Author Archives: Shas Sheehan

Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Lib Dems lead the opposition to Brexit

This week I was chatting to a (pretty senior) press person about the forces of gravity holding Lib Dem polling figures below the double-digit mark. 

Their response was that we were playing it too safe and needed to do something alarming. This was whilst waiting for the Commons’ votes on Monday night. Neither of us thought for one moment that that event might be our current leader and our former leader missing a Commons vote on a Jacob Rees-Mogg amendment designed to make the cobbled together Chequers agreement even less palatable to the EU. The Government won the vote by a whisker – just 3 votes in it. 

So, the fact that 17 Labour MPs went awol and 4 (if you include Kelvin Hopkins) voted with the Government, was lost in the excitement of Vince and Tim having been let off the whip by prior arrangement at a point when it had been deemed safe to do so, and Jo had been paired.

Of course, had it been realised that Labour were going to, unexpectedly, oppose the Government (a rarity when it comes to Brexit legislation) and the vote was going to be a close one, then our arch-remainer leader and former leader would have been in the lobbies. So, the expected, comfortable, Government victory margin was reduced to three. 

It’s a shame they missed this vote, but let’s not despair – we are nowhere near the end of the long Brexit road. There are opportunities aplenty coming up when Vince will be leading our Commons team trying to stop the Government taking a wrecking ball to our economy for a pipe dream.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the only logical end to this sorry saga will be for the public to have the final say. This has been the Lib Dem position from the start.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Global Disability Summit

People with disabilities account for 1 billion of the world’s population. Too often they are among the most marginalised and discriminated against groups – and too often international development efforts have continued to leave them behind.

The upcoming Global Disability Summit, held in London on 24th July, is a chance to change this by building on the work of Liberal Democrats in government to promote disability-inclusive development. The Summit, hosted by DFID, the government of Kenya, and the International Disability Alliance will be the first of its kind with attendees from governments and NGOs from across the world.

A liberal worldview recognises the inherent value of every individual, and as Liberal Democrats, we must challenge the inequalities faced by people with disabilities in developing countries.

In government, the Liberal Democrats helped lead the change on disability-inclusive development. Lynne Featherstone championed the rights of people with disabilities during her time at DFID. Her work led to the ground-breaking Disability Framework – putting disability at the heart of what DFID does and ensuring it moved from a ‘tick box exercise’ to being mainstreamed across all of DFID’s work.

It’s common sense that all programmes should reach people with disabilities – schools should be accessible, healthcare inclusive, stigma challenged – the individual recognised and given the opportunity to flourish.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

How to help refugees in Calais

 

Some may think that this may not be the best of moments to draw attention to the refugees on our doorstep, at a time when we are fighting for Britain to remain in the EU – but I disagree.

It is inevitable that the press will now focus almost exclusively on the in/out debate, but that focus is increasingly being targeted at migrants – the leave campaign having conceded the economic argument, for the moment.

The issue of migrants from the EU is being wilfully conflated with the issue of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and surrounding regions. But there is no correlation or causation link between the two; whether Britain stays or leaves the EU will have no impact on numbers arriving in Europe.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Moral leadership needed on refugee crisis

This refugee crisis is the biggest movement of people since WWII. It needs visionary people with big thinking to get to grips with it, because make no bones about it, it will need to be tackled and a head in the sand attitude will not make it go away. So, it is a  proud day when the leader of our party, Tim Farron, makes it a centrepiece of his keynote speech at conference and receives a standing ovation for it.

Politics is the art of the possible – but only when we have the leaders to make the possible happen.

The only western leader with the cojones to step up to the plate has been Angela Merkel. But she has been let down by other European leaders – not least our own Prime Minister, hiding behind the skirts of dysfunctional Dublin III regulations.

A little prodding behind Murdoch press headlines shows that last weekend’s elections in Germany, in spite of a spike in the far right vote, were far from a disaster for the pro-refugee German leader.

Britain and France make much of the “pull factors” – that making conditions just that little bit more humane will be a magnet. What utter rubbish. As though people flee their lovely homes, their lives, their careers, with only what they can carry – just to get the next phone upgrade. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Europe’s humanitarian crisis and how you can help

Tim Farron has been superb on the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Europe. He was the first Leader of any party to visit the camp in Calais; in Lesvos he witnessed the desperation and fear of those fleeing Assad; for many months he has been calling for 3000 unaccompanied children in Europe to be brought to the UK.

Whilst lawyers and parliamentarians challenge the Government to implement the safe and legal routes into the UK, thousands upon thousands of people on the run from brutal regimes are suffering the most appalling conditions.

Humanitarian aid is needed.

What you can do to help

Many Liberal Democrats have been asking what they can sensibly do to help. So here are some suggestions:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…The refugee crisis on our doorstep

In a situation that goes from bad to worse, with no end point in sight, there has been one ray of hope.

On 18 January, the Upper Tribunal ruled that three  unaccompanied minors and a vulnerable young man with mental health problems, from the camp in Calais, had a bona fide case to be allowed to join relatives already resident in the UK.

Thanks to a legal challenge coordinated by Citizens UK, the Home Office has been told to immediately allow the three children and one adult to join their families.

Hitherto, the Government had been arguing that, under the Dublin III convention, applications for asylum must be made and processed in France. However, the reality is that the French system is broken, and applications from asylum seekers with family already resident in the UK are not being processed and passed on to the UK. In effect, the safe and legal route has been denied to asylum seekers who have done all that has been asked of them.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Slower traffic saves lives

The sad fact is that the UK has the highest proportion of pedestrian road deaths of any European country – followed closely by Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece. An even sadder statistic is that the most common cause of death among 5-14 year olds (more boys than girls) is being a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle.

All the evidence suggests that moving from a 30mph to 20mph limit on residential roads will reduce the death toll. A recent PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) report found that child casualties fell by 67% where 20mph schemes were introduced.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 18 Comments

Opinion: Let’s hear from Labour their tuition fees policy

What a mess we seem to have got ourselves into over tuition fees. How on earth did we get here?

I can only speak for myself. I joined the party because of its policies on green issues, clarity of thought on civil liberties, regard for international law, opposition to nuclear energy and renewal of Trident, and tuition fees.

This latter policy was very important to me.

I don’t come from a privileged background. At school I was one of the kids on free school meals and to go to university I had a full grant.

I hated free school meals because everyone knew who …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 59 Comments

Opinion: Microfinance epitomises Liberal Democracy

Microfinance epitomises Liberal Democracy and we must push the Department For International Development (DFID) to reverse the declining support the Labour years has visited on this decentralised, non-statist and very effective means of lending a hand up to the poorest people on the planet.

In the picture is the cooking stove I bought in Malawi from a gentleman called George (not his real name). George was loaned the money by a microfinance charity so that he could buy sheet metal rather than scavenge for the materials he needed.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments
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  • User AvatarDavid Raw 20th Sep - 9:33pm
    @ nvelop I don't know whether you're being provocative or just ill informed. Probably both. Before the NHS was introduced in 1948 the patchwork of...
  • User AvatarEd Shepherd 20th Sep - 9:25pm
    Externally marked exams that are open to anyone are a way in which people from underprivileged or non-traditional backgrounds can compete with people from privileged...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 20th Sep - 9:24pm
    @ JoeB, "Ultimately, as a nation, we can only consume what we collectively produce from the application of labour and physical capital to natural resources...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 20th Sep - 8:11pm
    David Raw: There was a National Health Service before 1948 when it was nationalised. I have some letters dated 1923 headed "National Health Service". Improvements...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 20th Sep - 7:46pm
    An average of the last 10 Polls puts us on 9.7%; take the last 5 only & that becomes 10.7%. 6 Months ago we were...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 20th Sep - 7:16pm
    Richard That is so, but the point is, we do compete in the world, and it is more precarious international competitveness, no doubt worth altering...