Author Archives: Ruth Bright

Book Review: Equal Power and how you can make it happen

On hearing of the arrival of a new volume of “how to” popular feminism one might be tempted to channel Brenda of Bristol on hearing about the election: “ANOTHER one!!”

Jo Swinson enters a very crowded market with her new book. Can she really have anything to add?

To be fair she doesn’t just write about this stuff; she really means it. Largely ignoring the six week old baby strapped to my (very sore) front she once nagged, cajoled, charmed and begged me to stand in a forthcoming by-election. She has probably directly encouraged hundreds of women and girls to get involved or go further in politics.

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#timetotalk – My story

It can safely be said that there are not too many articles on Lib Dem Voice inspired by Adele! But with LDV’s record of taboo-breaking posts on mental health she is a fitting heroine for her refreshing honesty about post-natal depression. She said in an interview a few months ago that it affected her so seriously that she hesitated about having more children. It is something many of us can identify with but few admit.

For me, it was very tied up with having a sick baby and the pressures of being …

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Congratulations, Jacinda

It was lovely to hear that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is pregnant. What more extraordinary proof that women can have it all.

Even for political minnows though going back after six weeks as she plans is a tall order.

Hopefully her eminence means that she will have a fantastic support system in place. For those of us small fry activists who have to write our own leaflets, print them, pay for them and deliver them delivering a baby at the same time and fending off the hostility for having “deserted” our post is pretty tough going.

It is amazing how having a baby exerts such strong feelings in others. Lovely ones like protectiveness, joy and empathy but also hideous ones like jealousy, misogyny and even revulsion. It is salutary to note that pregnancy is a time when women are most in danger from domestic violence. When I was a pregnant parliamentary candidate I could scarcely believe how downright rude people could be: “a walking caesarean”, “oh not another one”, “have you got another one in there?” (and that was just the Lib Dems!) This was a decade ago and I really hoped that the climate had changed so it was depressing to see that very recently the Labour MP Luciana Berger was greeted with derision for supposed absences when she was breastfeeding.

Perhaps a good way forward is to have proper protocols for maternity leave for politicians at all levels. According to a recent report a mind blowing 97% of councils have no formal procedures to allow councillors to take maternity leave.

I drafted the following for our own party and would welcome your thoughts.

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Snowflakes and Safe spaces

What sensitive flowers they are! You cannot move these days for some commentator dismissing students (especially women and LGBT students) as lacking resilience and unable to cope with criticism, contrary views or even a bit of banter.

But would we really want to go back to the university culture of thirty or forty years ago – particularly for women? The revelation in Harriet Harman’ s biography “A Woman’s Work” that her tutor threatened to downgrade her degree if she did not sleep with him does not come as a big surprise to those of us who went to university a few decades ago.

Posted in Op-eds | 45 Comments

Just a joke, love

Embed from Getty Images

I blame Strictly Come Dancing. Autumn last year my son and I are settling down to watch our regular two hour marathon of sequins and emotion when he pipes up that he fancies a Chinese takeaway. Doting Mum, off I trot down the high street to fulfill my youngest’s whim. It is not even 7pm in a sleepy market town and stepping out into the evening holds no fears. But as I pass the Crown Hotel and then the Baker’s Arms my path is blocked by two young men. The shorter one is almost face to face with me and as I side step him he side steps too, blocks my path again and blows smoke in my face. Having enjoyed my discomfort for a few seconds off they go giggling into the evening.

The cemetery down the road a few weeks ago. Broad daylight. I am at one end of the cemetery -three teenagers at the other. I have caught their attention and they clearly have not yet clocked that I am old enough to be their mum (ye Gods, their grandma even). As they come towards me one of them starts: “Are you going to say hello to us? Are you going to say hello to us? Are you going to..” He becomes more sheepish when he gets closer and realises my seniority but he does not want to back down in front of his mates and keeps on at me, tailing off as his mates snigger and I swerve onto another path. I am all too conscious that that path leads me deeper into the churchyard with no means of escape if things escalate. They wonder off, doubtless to continue studying for their A’Levels at the sixth form college down the road and then home to Mum.

A month ago. A new low. This time I am accompanied. A late evening walk with my son and husband. We are just going past my son’s old school.  My son is on his bike and freewheels on ahead followed closely by my husband. I fall back a few metres and have noticed a couple of lads hanging around. I turn round to look as they don’t seem altogether benign. I am greeted with: “You’ve got a big butt.” (technically not inaccurate but a somewhat unnecessary observation to a complete stranger).”I said you’ve got a big butt.” I offer them a cheery expletive (feeling safe to risk antagonising them because my husband is not that far away) and receive a rapid stream of f-words. 

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Cyril Smith – an apology is the very least we owe the victims

The Chief Executive of Rochdale Council has apologised for letting down the victims of Cyril Smith. It is time that the Liberal Democrats, as successor party to the Liberal Party made an apology to the victims too – not for any direct responsibility but the fact that he was able to use our party as a front for the “big Cyril”, “national treasure” image which helped him cover up earlier crimes. Cyril Smith is not a figure from ancient Liberal Party history. He was a Liberal Democrat MP for his last three years in parliament, he died in 2010 and his accusers were being criticised on this site as late as 2015.

Victims deserve the following actions from the party:

  1. An apology from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats that the party was unknowingly used as a front for Smith’s respectability.
  2. An inquiry into any remaining evidence about him within the party.
  3. A direction to the pastoral care officer to support any party activists who wish to talk about their own experiences with Smith.
  4. A direction that all references to Smith be removed from the Rochdale Lib Dems website (which has an extraordinary archive with cheery references to his 80th birthday and other events).

Editor’s Note:

The party’s position on this was made clear in a statement issued some time ago. 

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Dementia Tax – Project Fear

Dementia has been a big part of my life. Over the years I have worked with people with dementia in some of our most deprived communities in south London – Brixton, Elephant and Castle, Peckham, Old Kent Road and the surrounding (often high-rise) estates.

I have therefore felt very torn by the party’s recent headlong charge for the populist line on the “dementia tax”. As a (naturally pretty tribal) Lib Dem of three decades standing I recognised a fantastic campaigning issue that might help claw back a few coastal “retirement” seats. However, I also knew that the inaccurate use of the term dementia tax (it is neither a tax nor is it about dementia) causes pain to many for whom this is not just a line in a press release but something real and near at hand.  People with dementia have a cognitive impairment but they are not stupid; they can and do take in political messages. Politicians need to think of the deep distress their negative campaigning can cause to many of our 850,000 fellow citizens who are living with this disease.

During the election the party launched a “Theresa May Estate Agent” website that quoted the  example of a “lady from Runcorn” who at the first symptoms of dementia had her home whipped away by the government. This achieves the triple whammy of being misleading about dementia, misleading about the current system and misleading about the (then) prospective system. If only we had moderated our language on this. For a start the dichotomy between “free” coronary care and “paid for” dementia care is false. Thanks to the voluntary sector (usually funded by health services or councils) many people with dementia get significant help and advice for free. If you are diagnosed with dementia early the stereotype of a tragic husk of a dementia victim slumped in a chair is completely untrue. There is no cure for or reversal of dementia but the NHS funds drugs which can have a plateauing effect on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s for many years. Lots of dementia care from MRI scans to memory clinics is completely free of charge.

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  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Mar - 2:11pm
    @ Jennie sorry, Jennie lass.
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 21st Mar - 2:11pm
    It seems anything goes as long as we leave the eu, thus fulfilling the will of the people. The government have got themselves in a...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Mar - 2:05pm
    Oh, dear. here we go again. John Marriott is completely right. The post from Mr Morrison is flawed from the start by including a statutory...
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    @Lorenzo The idea would be to streamline the system so we'd no longer be electing 2 sets of MPs - 1 for the Assembly and...
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    Bill le Breton I resigned my party membership when Charles Kennedy was forced to resign. I didn't agree with the direction the party was heading...
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    We already have two sets of MPs from Scotland and Wales, the idea that what the country needs is yet another layer of overpaid politicians...