Author Archives: Sarah Olney

We need to seize our opportunities as they arise

I was taken aback when Ed Davey, a former Cabinet minister no less, suggested I should consider running for Parliament.

It was October 2015 and I had only been a member of the Liberal Democrats for five months. I’d joined after the General Election because I was so dismayed that Cameron’s Conservatives had won a majority. I was keen to do whatever I could to help the Lib Dems locally and cheerfully took on leaflet rounds and canvassed for a local by-election. I had never remotely considered being an MP.

As we got talking further during a curry night in Kingston, I realised that there was, in fact, no better time for someone like me to stand. The party needed to rebuild and present a new face to the country, and as one of the many thousands who joined in the 18 months after the 2015 election, I could be one of those new faces.

I received prospective parliamentary candidate approval the following month. It was unusual at that time for people to be approved after such a short time in the party, but selections were coming up for the GLA elections. In the event, there were only two candidates for the South West London constituency seat – if I hadn’t been approved in November, it would have been an uncontested selection.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Sarah Olney writes…We should be pleased if the Conservatives can’t form a Government

Of all the things I regret about my time in Parliament being so short, one thing I really don’t mind is that I never got to hear a Queen’s Speech.  Cornerstone of our democracy it may be, but it’s really just a festival of flummery that I can do without. I can’t imagine how it must have been in today’s 34 degree heat, dressed in one’s best, squashed into the Lords to hear Her Majesty read out the Government’s plans for legislation.  Hats off to my former Parliamentary colleagues, and those who have recently joined them, for enduring it.

But at least it was short.  Just nine minutes to sum up not one, but two years-worth of Bills.  And, for Liberal Democrats, there was much to be pleased about.  Not only has Mrs May ditched her plans to scrap the triple-lock on pensions and free school meals, she’s also backtracked on the dementia tax, promising instead to “consult”.

Liberal Democrats will also be pleased that a key provision of our own Renter’s Rights Bill, outlawing letting agents’ fees to renters, will make it into law.

The speech focuses instead on the Government’s plans for Brexit, providing details of the Great Repeal Bill (apparently already being dubbed GeRBil in some quarters, which should please those Liberal Democrats who never miss an opportunity to post a picture of a fluffy animal), and various enabling legislations to set up our own regulations post-Brexit.  The key message here is that hard, soft, clean, red, white, blue, grey, whatever, Brexit will happen and the main Parliamentary activity for the next two years will be getting ready to implement it.

What’s infuriating about this Queen’s Speech are all the issues that it fails to address.  Speaking to residents in Richmond Park over the last six to seven months, I know that their key issues are funding for public services, particularly schools and the NHS, policing and security, immigration and housing.  It may be an untypically wealthy and well-educated area, but I very much doubt that we’re different from the majority of the country in these concerns.  There is nothing in the Queen’s Speech about any of this.  The appalling Grenfell House fire last week has surely concentrated attention like nothing else on the failure of housing policy over the last few decades, and urgent action is required.  Not only has the Government got nothing to say, it tells us that it won’t have anything to say for at least two years.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments
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