Author Archives: NewsHound

Scottish Lib Dems’ Joe McCauley criticises SNP over Angus Robertson book event

It’s been an embarrassing weekend for Scotland’s Culture Minister Angus Robertson. The SNP MSP has pulled out of a promotional event for his new book which had been paid for by a grant for his own department.

From the Sunday Mail: 

But Angus Robertson cancelled his appearance last night – after the Sunday Mail started asking about the £30,000 handed to it by a group under his remit.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture had been due to appear at the Borders Book Festival to plug Vienna – The International Capital.

The event was awarded the significant grant in August from Creative Scotland – a government- funded and accountable body ­falling under Robertson’s brief.

He has now cancelled the lecture and an advert was quickly removed from the festival website after this newspaper began asking questions about it.

In the newspaper’s report, the first opposition party quote, and it was a blistering one, goes to Scottish Lib Dem Culture Spokesperson Joe McCauley. The SNP’s cutting of cultural services in Glasgow was not lost on him:

“At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.

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Budget 2021: Wales levelled down says Dodds

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservative government of levelling down Wales in Wednesday’s budget, stating that measures announced by the Government do not even come close to replacing lost EU funding.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Jane Dodds MS, stated:

We are now seriously beginning to feel the consequences of this Conservative Government’s obsessive Brexit ideology and the harm it is inflicting on the Welsh economy. In addition to acute labour shortages, supply shortages and price increases we now have significant evidence provided to us by the OBR showing the damage Brexit is doing to our economy. This can no longer be passed off as project fear, but rather project reality.

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Budget 2021: Davey says bankers get twice the catch-up for children

Following today’s budget, Ed Davey has slammed the Chancellor for giving twice as much away in tax cuts to bankers as extra catch-up funding to help children make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows that reducing the banking surcharge will cost the Treasury over £3.8 billion over the next four years. This compares to just £1.8 billion of additional catch-up funding in today’s Budget. That is the equivalent of £1 of extra catch up funding per child every school day, compared to a £6 a day tax cut for each banker.

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Public sector pay: NHS and social care workers to face £900m NI tax rise

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of giving with one hand and snatching away with the other on public sector pay, given the national insurance tax hike and worsening cost of living crisis.

Previous analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimates that those working in health and social care will be faced with a tax hit of over £900 million due to the Conservative government’s manifesto-breaking hike to national insurance.

The research shows a nurse or midwife on an average salary would see their tax bill rise by £310 next year, care home workers would pay around £140 more and ambulance staff would face a £420 increase. The average NHS worker across all staff groups will pay £315 more a year.

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Dodds slams New Zealand trade deal

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of dealing a hammer blow to Welsh sheep farmers after news broke that the UK and New Zealand have signed a trade deal. They are worried that lower standard and cheap meat from New Zealand could flood the UK markets and leave the British and Welsh farming industry unable to compete.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

I am extremely disappointed that the Conservative Government has decided to toss Welsh sheep farmers aside in this manner, completely ignoring their concerns and breaking previous commitments to the farming community made by the Party.

The NFU has also criticised the deal saying it had heard next to nothing from the government on how British agriculture is expected to compete with either Australia or New Zealand which both face less regulation than their British counterparts.

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Lib Dems attack ministers on Covid as Ed Davey urges beefed up Plan B

Today’s i newspaper features Sir Ed Davey’s call for the government to bring in a beefed up version of Plan B as a matter of urgency to avoid a winter lockdown. Daisy Cooper also criticises the new Minister for Vaccines and Public Health for keeping a low profile. In the Commons yesterday, Layla Moran challenged the government on whether it is operating a policy of herd immunity.

The Plan B Plus would make face masks mandatory, people would be instructed to work from home and social distancing rules would be reimposed. It would not include Covid passports which the Lib Dems oppose.

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Munira Wilson calls for emergency SAGE Meeting

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson has demanded that the government hold an emergency SAGE meeting to discuss soaring Covid cases.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has stopped meeting weekly and most recently met on 22 July, 9 September and 14 October.

The call comes as it emerges that government scientists have not met to discuss Covid for weeks and cases are running at nearly 50,000 a day.

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Lib Dems call for half term jab blitz due to 8000 classrooms sitting empty

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Government to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines over half term after new Department for Education figures reveal over 216,000 pupils are absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate and this is having a huge impact on young people’s education – with 2.6% of pupils absent for covid-related reasons over the last two weeks.

Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers, which has seen institutions like Eton bring in a wave of new strict …

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael – Liberalism is the most effective counter to competing nationalisms

writing in the Scotsman, Alistair Carmichael challenges both the SNP’s view that independence is inevitable because so many young people support it and the older voters will die off and the Conservative view that those young people will become more conservative and risk averse as they grow older.

Both of these views are blinkered – and, frankly, complacent. We should have higher ambitions than some kind of “demographic destiny”. When we are talking about no less than the future of Scotland, our people deserve a little more by way of ideas and ideals, and a little less talk of inevitability.

Partisans on both sides of the constitutional divide are kidding themselves if they think they have a lock on our country’s future. The case for independence has not been made – but the stability of our shared community with the rest of the United Kingdom cannot be treated as an afterthought either. In a liberal democracy, we have to respect one another enough to make the case for the values of interdependence and shared prosperity, year on year and day by day.

He cited the experience of Quebec, where support for independence that once seemed inevitable is now much reduced. How did this happen?

What changed was not the demographic “inevitability” of Quebec, but the democratic debate and exchange of ideas. In the aftermath of the 1995 referendum, Liberal leaders and academics alike took on the issues raised by nationalism and independence and responded.

They challenged nationalist narratives head-on and reinvigorated discussions on the federal make-up of Canada. They changed minds – and made the case for a Canadian society of both diversity and shared common interest

And we have to keep winning the arguments to preserve our liberal values:

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Liberals share the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Some of our readers may have noted the joint award of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, for their work to defend press freedom and freedom of expression generally.

The chair of the Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, in announcing the award said;

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.

Maria Ressa is the CEO of Philippines news outlet Rappler …

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Rishi Sunak recycling aid money deals “damaging blow” to UK reputation ahead of COP summit

The Liberal Democrats have warned a UK government decision to effectively slash the aid budget by billions more pounds will send “completely the wrong message” to the world ahead of next month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

It comes after it was reported that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will include the UK’s share of financial assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund through Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as part of the 0.5% aid target. The move is expected to reduce the aid budget by another £4bn to £5bn over a number of years.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs …

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Wera Hobhouse blasts UK’s over-reliance on gas and inaction on renewables

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Climate Emergency and Energy, has taken aim at the Tory government’s energy policies:

The Conservatives have utterly neglected the UK renewables industry to the point where coal power stations are being fired up. They need to come clean on a firm end date to fossil fuel use in the energy sector, but Boris Johnson studiously avoids this topic.

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Sarah Olney calls for Morrisons’ workers to be protected ahead of the major takeover

Embed from Getty Images

In the Guardian, Sarah Olney is quoted calling for protection for workers in the forthcoming takeover of Morrisons:

It would be a great shame to see local teams lose their stake in the future direction of the business. With uncertain economic times ahead, the new owners must pass the key tests of not loading the business with debt, not cutting jobs, and critically, protecting existing working conditions.

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LibLink: Wendy Chamberlain on need to tackle “serious and systemic” police failings

In an article for The House, Wendy Chamberlain, the only woman former Police officer in the Commons, says that the murder of Sarah Everard is a watershed moment to tackle serious and systemic failings at the heart of the Police. It’s a great follow-up to her interview on Sky News on Friday.

She describes how the abuse of power of Sarah’s murderer has led to a loss of trust in not just the Met, but Police across the country:

As a former police officer myself, I still carry the responsibility of my service with me long after I stopped wearing the uniform. Having served as a police officer does shape people’s opinions of you. At the time of my election in 2019, I viewed it as a way of demonstrating that I was someone to be trusted.

Couzens used and abused not only his position of power, but the notion of trust that Sarah placed in him as someone who wears the uniform with a duty to safeguard and protect.

That trust has been seriously eroded and damaged by this terrible crime. It is a shattering of trust that goes beyond the Metropolitan Police and applies to police services as a whole across the country.

So how is this to be fixed?

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LibLInk: Christine Jardine on the perfect storm that shows up our bad Governments

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at the “perfect storm” of food and fuel shortages, health service crisis, Covid and high energy prices we are facing at the moment. She argues that the show how bad both UK and Scottish Governments are – and we shouldn’t let them away with blaming Covid and Brexit for our current travails. They were failing long before then:

It must be tempting for those responsible for the well-being of the NHS to blame its current predicament on all the other elements of the storm. That somehow the crisis which has necessitated calling in the Armed Forces to support our ambulance service is purely the result of the circumstances we find ourselves in. That they can look to the example of our energy industry which is defending itself with evidence of an unusual lack of wind and solar resources and a fire on an interconnector.

But that would be to ignore the reality which we have all experienced in different ways over recent, pre-pandemic years. The damage done by the increasing centralisation of public services and decision-making in Scotland.

On top of everything else, the FLu jag programme has been a nightmare this year.

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Davey: “Unforgivable” that military drivers only now receiving training for fuel crisis

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Ed Davey has criticised the Government’s incompetence and failure to plan ahead, after it was revealed that 150 military drivers will only now receive training to drive petrol tankers despite months of warnings from businesses.

As Energy Secretary and chair of the emergency Cobra committee during the fuel crisis of 2012, Ed Davey developed contingency plans to ensure around 800 trained military drivers would be on hand to drive fuel tankers if needed in an emergency. A Ministry of Defence report from 2014 says army personnel had been “trained and on call to deliver fuel in the event of strike action by tanker drivers.”

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Union delegates block electoral reform motion – despite 79.5% support from Labour members

The Independent reports:

Trade unions have blocked Labour from campaigning for proportional representation after a tight vote at the party’s conference in Brighton.

Delegates sent by members to the gathering overwhelmingly backed a motion in favour of electoral reform by 79.5 per cent to 20.49 per cent.

But the vast majority of delegates sent by trade unions voted against the plan, meaning the motion was lost by a total of 42 per cent to 57 per cent.

Ed Davey commented:

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Davey on the energy crisis and a Tory winter of discontent

Ed Davy makes a storming attack on the Conservative administration into today’s Guardian. The mounting cost of heating bills and food price-hikes due to increasing transport costs and the energy crisis means the poorest people will be hit the hardest. Davey says no one should be surprised that Boris Johnson has dismissed these problems. He wants us to believe it’s a global problem, with nothing unique to the UK. And he wants us to think it will all be over quickly. He is wrong. This is just the latest example of the Conservative party taking people for granted.

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Ed Davey profiled on BBC Radio 4

In his usual, often sardonic, style, Ed Davey has profiled by Mark Coles. In this 15-minute broadcast, we hear things we knew and things we probably didn’t. The profile begins with his birth on Christmas Day. Being orphaned. Neighbours leaving food on the doorstep. His school but good exam performance. Setting up a debating society. Being a prog rocker. Falling asleep at parties. In a gap year working in the local pork pie factory before interrailing and on to Oxford for PPE. Despite bad green jumpers, MI6 tried to recruit him. Rescuing woman from path of ongoing train.

And then …

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Moran calls for commitment on rough sleeping

Layla Moran has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to “demonstrate a clear commitment” to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament by rolling out Housing First across England at the forthcoming Spending Review, and by pushing for the scrapping of the Vagrancy Act.

In her letter, Layla says that the “time is right for a new national and political effort to tackle homelessness”, adding that “Because Housing First works, we also know in the long term it saves us money.”

There have already been successful pilot schemes in England, and in her debate on rough sleeping in the Commons last week, Layla urged for the programme to be rolled out.

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Ed Davey to rule out a coalition with Boris

The Financial Times today reports that Ed Davey will use his conference speech on Sunday to position the party as an unambiguously anti-Tory force. He will vow never help to help put Boris Johnson back into Downing Street.

When asked if the Lib Dems would facilitate a Tory government at the next election, Davey replied: “No.”

Davey defended the decision to hold a virtual conference, arguing that planning was done well in advance before it became apparent what the coronavirus situation would be.

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What is Kirsty Williams up to these days?

We miss Kirsty Williams and the fantastic contribution she made as Wales’ Education Minister.

So what is she up to these days?

She gave a couple of pointers as to how she is living her best life on Twitter yesterday:

And then, later, she was sitting in front of CNN to find out the outcome of the Republican attempt to get rid of Democrat Governor of California Gavin Newsom on dubious grounds. Thankfully if tailed, by a lot.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

I regret my involvement in the Salmond Enquiry says Alex Cole-Hamilton

Alex Cole-Hamilton is conducting his early interviews as leader with considerable skill.

There’s a lot of core messaging around the Lib Dems being the alternative to the clash of nationalisms, to the SNP ruining public services and how we offer new hope. We Lib Dems will get utterly sick of these things at some point but we aren’t the target audience. The rest of the public doesn’t hang off every word our leader utters like we do. Well, we don’t really but we pay more attention than most people.  By the time we have heard what he wants to say eleventy million times, it will just be starting to resonate with the voters.

So, he has got the knack of throwing in something new in every interview. It keeps us interested and gets noticed by the wider public.

In today’s interview, with Scotland on Sunday, he reflects on the Salmond Enquiry, on which he was the Lib Dem representative. This was the cross party committee set up to investigate the issues around the complaints process in the Scottish Government used when women complained about Alex Salmond’s behaviour towards them when he was First Minister. Our Alex says that he now regrets his participation.

It was high pressure. I mean, it took up so much oxygen, so much time. But also, I’d been supporting a complainer privately who approached me, and I could see what every twist and turn of it was doing to her.

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LibLink: Rabina Khan: Life as a British Muslim changed forever on 9/11

Writing in the Independent, Lib Dem Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan reflects on how 9/11 changed things for British Muslims.

She described her reaction on the day. Like our editor Caron Lindsay, she was cradling her baby as she watched events unfold on the television:

She described her sadness, and anger at that the perpetrators had done but also fear about what was coming for Muslims as a result of the actions of a few extremists who would be held to represent an entire religion:

At the same time, I felt anxious, knowing that some people would assume that all Muslims harboured the same views as the terrorists. Extremists are not Muslims and have deliberately skewed the texts to fit their homicidal agenda. They are murderers.

America’s response to that fateful day rewrote not just its own democracy but reshaped our world and the way we live. Our world witnessed the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, secret surveillance, increased dawn raids on Muslim homes, the way our children and young people were monitored at school. It became an era of fear and mistrust.

And it was that fear which had a profound effect on her daily life:

How can I forget the countless times I saw the look of dread and panic on people’s faces when I reached for my phone from my bag on the tube or the time when my rosary fell out of my bag during Ramadan? I remember a little after the terror attack my elderly gran’s beloved Adhan clock (the call to prayer) went off in her bag and people in the queue in a shop ran for the door.

Oblivious to the lingering, uncomfortable and judgmental stares in the shop from staff, my gran dressed in her crisp cotton white sari and head covered with a shawl, turned off the alarm, picked up the toy a parent had dropped and handed it back to the cashier. Recently, I was travelling on the tube in London when I was called a “f****** Muslim whore” by another passenger, but there were people who stood up for me.

Things have got worse in the meantime and she’s not optimistic for the future:

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Liberal Democrats table motion to dock Raab’s pay

Today in Parliament the Liberal Democrats are tabling an Early Day Motion to dock Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s pay over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

They are also calling for the Government to use the money saved to fund the resettlement of Afghan refugees, following reports of a £557m shortfall in resettlement funding.

Commenting on the motion, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Dominic Raab is one of the worst Foreign Secretaries in British history.

He has presided over the worst foreign policy disaster since the Suez and decided to spend more time on the beach instead of picking

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By-election report 3 September 2021 – Win in Northampton

As always, a mixed bag of results for the by-elections this week. In three by-elections, we gained under 10% of the vote. But Newshound takes his hat off to Jacqueline Fuchshuber who gained a seat on Northampton Town Council by just seven votes. A win is a win, another Lib Dem win.

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged | 17 Comments

Lynne Featherstone reflects on being left to handle the London riots

We’ve been thinking a lot about when ministers should and shouldn’t return from holiday recently, and the consequences of their decisions.

But the tragic and appalling events in Afghanistan weren’t the first time senior ministers have been away when something big has kicked off and their junior ministers have had to deal with it.

Today Lynne Featherstone tells My London about her experience 10 years ago when the Tottenham Riots broke out. Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, was off sunning himself somewhere and didn’t come back, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Theresa May were all away, so, for a brief time, Lynne was the face of the Government response to the riots.

I was the ‘duty minister’ that weekend for the Home Office. But this was such a big story, I expected to see the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary,”

She called Nick Timothy, who, with Fiona Hall was May’s extremely unpopular adviser when she was PM and was then at the Home Office. He told her to come in as she was “the only one in the room.”

Lynne assumed that someone more senior would be around:

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Vince Cable: UK needs to take lead on Afghan refugee crisis

Writing in the Independent, former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable talks of harrowing scenes at Kabul airport and asks if Britain is planning to take enough Afghan refugees and whether the Home Office is thinking of treating them with a generous spirit. Some Afghans working for our government will be told they do not have a strong enough connection with Britain, even though the documents showing that connection could qualify them for execution by the Taliban. Are we an overcrowded island? Or will we benefit from people who bring skills, entrepreneurial energy, cultural diversity and a supply of labour to regenerate an ageing country? Or should we simply accept refugees out of compassion?

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Hydrogen has huge potential for decarbonisation

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at Hydrogen as a weapon in our arsenal against climate change.

She looks at many potential uses – from fuelling planes to heating homes and highlights the work of the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney:

EMEC is supporting a project known as HyFlyer which has already achieved the world’s first flight of a commercial-grade hydrogen electric aircraft in September of last year.

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric Piper Malibu Mirage successfully achieved a 20-minute flight from Cranfield airfield in the UK in which the only fumes it produced were water vapour.

The next phase of the project is targeting a successful commercial-grade flight of a 19-seater craft, potentially in 2023. The green hydrogen fuelling systems required for flight tests will be delivered by EMEC.

Perhaps the best indicator of the potential for hydrogen-powered flight is that the project is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 23 Comments

Carmichael accuses ministers of bringing in vaccination passports by stealth

After some nightclubs in England began requiring an NHS Covid pass for entry, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson, yesterday accused the government of introducing vaccination passports by the back door.

The government has just committed to vaccine passports by stealth. This deceitful move is deeply shameful.

Carmichael also called for parliament to be recalled to discuss the matter.

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