer than 2,500 of 48,540 asylum applications submitted in the previous year had received a decision. Indeed, 14,000 applications submitted in 2020 were still outstanding six months into 2022.

Every week my office, and that of every other MP I know, spends hours chasing up long-standing, legal applications which simply are not being dealt with.

Each one represents someone who has fled persecution in their own country and has come here, not for some mythical easy life, but simply to survive, and is waiting. In limbo.

Often, they bring the vital skills and qualifications that are in short supply in our employment market and not only can they make a real contribution, they want to. But they cannot because they must wait.

And she highlights the failure of the Scottish Government to find permanent accommodation and support for Ukrainian refugees, many of whom are staying on a boat on the Water of Leith.

At the moment more than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees – twice as many as originally envisaged – are living on board a ship off the Edinburgh coast, unwittingly caught up in the log-jam caused by suspension of the Scottish Government’s super-sponsor scheme. They and thousands of others are waiting, unsure of their future.

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Carmichael: Scottish Independence is a double dose of Brexit disease

Alistair Carmichael is in blistering form in a Scotsman article in which he argues that the SNP’s push for independence is like treating the Cold with Flu.

He compares Nicola Sturgeon’s pursuit of independence against all the evidence to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s ideological trashing of the economy:

The accusation has never been that leaving the UK would be “too good” for our economy. The concern was that those advocating the nationalist cure-all were blithely or intentionally ignoring the harm to businesses and livelihoods.

In Brexit and the disruption of recent weeks, we have had an abject lesson in the harm caused by ignoring reality in favour of fervently held beliefs. The only surprise is the SNP think that these failures are an endorsement.

He reminds us all what the SNP Government does (or doesn’t) with the powers that they already have:

Set aside for a moment the cack-handed, indifferent approach taken by the SNP over the aspects of the economy they are already responsible for; the drip-drip of scandals around hundreds of millions spent on overdue ferries, the reckless gambling of our taxes in the Lochaber deal, or businesses’ struggles under their watch.

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Christine Jardine: UK Ministers’ response to Iran protests “woeful”

Christine Jardine has used her Scotsman column this week to criticise the UK Government for its lack of action in response to the women’s protests in Iran.

She sets the scene:

The international concern over that state’s pursuit of nuclear capability has been at the centre of diplomatic wrangling and, for the US in particular, the focus of decades of tension.

Perhaps what we have lost sight of is that Iran is a country, a people who like any other want to live their best lives. And be free so to do.

This past week what we have seen is that desire expressed on the streets and universities of Iran, provoked originally by the death in custody of a woman accused of ‘improper’ dress.

International observers, including Amnesty International, say they have not witnessed protests of the scale and intensity that have followed the death of Mahsa Amini.

The UK Government response has been muted compared to European countries and the US, she says:

But the response of our own Foreign Secretary and wider government has been woeful in comparison.

The UK Government should use the Magnitsky sanctions regime, where appropriate, for cases in which human rights abuses and atrocities have clearly been committed.

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Lib Dems demand probe into Chancellor’s post-budget champagne party

Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem spokesperson has written to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for an enquiry into whether the champagne bash Kwasi Kwarteng attended on the night of his budgetary earthquake breached the Ministerial Code:

From The Observer:

“The image of the chancellor quaffing champagne with bankers just hours after announcing his tax cuts for the very wealthiest in society is bad enough,” she said. “But it would be unforgivable if it turns out Kwasi Kwarteng discussed his plans with hedge fund managers who have since been profiting from the fall in the pound.

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Three in four blame Kwasi Kwarteng budget for higher mortgages

New polling commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed three in four (75%) blame the Government’s budget for higher than expected mortgage rates.

The findings reveal even the majority of Conservative voters (68%) blame the expected rise in rates on the Government’s budget last month, which sent the financial markets into turmoil.

The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates to as much as 6% next year, adding considerable costs to mortgages. This week Moneyfacts reported the typical two year fixed rate mortgage has topped 6% for the first time in 14 years.

Those who own their home with a mortgage also blame the likely rise on rates on the Government’s budget (76%).

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Tim Farron set to run London Marathon for air ambulance charity

Our former leader really is a glutton for punishment. Last year he ran the London Marathon, raising over £5000 for the Brathay Trust, a social enterprise supporting young people in Cumbria.

And tomorrow he plans to do it all again:

This time, he’s fundraising for the Great North Air Ambulance and has already raised more than £3000.

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Tory councillors walk out of cost of living debate

So this is what happened at Westmorland and Furness when Liberal Democrats tabled a motion on the cost of living crisis.

The motion was passed and fully supported by all the remaining councillors.

Tim commented:

Our country is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation – politicians of all stripes need to work together.

For Conservative councillors to abandon the meeting is an appalling dereliction of duty and sadly shows how out of touch their party is with the needs of people in Westmorland, Furness and Eden.

The Conservative Group explained that “the meeting had exceeded its time limit and the chair had invited members of the group to leave the meeting which they did due to having other commitments.” Strange then that it didn’t apply to all the other councillors.

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Davey: Truss must cancel Tory conference to deal with economic crisis

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference which begins this weekend, and instead recall parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. Lib Dems are also calling on the government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

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Davey: We won’t step aside for Labour in West Lancashire but…

Labour MP Rosie Cooper who has represented West Lancashire since 2005 has announced she is stepping down as an MP after 17 years to chair the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Speaking Kay Burley yesterday, Ed Davey paid tribute to Cooper and said the Lib Dems would not be stepping aside to give Labour a clear run.

What we don’t do is waste money putting it into elections where we are not convinced we can win. We target our resources. We will always give electors a choice. Of course we will have a candidate. That’s the democratic thing to do.

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Lib Dem MPs respond to energy and tax proposals

Lib Dems have been commenting on the plans by Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng and Jacob Rees Mogg to prevent household and business bills zoom out of control over the winter.

This morning Kay Burley interviewed Sir Ed Davey on Sky News about the government’s proposals for business and household relief. Davey said he was worried about the plans to cut corporation tax. Banks and bankers are among those that will get the lion’s share of that.

They are refusing to put taxes up, which I do support. Oil and gas companies are making huge profit… There should be a windfall tax on

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Christine Jardine: The Queen brought reassurance and hope in our darkest times

Christine Jardine used her Scotsman column to pay tribute to the Queen and to describe the atmosphere in Parliament as the news came that the Queen’s health was causing concern.

When the Speaker rose to convey the confirmatory announcement from Buckingham Palace, the feeling in the chamber was like nothing I have ever known or could have predicted.

This was a moment that we all in that place, indeed everyone in the country must have known could not be far off and yet somehow it was a shock.

The immediate priority was focusing on the resumed debate in an attempt to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall.

But the rest of the day was a haze of speculation, changed plans and simply watching and waiting for what was fast becoming the inevitable.

When the news came, it was family that was at the forefront of her mind:

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LibLink: Christine Jardine Will new PM save us or watch as economy is wrecked?

Christine Jardine has some questions for our new PM in this week’s Scotsman column.

For many of us, the question will be whether the new Prime Minister will be equipped to deal with the crises that have gone unaddressed while the country awaited the outcome of their party’s decision-making process.

And does the government actually even understand the extent of the fear being felt across the country at what this winter might bring?

A survey carried out by the Liberal Democrats revealed this past week that almost one in four adults is planning not to turn on their heating over the winter because of the potential cost. That figure rises to more than one in four when they focused on adults with children under the age of 18. Similar research carried out by Savanta discovered that more than two thirds of us will be limiting our use of heating.

What do we need from our new PM?

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Lib Dems react to the death of Mikhail Gorbachev

Lib Dems are giving their reactions to the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was one of the 20th century’s great statesmen. He gave the world hope, hope that is now threatened by Putin’s ambitions and aggression. Ed Davey said:

Mikhail Gorbachev brought hope to millions as he helped bring the Cold War to an end. His legacy of peace and openness stands in stark contrast to Putin’s regime.

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Surrey Heath by-election speculation has Truss rattled

There is speculation tonight that Michael Gove will stand down from his Surrey Heath seat if Liz Truss is elected leader of the Conservative Party next Monday. The Guardian and Independent report the Liberal Democrats are rushing through plans to confirm a candidate for the seat amid speculation that the former levelling up secretary is considering quitting parliament, triggering a byelection. The Lib Dems are reported as having set a deadline of this week for selection of a candidate for the constituency.

Tory sources are reported as denying that Gove will quit, accusing the Lib Dems of political dirty tricks. There is speculation nevertheless that he will return to journalism.

The Lib Dems in Surrey Heath are reported to have mailed members to explain nominations for the local selection process end on Wednesday evening.

“We always work hard to support seats where there might be a possible by-election,” a Lib Dem source said, adding the party was on “high alert” in the area. The source said:

Given current rumours about Michael Gove quitting his constituency to return to journalism, it would be natural to ensure that Surrey Heath is election ready… Unlike the Conservatives, we never neglect what people are saying locally. We take nothing for granted and know winning a seat like this would be very hard work.

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Vince Cable: Labour and Liberal Democrat silence over Brexit will cost the country

Vince Cable has challenged Labour and the Liberal Democrats to speak up more about the damage Brexit is doing to our country o stop even more damage being inflicted.

The former Lib Dem Leader recently became President of the European Movement and writes in the Independent (£) that support for Brexit is collapsing.

Outside that goldfish bowl, opinion is shifting. An Opinium survey showed that 60 per cent of voters (including 40 per cent of Leave voters) think Brexit has “gone badly”. Ipsos found, in June, that 45 per cent of those surveyed (including 22 per cent of Leave voters) felt that Brexit had “made life worse”. Support for Brexit is collapsing, but its core support remains.

He lists the damage that Brexit has already done:

The economy is measurably smaller than it otherwise would be. Investment, hit by Brexit uncertainty, still hasn’t recovered. Trade is down. Sectors badly hit by Brexit-induced labour shortages are still struggling. Alternative visa arrangements are not in place. And inflation is worse than it should be.

And if that isn’t bad enough:

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