Author Archives: Simon McGrath

Simon McGrath is a directly elected member of the Federal Board

Biographical Directory of Parliamentary candidates

Following a reference in the Journal of Lib Dem History I recently came across the most extraordinary labour of love, a biographical directory  of   people who have been  Liberal, SDP and Lib Dem parliamentary candidates from 1945 – 2019.

This is a 20 year piece  of work by Lionel King who I find from the directory is 87 , fought  Kidderminster in  1964, Sutton Coldfield in  1970, and Walsall South 1987, is  former chair of Birmingham University Liberal Society, worked as a teacher and then TV/Media lecturer in FE and held many roles in the Birmingham and  West Midlands Party.

The directory is divided into 14 parts, by region  and gives a fascinating insight into the range of people attracted to become our Parliamentary candidates over the years. In my own constituency of Wimbledon for example I could read about Alick Kay who stood for us in 1945 and was a former independent member of the New South Wales Parliament, George  Scott who ran in 1964 who fought two parliament by election for us in Middlesborough East and West both in 1962 and who is decribed as “very tall and slim, he tended to be rather aloof in bearing, not a strong public speaker”, Alison Willott in 1992 and 1997 who was a professional concert singer and mother of Jenny Willott who became Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central and finally Paul Kohler candidate in 2019 (and current PPC ) and his campaign to  Save Wimbledon Police station.

The collator of all this Lionel King would love to hear from candidates with more up to date information (his email can be found in the directory). You can find the directory here:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Ed Davey : I stand in solidarity and support tonight with Israel and all Israelis

Those were the opening words of a powerful speech by Ed Davey at the  Vigil outside 10 Downing Street on Monday evening following the Hamas attack on Israel. Ed was there  representing our Party with Daisy Cooper. 

Ed went on to say: 

The Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity and support tonight with Jewish people across the world and we stand in support and solidarity with the amazing Jewish community in Great Britain.

And I stand in support together tonight with Tom, with Robert, with David .  Let them hear this, the government and the opposition stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. This most horrendous terrorist attack by the terrorist Hamas must be condemned by everybody completely.

Let us, as we do that, remember the people who were killed. Let us mourn for each and every one of them.

The children, the women, the men who were killed in their homes, killed in their villages, killed as they came together in a festival for music and peace.

That is what the terrorists want to do. They want to kill innocent civilians going about their everyday lives and they must never be forgiven or forgotten that they impose this murderous act on Israel.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 38 Comments

If you back our immigration policy, you should vote to keep a housing target

In 2022, the population of the UK grew by 606,000. In the year ended June 2022, 173,520 new homes were built in England. The mismatch between the two figures is one factor in rising rents.

Our Party – more than any other – is the one which has been happy about immigration. We also have a policy on asylum seekers which would mean we were welcoming more asylum seekers to the country. Given that, it seems quite extraordinary that the Federal Policy Committee is seeking to remove a target for new homes from our policy.

They say that …

Posted in Conference, Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 34 Comments

London members vote to choose the top of the list for the Greater London Assembly

Ballot e-mails will be going out shortly for members in London to decide the order of our candidates for the List election for the Greater London Assembly in May 2024. The Assembly has fourteen constituency members and eleven elected on Party lists. So, if our share of the vote gives us four people to be elected on the List, the top four on our list will become Assembly members.

We currently have two GLA members – Caroline Pidgeon and Hina Bokhari, though Caroline has announced she is not standing again.

There are eleven members competing:

  • Chris Annous
  • Rob Blackie
  • Cllr Hina Bokhari
  • Michael

Posted in London and Selection news | Tagged and | 6 Comments

My complaint to IPSO about a story in the Telegraph about the Lib Dems

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me about an article in the Telegraph by Iain Dale entitled “Trans activism is eroding tolerance in politics” which included this passage:

Last weekend, in a little noted decision, the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference passed a motion which urged anyone in the party who didn’t subscribe to full self ID and the wider trans agenda to leave the party. How very “liberal” of them.

The original article is behind a paywall but an amended version can be found on Dale’s website.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

The Lord Mayor, the packets of dates and the lie

An extraordinary case was concluded  in the election court in Birmingham last month    in which a former Labour  Lord Mayor of Birmingham  was given leave by the Election Court to withdraw an election petition  seeking to overturn his loss at the May 2022 elections to two Lib Dem Councillors.

The background is that in the election Labour’s Muhammed Afzal and a colleague were  defeated by Lib Dem Cllrs – Ayoub Khan and Mumtaz Hussain  – the  relevant bit of the result was:

Ayoub Khan (Liberal Democrat) 3012 votes

Mumtaz Hussain (Liberal Democrat) 2542 votes

Muhammad Afzal (Labour) 2463 votes

Nagina Kauser (Labour) 2223 votes

During the election the Lib Dem candidates had said that Mr Afzal   had been ‘treating’  voters –  by giving out packets of dates with a Labour sticker on while canvassing. Cllr Khan had said on his Facebook page

Such is Labour’s desperation in the Aston Ward…that the current sitting councillor has decided to bribe the people of Aston for votes by giving them a special treat. They ought to know better…this is not Pakistan where you can buy votes.

The election petition said that this claim was false  and intended to defame Mr Afzal’s personal character and that therefore  the result of the election should be overturned.

This was clearly a very serious allegation: apart from losing their hard won council seats, losing the petition would make the 2 Lib Dem councillors responsible for heavy costs putting their homes at risk, possible criminal charges and  and as Cllr Khan is a barrister it  may have had  very serious consequences for his career.

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

Labour show their true colours

It has not been a great  week for those who think Liberal Democrats will find it easy to work with a minority Labour Government  or that Labour are our natural partners.

First we had Keir Starmer’s very odd comments on  people working in the NHS – where he said 

What I would like to see is the numbers go down in some areas. I think we’re recruiting too many people from overseas into, for example, the health service.


I have recently  spent time visiting someone in hospital and was struck by what a high % of the nursing and auxiliary staff were from overseas : what a message to send to them !  

Of course Starmer knows perfectly we need people from overseas to staff the NHS – this is pure dog whistle stuff designed to get a headline. 

Then we have that old  Labour favourite, identity cards. Labour’s last, fabulously expensive plan, for these was  rightly scuppered as one of the first  (and widely acclaimed ) actions of the Coalition but now  revived by Stephen Kinnock who says Labour is thinking : 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 23 Comments

We should be talking about Lib Dem Councils Building new homes 

One of the achievements of Lib Dem controlled  Councils  has been a focus on building social and affordable housing – but it’s not one the Party has made much of. Given that access to housing is one of the key issues in our society that seems a  pity.

In York for example the Lib Dem run council is focused  on increasing the number of  affordable homes  – 447 have been delivered in the last 3 years – and the numbers are increasing year or year. The Council is planning to have delivered  no less than 600 affordable  homes in it’s 4 years term and to have done so while protecting the local Green Belt.

Even better many of these are being delivered to ‘Passivhaus ‘ standards meaning that they are  much  better for the environment.

In Kingston we are doing something most Labour councils say is impossible – building new council  housing – and new housing build to the highest environment standards. .As the Portfolio Holder for Housing , Clr Emily  Davey says -“providing homes which meet our residents needs is a priority for us.”

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Why aren’t the Government talking about the winter fuel crisis?

One of the characteristics of this Government has been an extraordinary inability to plan in advance for obvious  problems ahead and to take basic steps to avert them.

Last week the National Grid issued a statement about  the possibility of power cuts this winter if a cold snap is combined with gas shortages, with households experiencing 3 hour black outs.

This scenario has been entirely predictable  since Russia invaded Ukraine but as usual the Government has acted with a mixture of sloth and ignorance. The UK doesn’t directly import much Russian gas but  we will still be affected by reductions elsewhere – and while there are many advantages to our increasing renewable energy supplies  they are, give the problems of storing electricity , prone to problems if the wind doesn’t blow ( or blows too hard ) and the sun doesn’t shine.

So we have an urgent need to ensure we have a good store of gas and are reducing demand as far as possible. The UK has very low gas storage capacity – there is the ‘Rough’ facility, a former gas field which as used by Centrica  but which closed down in 2017 – the Government acting  at its usual (low) speed finally negotiated and reached agreement with Centrica in August about reopening – but its not clear how much gas it will hold this winter.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

No room for complacency about the Tories

t’s tempting seeing the fall in the Tory poll ratings and the turmoil in Government as presaging a disastrous General Election for them. But we  have been here before – in the early summer of 2019 they were regular getting polls ratings in the 17-24% range and they lost 1,300 councillors that May and yet they went on to win a General Election a few  months later. 

If there is  one thing we know about the electorate it is that it has become hugely volatile with voters much more willing to switch parties which is great  in many ways but may still work against us. 

Nor can we assume a continuous economic crisis: The EY Item Club Forecast has inflation dropping to  1.8% in 2024 with growth of 2.4%. There is plenty of economic pain in store for 2023 with average earnings  continuing to fall but we should not under estimate the Tory’s ability to present lower inflation as an achievement of theirs.

The Tories are probably the most electorally successful party in the world: they have an extraordinary ability to reinvent themselves -helped of course by vast amounts of money and a formidable lack of scruples in how they fight elections.

Posted in News | Tagged | 20 Comments

The Conservatives fail because they think they know best.

One of the characteristics of this awful government is that they manage to present even ideas with a modicum of sense in a way which ensures they will be unpopular.

Yesterday we had a classic example in the news that the new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey as part of her ‘Plan for Patients’ is planning to allow pharmacies to prescribe antibiotics (and other drugs) in some cases. It has also come out that she has said that she has handed out her own antibiotics to friends who were feeling unwell in the past. Reaction to this news has been swift – Stephen Baker, Professor of Microbiology at Cambridge said widening access to antibiotics was ‘nuts’ and Professor Penny Ward, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine was equally scathing: “The Health Secretary really should take the time to familiarise herself with what is a difficult topic”

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

Lib Dem Eastleigh wins Council of the Year award

Eastleigh Council has won the prestigious “ Council of the Year” award from the  Association for Public Service Excellence,  recognising its excellent performance in delivering front line council services. The awards receive hundreds of submissions every year and only outstanding councils, that have met the stringent criteria of the expert judges, are shortlisted for Council of the Year.

There are 22 Categories of award and as well as Council of the year. Eastleigh’s  Direct Services team won the  award for Transport and Fleet Maintenance and  the Council was  shortlisted in 4 other categories.

Accepting the award  on behalf of the Council, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Policy, Councillor Tonia Craig said:

Being recognised as Council of the Year is a superb accolade and reflects the commitment of our staff to deliver truly excellent frontline services. I would like to pay tribute to all our teams who work so hard to support communities and improving lives in our Borough – and to thank APSE for this recognition.

Eastleigh is one of the Party’s flagship Councils with has 34 Lib Dem Councillors  out of 39 and we have been in control since 1995.

You can see the Eastleigh Team receiving the award here:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

Floella Benjamin pays tribute to the late Queen

Baroness Floella Benjamin has paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords.

Floella  talked about the late Queen as someone constant in the lives of young people :

She gave them that sense of pride which is so important for the human soul and spirit, which young people need.

She also  talked about her own meetings with the Queen – something which as she said is something she could never have dreamed of as a child growing up in Trinidad in the 1950s and singing “God Save the Queen ‘ at school.

I first met her in 1995, when I was president of the Elizabeth R Commonwealth broadcasting fund, which was set up with funds she donated from the royalties of the BBC programme for the 40th anniversary of her reign and which hundreds across the Commonwealth have benefited from.

And she goes on to talk about a visit paid to the University of Exeter when she was Chancellor :

As Chancellor, I had the task of hosting her. It was then that I got a glimpse of the true character of this remarkable woman. It was like having a masterclass in people skills. She loved to indulge in finding out about everything and in a short time I had to judge who she wanted to find out more about and when she wanted to move on

The Queen had a well known admiration for, and friendship with, Nelson Mandela and this came out in her conversation in Exeter:

We chatted and shared stories about everything, including faith and forgiveness, which were qualities she told me she admired in Nelson Mandela

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Ed Davey interview with Tory think tank, Bright Blue

Ed Davey has been interviewed by ‘Centre Write ’ the magazine of Bright Blue – who describe themselves as “an independent think tank for liberal conservatism. We defend and improve liberal society.”

The interview is billed as talking to Ed about “about coalitions, what it means to be a liberal, and what the future, holds for the party he leads” and Ed provides some robust answers  to their questions. When asked if he regrets entering the Coalition he talks about his fighting the Tories over renewable energy – but as a result of winning those fights we have cheaper energy and lead the world in offshore wind. He doesn’t answer the question about whether he regrets us joining the Coalition but could not be clearer when asked “ Would you ever enter into a coalition with the Conservatives again?: 

“The answer is no. It’s quite simple.”

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

English Heritage plaque unveiled to Dadabhai Naoroji

A Blue Plaque has been installed on the house at  72 Anerley Park, Penge where Dadabhai Naoroji lived. Naoroji was the first  Indian elected as an MP ( by 5 votes!), one of the founders of the Indian National Congress and a leading member of the Zoroastrian community. A recent biography was reviewed by me on LDV here.

The unveiling included a Zoroastrian  prayer and a number of speeches about his life.  Representing the Lib Dems at the unveiling  were myself, Cllr Julie Ireland Leader of the Lib Dems on Bromley Council , Amna Ahmad the Party’s Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities and local Lib Dem and former Director of Policy at LD HQ , Neil Stockley.

Cllr Julie Ireland said:

 I frequently drive past this house and had no idea that it had been the home of such a distinguished Liberal. Dadabhai Naoroji was an extraordinary man – he wasn’t just interested in India, he was outspoken in his support for women’s rights and their right to education and a supporter of Home Rule for Ireland.  We are proud that  he was a former resident of Bromley

Amna Ahmad said :

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Tennis success for Cllr Paul Kohler, Wimbledon PPC

Paul is not, alas, playing in the matches going on at the moment, but when he saw that the All England Club had hosted refugees from Ukraine at the Championships he wrote to the AELTC reminding them that we have refugees from other countries in the Merton and suggested that they should give them the opportunity to enjoy the tennis as well.

The Club have replied to him saying that that they had reflected on what he had said and were delighted to now be hosting refugees from Afghanistan and Syria who were living in Merton and Wandsworth on the ‘middle Sunday‘ of the Championships – and providing transport to help them get there.

Paul Kohler said:

This is a great example of community engagement by  the All England club. There are some areas we disagree with them on – notably their proposal to build on Metropolitan Open Land but I am so pleased that they have right thing. I hope our guests in the UK will be able to see some great tennis and our British players getting through to later rounds in the tournament.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Why Conference should vote against the Board Reform proposals

Over the last few weeks virtually everyone who might be expected to carry weight with Conference delegates has been getting calls from the Party President asking them to come out in favour of the reforms to structure of the Federal Board. There has been a string of LDV and social media articles explaining why we need a smaller board. I imagine on Friday evening we will see a string of Party dignitaries speaking in favour of the reform proposals.

There has been a fair amount of circularity in the argument put forward to support this. Mark Pack having convinced the Thornhill review team that the size of the Board was the major contributor to the General Election debacle, now quotes the same report as evidence. But re-reading the report its clear that the disaster had little to do with the Board and much more to do with an over centralised campaign based around the Leader and a small team of advisers combined with an unwillingness to listen or challenge.

People may be surprised to know that the Board didn’t (and shouldn’t) get involved with the detail of our GE campaigns. That is constitutionally the role of the Federal Campaigns and Elections committee – though it’s not clear whether they were allowed to exercise that role in 2019.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 37 Comments

We must stand a candidate in every constituency at the next General Election

Our Party has something to offer everyone in England Scotland and Wales and therefore it makes sense that we should stand a candidate in every seat (our friends in the Alliance Party do a great job in Northern Ireland).

That might seem like common sense – but at the last election we participated in the Unite to Remain Agreement by which we, the Greens and Plaid Cymru (Labour refused to participate) agreed to stand down in some constituencies – and it was a disaster. Not only did it make no difference to the results, but the way in which our local parties and PPCs were told they were standing down with no input from them caused huge problems.

If you agree we should stand a candidate everywhere, please support Amendment 3 to motion F23: Party Strategy, 10.55 on Sunday morning.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Shaffaq Mohammed’s splendid defence of freedom

Shaffaq Mohammed, the Lib Dem leader of our group on Sheffield Council has criticised the a ban on the comedian Ray “Chubby Brown” performing at Sheffield City Hall.

Shaffaq says:

We live in a liberal society and people have individual freedom to choose to live the life they want and as part of that, they can choose to go watch a comedy show behind closed doors where no children are allowed.

He added:

It’s the start of a very slippery slope. Which comedian will be deemed not to be appropriate to come to Sheffield?

Would they move on to banning books and DVD’s in libraries next? Would people be banned from watching Roy Chubby Brown on Youtube next? Would they stop people from listening to rap music because clearly some of the lyrics can and are offensive?

In an interview on GB News Shaffaq says: “as a Liberal I defend people’s individual rights and individual freedom “

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

New Leader at the Local Government Association Lib Dem Group

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the elections in the Local Government Association and the results have now been declared. The biggest change is that Joe Harris , Leader of Cotswolds District Council has been elected Leader of the Lib Dem Group. It was a fascinating election, Howard Sykes the defeated incumbent standing on his record and a barrage of endorsements and Joe standing for change. The final emails from both candidates rather sum up the differences – for Howard it was from Heather Kidd asking for support for him and Bridget Smith for Deputy as “They have proved, time and time again, that they have the skills needed for the job”. In Joe’s email he set out three  priorities (turbocharging communications, listening and championing under represented groups) and promised fresh leadership and new energy.

The LGA Conference is online this year on 6-8 July and is free.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why you should help our campaign in Batley and Spen

Now that Chesham and Amersham is triumphantly over, attention will turn to the by-election in Batley and Spen on July 1st. There has been plenty of discussion about the Tory vs Labour battle but not much about the excellent candidate standing for the Lib Dems, Tom Gordon.

Tom is a local man, born and raised in West Yorkshire, who is a Councillor in the neighbouring Borough of Wakefield – the first Lib Dem councillor there in a decade. With a background in biochemistry and public health, and a stint working as a health economics research assistant, he is well placed to understand why local residents are so fed up with a Labour Council that doesn’t care and a Tory Government who see Northern Labour voters as people they can bamboozle with empty promises.

Tom spent a considerable amount of time in Chesham and Amersham and, as he says:

I had life long Labour voters in Chesham and Amersham who were voting for us because Sarah and the campaign had a strong message and they knew what we stood for, whereas in Batley and Spen they say they don’t know what Labour locally, or Keir Starmer nationally, stand for.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged | 77 Comments

The most important elections you have never heard of

Today, Liberal Democrat Councillors in England and Wales will be getting an e-mail to vote in the elections for a number of positions on the Liberal Democrat Group on the Local Government Association (LGA). These include the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group (also a Vice Chair of the LGA), Deputy Leader and a number of members of LGA Boards. A full list can be found here.

All of the positions receive an allowance, ranging from £36,769 for Group Leader to £2,919 for Board members.

The most interesting and important contests to my mind are those for Group Leader and Deputy Leader.

Posted in Local government and News | Tagged | 4 Comments

Could you be the PPC to win England’s Number 1 target seat?

Wimbledon is the Party’s closest target seat in England , with a Tory majority of just 628 and the Merton Party are now looking for a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to win it at the next General Election. It needs a swing of just 0.6% to turn Wimbledon orange.

Could you be the candidate that turns another London constituency orange?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Finally, success helping low paid people working for Merton Council

For the last 9 years Merton Lib Dems have been campaigning to help some of the poorest paid and hardest working people in our community – those who  look after people who need care.

We started 9 years ago with a question from a member of the public – me – at a Council meeting about the Council paying its staff the London Living Wage (LLW).   The answer was that it would cost £275k and would cause all sorts of difficulties.

A few months later  the Council announced that it had decided to pay all staff at least the LLW: the many difficulties to doing this had disappeared and the cost reduced to £47k.

That didn’t cover those working for Merton’s contractors though and in particular those working in social care. Mary-Jane Jeanes – then the sole Liberal Democrat councillor – proposed a motion that asked for Merton to commit to paying the staff of contractors the LLW and to commit to become a Living Wage Employer.

It was voted down by the Labour Group.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

No, teachers should not be prioritised for Covid 19 vaccinations 

I was surprised yesterday to see a tweet from Layla Moran saying that after talking to local head teachers she thinks teachers should be in the first wave of the vaccine.  Later on I saw that there is a campaign by the NEU
for this and I was surprised when I said on twitter that I disagreed with her, how strong the reaction was.

There are three reasons why I think this is not a good idea.

The first and most important is that I do not believe that the  such a sensitive question as who gets priority for vaccines should be decided by politicians or pressure groups.  The current schedule is the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)an independent group of scientists. We would rightly be outraged if the Government started interfering with their recommendations and this is an area politicians should not get involved with.

The second reason is that logically if you wish to add half a million teachers to the first wave, you are going to have to not give it to some of those who would otherwise get it (given that supplies are currently limited). Those people are there though because either they are in NHS and care jobs who need to keep the NHS running or because they are at high risk. There is a very clear link between age and  mortality which is why as well of course as vulnerable people, the current recommendations are based on age.  The JCVI state that “taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19”.   99% is a  very high % so why would we want to vaccinate as a priority teachers who would cause that percentage to fall?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 69 Comments

Time to reform the English Party

At the English Council tomorrow (Saturday 5th Dec) Callum Robertson (incoming joint Chair of the Young Liberals ) and I will be proposing a motion which seeks some substantial changes in the way the English Party is run.

That sentence probably prompts questions among LDV readers: what is the English Council and how does it relate to the rest of the Party?

In most of the Party – local associations, regional parties and the Scots and Welsh State parties and the Federal Party the governance structure is based on One Member One Vote, but the English Party has a system of indirect elections. The way it works is that at the same time as regional elections people elect members from that region of the English Council – a group of 150 people (which also include reps of the Young Liberals) which meets twice a year.

The functions of the English Council are set out in the Constitution (Section 5 and 6) but it is the sovereign body of the Party in England (though it has agreed that policy is dealt with by the Federal Conference).

So how well does this work? The vast majority of party members in England seem unaware of this structure. In many cases there is no contest for members of the English Council and some regions have not appointed their full quota of members.

The time has come for change. I realised when trying to explain the structure of the English Party to a newish member who asked how people are elected that I simply could not justify the way we currently work. The  motion has two parts:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments

Why you should think of trying to become a Liberal Democrat Councillor

London Region have recently been running a series of Zoom calls for people who are thinking of running for their Council in the 2022 elections. I have taken part in a couple of these and it has made me think about what I enjoy being a Councillor and why I would recommend others think about doing so.

I have been a Councillor for the Dundonald Ward in Merton since May 2018 – the ward runs from Wimbledon to Raynes Park along the railway line and it is characterised by terraced houses occupied by middle class professional families many of whom are from the EU. It won’t be a surprise that it voted strongly for Remain.

It’s a great place to knock on doors and talk to people – particularly in the daytime (I am retired) when a surprising number of people even before the lockdown work from home and often have more time to chat. I have had fascinating conversations about PG Wodehouse, the merits of working for different French banks and the details of train operations on the District Line. People occasionally even want to talk about politics!

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

The only way is Hybrid!

A few years ago I stood (unsuccessfully!) for election to the FCC on the basis that we needed to look at allowing people to take part in Conference remotely. I was given all sorts of reasons why it would not work – but it only took a few minutes on Friday afternoon to be abundantly clear that this was very much an idea whose time had come.

As the Conference went on that feeling only strengthened -fantastic speeches from first time speakers (my impression was more than usual), a vibrant chat box, far more people watching the debate and voting …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Book review – “Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism” by Dinyar Patel

This is a new biography of Dadabhai Naoroji by Dinyar Patel, who is a Professor at the University of South Carolina.

Before reading this, I knew little about Naoroji apart from him being the first Indian MP in the UK Parliament, but this biography enlightened me about his extraordinary life.

Born to a poor Parsi family, he became one of the early Indian nationalists – described by Gandhi as the ‘ father of the nation’, he was an pioneer of education for girls, a brilliant propagandist , Prime Minster of a princely state, Westminster MP, developed the ‘drain theory’ of how the British were impoverishing India – and on top of all of that a keen Freemason.

He was sent by his mother (his father died when he was four) to the English school of the ‘Bombay Native Education Society’, followed by Elphinstone College – the first institute for Higher Education in India . He became Professor of Maths there at the age of 27 and at 30 left India for London to establish the first Indian commercial firm in London. He then became Professor of Gujarati at University College and the leading Indian figure in the UK, lecturing and working to bring the attention of influential people to the poverty in India (India was seen in the UK as a rich country). One way he did this – much to the discomfort of India Office officials – was to use their own statistics (often showing they were demonstrably incorrect) and make speeches against them. He also developed the first calculation of Indian GDP per head.

Posted in Books | Tagged | 9 Comments

Britain is getting more socially liberal

There is, goodness knows enough bad news at the moment so a study by Kings College London and IPSOS which shows Britain is becoming socially more liberal is very welcome. 

The study looks at the same questions asked in 1989 and 2019 which makes it much easier to track the differences – and what differences they are!

In 1989 40% of British adults thought that homosexuality was morally wrong – in 2019 that was down to 13% while  people thinking that homosexuals should be treated ‘just like other people’ has increased from 23% to 64% 

On drug use the % thinking soft drugs such as cannabis are morally wrong has gone from 60% to 29% – there has also been a drop in people thinking the same of hard drugs such as heroin – but  at 67% ( down from 89%) it is still high 

On abortion the % thinking it is immoral has halved from 35% to 18% – and interestingly there is little difference  in the views of men and women (nor was there is 1989) 

Some areas haven’t changed much – the % thinking that having a sexual relationship with someone who is married to someone else is morally wrong has actually increased from 55% to 62% – because  men are now more likely to think this is wrong – and are  now aligned with the views of women. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

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