Author Archives: Tahir Maher

Payday Loans

I feel quite pleased that Wonga went into liquidation. I am sad for their employees (as we all have families to support) but I am sure the directors will walk away with their egos bruised and millions from ill-gotten gains. Companies like Wonga are effectively no more than legalised loan sharks.

Looking at a quick comparison between payday loans for short-term loans the APR varies from 500 per cent to just under 1600 per cent a year. A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health ranked payday loans as having the most detrimental effect on mental health well-being. There are nightmare stories of people who have up to 8 payday loans to service their debts. On average people hold three payday loans at a time. Agencies that support and assist people with payday loans relates to loans that are over 100 million pounds for well over one hundred thousand people. Those in poverty already pay a poverty premium (the poverty premium is calculated to cost a low-income family on average £490 a year) therefore reducing costs from any spend is crucial for them as it allows more cash in their pockets. Increased inflation and low wage increases hurt low-paid families disproportionately and they are the ones most likely to use payday loans.

We can learn from the US here; fifteen states have banned payday loans. Although, in the UK, we have capped loans I for one would be in favour of a similar ban. However, we need to tackle payday loans, excessive credit card rates and charges from unauthorised bank overdrafts (I remember that at one time a large high street bank was changing equivalent to 4,500 per cent APR for an unauthorised increase to an overdraft). Limiting the harm payday loans can do is now even more important because of increased wealth inequality and a shrinking welfare state.

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OPINION – Poverty in the UK

Below are some troubling facts:

  • Over any ten-year period, there have only been two periods of worse wage growth (compared to the last ten years), and that was during the wars;
  • Currently, in the UK people persistently in poverty is equivalent to about 4.6 million;
  • The trussell trust has identified over 1 million people who are given three-day emergency food supplies;
  • The average FTSE chief executive earns 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage (UK living wage is £7.83 per hour);
  • More than 20 per cent of the UK’s working population earn a salary below the living wage;
  • The austerity program has reduced welfare spending, school building programs, spending in local government and increase VAT.

Furthermore, there are many people trapped in the “gig economy” and are working very hard for little reward. As unemployment goes down in the UK, the actual wage earned is also falling. The usual justification for CEO’s earning so much is that only such entrepreneurs create wealth. I believe that they are many who can do and this is not as unique as it is stated (I can think of more examples where CEO’s have raided or destroyed a company that created a world-class enterprise). I do agree that CEO’s should be paid and paid well but for FTSE companies 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage is irresponsible.

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Conference Message – Exit Brexit

Its conference season and the one time in the year when the Lib Dems get reasonably good news coverage. Our conference is first, followed by Labour and then the Tories. We need to get our message across about Brexit and not lose or have our message diluted by Vince’s announcement that he may or may not step down or lose the message to a difficult policy debate such as the one on immigration.

The focus for this conference should be on Brexit and how can we stop the UK leaving the EU. Lord Kerr believes that we can still withdraw the Article 50 letter without consequences especially if both sides agree.  The referendum was advisory, and therefore Parliament has the option to vote it down or reject Brexit. This is unlikely because the Tories on the right-wing of the party won’t allow this to happen plus they have the support of Democratic Unionist party and some Labour MP’s who support Brexit. The math is not there, especially if they fear a public outcry. Unfortunately, even as project lies unravels there are still many who still agree with the sentiment for leaving the EU no matter what the cost.

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Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel laureate

Aung San Suu Kyi received her Nobel Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” No one at the time, other than some in Myanmar, would have disagreed with that. It was also a welcome achievement when she became the head of state in 2015. There was hope that someone, like her who had suffered so much, showed such determination to fight for freedom, would be a champion to improve the human rights in Myanmar. In her Nobel lecture, Aung San remarked: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.”

The treatment of the Rohingya people has been nothing short of genocide; according to a recent UN report. What makes it more shocking is that Aung San has been the state leader during these killing sprees. I understand that her power is limited because the Generals still retain substantial influence in the country but she still has legal recourse, and more importantly she has a powerful voice in the nation that could oppose these atrocities. Unfortunately, some of her recent comments have been supportive if not misleading for example saying that ‘terrorists’ are misinforming the world about what is happening in Myanmar or asking the US ambassador not to use the word Rohingya (this is denying their identity as an ethnic group although they have lived in Myanmar for centuries).

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Pick ‘n’ Politics

Supercool for Superdry

A co-founder of Superdry has donated £1m to the campaign for the People’s Vote. Julian Dunkerton said “we have a genuine chance to turn this around”. He went on to say that: “I will be paying for one of the most detailed polling exercises ever undertaken by a campaign so that more and more people have the confidence to demand the democratic right for their voice to be heard.”

The people’s Vote is being called for by members from all the political parties. They vote is being called for

prior to us making a final decision to leave on 29th March 2019.

F-F-F-F- Farage is back

Well he couldn’t keep away. Nigel Farage says he is coming back into front line politics because Brexit does not mean Brexit and Theresa May is selling the country out. It will be interesting if Farage again employs his successful scare tactics of East Europeans and 80 million Turkish citizens rushing across Europe to make their way to the UK. Such comments from project lies did us much harm but unfortunately worked. Farage in his deluded mind has come back to save the Brexit day. I just hope politicians, especially the media are a lot more robust in questioning Farage and not let him get away as a rent a quote but take his comments more seriously as there are many who take him to his word. His xenophobic comments have already cost this country gravely.

It should be noted that we currently stand at 8% in the yougov polls with UKIP at 6%. It will be interesting to see where the polls are by the end of the year.

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What Other Countries Think About Brexit (or is it “The Great British Break Off?”)

I wanted to look at what other countries (mainly taken at random) thought about UK’s Brexit. You should note that the comments made by other nationals are made from their point of view, and that should be respected, even though you may not agree with them.

The French mainstream politicians have shown little interest for our Brexit. Many feel it’s a good for the EU as the UK has never really wanted to integrate and Brussels will be a more comfortable place after we leave. There is little sympathy for the 300,000 plus French civilians living in London as they are, incorrectly, seen as tax avoiders.

India had said, when May went to India promoting UK trade links, that they are in no rush to do a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain and will demand easier access for Indians nationals to migrate to Britain as part of any future trade relationship. The Indian High Commissioner has since reinforced this view.

The Germans think of the Brits as fellow ‘Northerners’ that work hard, share similar values and have the misfortune of not being born in Germany 🙂  of all the EU countries, the Germans have taken the Brexit decision most to heart. They now firmly believe in the European project and anyone, who rejects it, is seen as rejecting them.

BMW urged Angela Merkel to ensure that UK has a good deal as they are concerned that a failure to secure a good Brexit agreement with Britain could affect its £2.4bn annual exports from the UK. However, BMW has said if, after Brexit, customs delays are clogging up supplies they will seriously look to move – putting 8000 jobs at risk.

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What IF… We Leave with no Deal

If the Tories throw caution to the wind and somehow manage to leave the EU because they put dogma above the consequences of leaving with no deal, what will the impact of that be for us?  Below is a small account of the possible results of that action. I put this forward to reinforce why the Lib Dems are against Brexit and now (as another possibility has emerged) an exit without a deal.

Currently, there are no queues of countries enthusiastically waiting to trade with us (as the Leavers said they would be) and even if there where it will take …

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Greenhouse Effect – Global Carbon Trading

In 2005 the EU established a cap for carbon emissions and trade program. This cap set a limit on the CO2 industry and utilities could emit. The cap is to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. A low cap will cost business, and a high one will have little impact reducing global warming. In 2017 the cap was 1.7 per cent annually that would reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. In the EU carbon targets affect 11,000 energy and industrial plants.

With the trade program, each company has an emit target and can emit

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Boris’s Burka Bashing – Morally Malevolent

A while back my wife decided that she would start to wear the hijab. She never discussed this with me nor did I have any indication she wanted to wear one. She felt that as part of her spiritual journey that she should wear one. I was a bit surprised, but it was her choice. She wore the hijab for about three years and then decided to stop wearing it. Again, she didn’t discuss it with me and made her own choice (this time I was a bit annoyed – as I feared she might have stopped wearing it because of the response she got from the general public or colleagues at work). However, it was more to do with what she felt about her spiritualism than anything else. There are of course people who do require their partners/daughters to wear the hijab or the burka, but in the majority of the cases, it’s a personal choice for those who choose to wear it.

My culture is British, my social reference points are British, and I think in English, but if Pakistan were playing cricket against England, I would support Pakistan (as an English person who lives in Australia would support the English football team if it played against Australia). We live in a free society where we can express our free will as long as it doesn’t impinge on others. I suppose “impinge on others” is the key phrase here, in such instances, I always apply common sense to check my behaviour when considering others. However, for some, there is a robust instinctive intolerance and bigotry that’s devoid of common sense.

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Charities – Sexual Abuse

I have deliberately spent most of my career working for charities. I was lucky enough to hold some senior posts and feel satisfied that in my mundane daily work I was able to help charities to deliver much-needed assistance to the public. I believe in charities and have been for a while dissatisfied that governments have not supported charities better. Charities in the main are good value for money, and the service they provide is often essential for local communities, nationally and internationally.

It’s regrettable to read re charities revelations about the sex abuse scandal. It is even more shocking that …

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Reflections of Berlin

I was in Berlin last week, a sweltering week. I was immediately struck with the efficiency of their public services; there was eight of us on a boy’s holiday when we came out of the airport to catch a bus to our hotel; the buses arrived precisely on time and left on time.  We were still dithering when the first bus arrived, and we were told to stand back so the bus could go on time – lesson learnt.

Over the week we went on a number of tours that took us to the Bundestag, different locations to look at the wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdam (where the KGB was and Putin until 1990). The guides were not afraid to make it clear: how Germany was split between the allies and the Russians, how Berlin was divided by the wall, the devastation that was left behind after the war and for years having an overt presence of foreign armies on their soil reminding them that they had lost the war. The interesting thing about this (and the same was noted from brief discussions with locals about the aftermath of the war) was that they didn’t seem to be any bitterness as they had accepted their fate (although one local was very adamant that the Germans had no control over their foreign policy). Obviously, there is animosity, but it was well contained.

I guess there are a number of positives for the Germans in all this. The Russians have now left, and the allies who still have armies stationed there are there as much to serve to defend Germany as anything else; the country has been reunited, and in the intervening years Germany has developed one of the strongest and robust economies in the world – so not so bad after all.

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Miscellaneous Announcements

I wanted to take the opportunity on a Wednesday to make some small and varied points/announcements that I feel will be of interest. My announcement for this week is about the:

Autumn Conference

The Agenda for the autumn conference launched online today. HO staff should be thanked for the hard work they have done to get this ready. The Agenda and the Directory can be found at

To help promote the autumn conference there is a Local Party Conference Challenge

Challenge Criteria:– Between the dates of 1 August and 31 August FCC would like to challenge all local

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Lib Dem warns democracy is at risk

The digital, culture, media, and sport (DCMS) committee has spent 18 months conducting an investigation from disinformation to the influence of social networks to targeted adverts during the Brexit referendum that played on people fears and prejudices. MPs rightly point out that this abuse is a threat to democracy.

The DCMS committee report is based on 20 oral evidence sessions, during which 3,500 questions were asked of 61 witnesses, and included a trip to Washington DC. The committee received more than 150 written submissions and numerous pieces of background evidence.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has warned “democracy is at risk” if the report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee into disinformation and fake news is ignored.

Ms Jardine said:

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Report Back on the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Held on 14th July 2018

As a member of the FCC, I attended the meeting held last Saturday (14th July). My comments follow the more informative article by Zoe.

The main purpose of the meeting was to go through all the motions that had been selected for FCC to review for possible inclusion at the Autumn conference. Subject area split the motions (54 in all):  Business Innovation and Skills, Communities and Local Government through to Work, Social Security and Pensions (14 different policy areas, in all).

Each member of the committee was given a policy area(s) with internal party contacts (mine was, for example, a member of …

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Time to Start the Blame Game

The plan presented by Theresa May at Chequers and the subsequent resignations by two of her senior cabinet ministers (Brexit and Foreign Secretaries) is more to do with them running for cover than resigning in exasperation. What Theresa May agreed with her cabinet was not in any way a soft Brexit option, it doesn’t resolve the Irish border issue and from all accounts will be rejected by the EU. The proposal will still involve the UK leaving the single market, ending free movement and limiting the role of the European courts.

The proposal is that we will accept part of the four principles set out by the EU. We want to stay in the single market for goods but not services, capital or labour. The plan is we will collect the EU tariffs until we get a system in place to set our tariffs, and until we do that we stay part of the customs union. The proposal for Ireland is still the software option that took the US a decade to develop costing over $10 billion and is used by a very small number of companies. As we run a surplus on services and not on goods, this will be further impetus for companies to move to Europe.

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Rees-Mogg: Back Seat Driver

Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg

I remember the first time I heard about Rees-Mogg, it was on Have I Got News For You where they were joking about Rees-Mogg taking his nanny with him when he went out canvassing. I was a PPC during the last election, and I remember when the results were coming in through the night when North-East Somerset results came in Rees-Mogg was standing there with a huge Tory ribbon. Even the Tories were disappointed when the BBC announced he had won. So how did a man who is a backbencher, considered eccentric and not particularly popular come to be in a position that he can threaten the Prime Minister?

Rees-Mogg was a minor player during the referendum but now as Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson (who has recently left government) are/were restricted to what they can say (believe it or not), It created a vacuum for Rees-Mogg to step into. Nigel Farage seems to be busy cultivating his relationship with the American President after failing (seven times) to get into parliament and is not seen on television commenting on Brexit as he once was.

The European Research Group (ERG) was set up In July 1993 by Sir Michael Spicer, in response to growing concern about Britain’s continued integration into the European Community through the Maastricht Treaty and its members include David Davies, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Iain Duncan Smith and Sajid Javid among others. Jacob Rees-Mogg took over from Suella Fernandes as the Chair this year (Suella Fernandes resigned as a junior minister on 9th July as she was not happy with the Chequers agreement reached by the Cabinet on 6th July).

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YouGov Polls

Since the Brexit referendum media and politics seems to have turned anti-European but it seems that the public opinion is slowing starting to shift towards being more pro-European. There is increasingly despair among the public about the lack of leadership and success with the Brexit negotiations. Two years on from the referendum vote and we really don’t know where we will be and what will be agreed over the next 5 months. A YouGov poll has consistently found that about two thirds of those polled feel the negotiations are going badly.

Below I have collected a number of YouGov polls around Brexit. They make for interesting reading.

Surprisingly, a recent YouGov poll found that 31 percent of Tories say the government’s Brexit decision is wrong. This compares with 73 percent of Labour voters and 83 percent of Lib Dem voters. Because some voters think that the government now has a duty to implement the referendum 30 percent of Remainers want the government to go ahead with Brexit. Although, those who were undecided, during the referendum, are beginning to gradually favour staying in the EU.

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Cabinet Playing Whiff-Whaff with Theresa May

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on through generations, says that “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

Ministers are under pressure to spell out the type of relationship we should have with the European Union. The crunch summit at Chequers is for the Tories to settle their differences although they are strong views on both sides, this Tory summit is supposed to provide an agreed way forward. Michael Gove has alleged ripped up a document that explained the customs partnership proposed by Number 10. The Defence Secretary has told his department that if he doesn’t get the £20 billion he is asking for he will remove the Prime Minister (PM) as he made her, he can break her. The MoD budget for 2016/17 was £35.3bn, and because of the weak position of the PM we now have the US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, warning us that France would replace the UK as America’s closest ally in Europe if we don’t increase our defence spending. Moreover, then there is Boris with his bog roll comment and even worse his inflammatory private and a rather coarse dismissal of business concerns about Brexit.

The PM is getting bullied. How can we have a deal when groups within Cabinet are pulling in a different direction and believe they will achieve their objectives without any fear of consequence. Power is perceived and not something that’s tangible, a loss of that perception leaves the PM in a very vulnerable position and makes it very difficult for her to pursue an agenda and therefore lead. Talk about being pushed from pillar to post.

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US needs a birthday present 

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called on the Conservative Government to give the American people a “proper birthday present” by standing up to President Trump on human rights.

Ms Jardine made her plea as the US celebrates Independence Day on the 4th of July. The Liberal Democrat MP wants the Conservative Government to use President Trump’s visit to the UK next Friday to “promote the shared values between British and American people” and “condemn Trump’s treatment of migrant families and his comments on torture.”

Ms Jardine said: 

“The British and American people have a long history of shared values. Among the

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Knife Crime

Tories cheered when a reduction in Police budget was announced. Conservatives were going to cut funding, and the Police were going to keep their coverage and levels of activities by better utilisation of their resources. Even when the Police warned that crime would go up with the proposed cuts, the budgets were reduced. The consequence has been an increase in crime. Eventually, the Tories will have an epiphany that if they provide more funding to the Police, they will have more resources to fight crime. They never learn.

Knife crime went down from 2011 to 2015. But in 2017 alone it went up by 22% from 2016, and this was across the country, the 22% equates to just under 40,000 offences. There are many suggestions as to why there has been an increase in knife crime. Government critics have sited reduction in stop and search, closing down of children centres and cuts in the number of Police officers. In England and Wales, there are 21,000 fewer police officers now than there were in 2010 and in that same period council spending on Youth services has fallen by more than £750 million.

Others suggestions relate to drug and gang wars being the reason why youngsters carry knife. Social media is another reason given because these youngsters can have a massive following on platforms like Facebook and with significant followers backing down is not seen as an option.

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Telling Tales

The government is keen to play up the supposed benefits of Brexit. We are now getting to the ‘business end’ of the negotiations and as expected all is not as it seems. The government is talking up walking away with no deal instead of an accepting a bad deal (a bad deal would be an admission of its failure to negotiate with the EU) with the Brexit dividend that will be used to provide the NHS with a birthday present. Regarding the dividend, the Institute of Fiscal Studies made it clear that this was twaddle.

Just over a year ago the Office for Budget Responsibility (the governments’ official forecaster) estimated that as a result of lower economic growth because of Brexit tax revenue would fall by 2020/21 by £15 billion. It should also be noted that UK’s growth has gone from the faster-growing economy in G7 to the lowest other than Italy’s. This fall in revenue significantly surpasses our net contribution to the EU. The Institute of Fiscal Studies notes that there will be less rather than more money for the NHS and other services.

If we take our commitment to pay the agreed £45 billion plus a long-term obligation to pay pensions identified (until the need is exhausted), government’s commitment to support agricultural and the scientific research in universities – where then is the dividend for the NHS?

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Radical Drugs Reform Needed

“The case of Billy Caldwell who needed cannabis oil for his severe epilepsy again highlights legalising cannabis not only for medical but recreational use. Although the Home Secretary (Sajid Javid) made an exception for Billy (by allowing cannabis oil use for 20 days) cannabis is still banned for recreational use. Sajid Javid said this week in the commons the position “We find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory”. Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. These are used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis or used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. Other ingredients from cannabis help children with epilepsy. Cannabis does have medical benefits.

Some countries have regulated legal markets for the non-medical use of cannabis. There are Cannabis Social Club, sometimes called a Teapad, that control the cannabis market as non-profit organisations for the purpose of relaxing or for social communion that are only accessible to members. These can be found in Spain and also in the US. There are also cannabis coffee shops that are operating as coffee shops where cannabis is openly sold. These are usually found in the Netherlands.

Also in the US to regulate cannabis they have cannabis enterprise set up like businesses that are tightly controlled and sell cannabis. Uruguay’s has the government-controlled system for cannabis regulation. These are some examples of models for regulating non-medical cannabis being used around the world.

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Artificial Intelligence and Liberty

Last year a computer program used by a US court for risk assessment was biased against African/Caribbean prisoners. The program was much more prone to label these defendants to re-offend.  Again in 2016 Microsoft released its Chatbot Tay in Twitter to engage in conversation.  In less than a day Chatboy Tay began uttering racist and sexist comments. Facebook last year experimented by allowing two AIs to interact freely. They had to shut them down as they very quickly developed their own version of the English language.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is coming. We are moving from automation to intelligent application to eventually super intelligent A.I. There seems to be no clear plan or any real risk assessment of super-intelligent A.I. and how we will, in the long run, interact with such A.I.

Computers will not become biased on their own. They will learn from us. Up to now, computer science algorithms have focused on machine learning, often having programs performing work we would do, collecting and analysing data, identifying patterns and automating processes. However, as A.I. is built by human beings who have implicit biases, even if you could design an A.I. algorithm to be entirely agnostic for a race, gender, and religion, they will, through interaction, learn from our experience and the world we live in.

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Interview with the new Chair of FCC – Geoff Payne – Part 3 of 3


Do we need to have more radical fringe meetings – i.e. Invite more thought provoking / radical guests to fringe meetings;

Yes! I would love to see more radical fringe meetings.  Without wishing to be seen to cop out though, I should add that FCC is not directly responsible for running the fringe.  We make the rooms available and promote the opportunities to book but we are dependent on party members and other bodies coming forward with radical ideas.  I would like to see more fringe meetings focussed around controversial items on the agenda.


Do you feel the different number and variety of …

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Interview with the new Chair of FCC – Geoff Payne – Part 2 of 3

Geoff Payne

Repeatedly I hear from members that they want more policy motions to be discussed at the conference and to hear directly from more of the senior figures in the party

Given that we only have a finite amount of agenda time, there can be a tension between those two things!  I agree that those are the priorities of many of our members though.  People do enjoy speeches from spokespeople but they also attend to debate policy.  I am committed to wringing as many minutes as we can from the agenda.  That said, there are other important aspects of a conference such as the fringe and training.  The challenge we have is to balance the competing demands of them all

What will you do to encourage more AO’s and SAO’s to be at the party conferences especially as a lot of them are tight for funds

I completely understand the pressure on funds having chaired an SAO.  When I was Vice-Chair of FCC, I developed an agreement with many party bodies to enable more of them to take advantage of the concessionary party body rate for the exhibition and fringe.  We are going to continue that and are always interesting in hearing ideas about how we can make the experience better for them.  Many of them hold their Annual General Meetings at the conference and I really want to encourage that.  SAOs and AOs are part of the lifeblood of the party and they belong at the conference.

Do you have any plans to assist new members or members who have not attend a conference to attend?

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Interview with the new Chair of Federal Conference Committee – Geoff Payne – Part 1 of 3

Members at a conference
Congratulations on being elected the new FCC Chair

Thank you! It is a really exciting job to have; one of the very best in the party.


What changes do you think that Andrew Wiseman brought to the FCC as Chair?

Andrew was a great chair.  He steered us through the immediate pre-coalition period, though the years we were in government and then the period of re-building afterwards.  He oversaw increases in attendance, vast increases in commercial revenue from 2010 and more recently the attendance of huge numbers of new members at conference.  One of the most significant changes that he successfully navigated us through was the abolition of conference representatives and the move to one member, one vote.  He will be a very hard act to follow.


What attracted you to put yourself forward to be Chair of FCC as compared to another representative body of the LD?

The simple answer is that I love party conference.  We are unique in having a conference that actually makes the policy of the party.

Any member, from a person who joined just a few weeks ago, to the Leader can submit a motion to the conference and make a case for it being passed. All votes are equal.  Success depends on the power of argument and the strength of the idea.  The same goes for individual motions on particular issues, wide-ranging policy papers and indeed election manifestos.

The FCC plays an incredibly important role in refereeing conference, ensuring debates are fair and selecting an agenda that is interesting, varied and which contains things that members actually want to talk about.

We have a great committee comprised of members elected from across the party.  It is a real privilege to be its chair


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Brexit causes UK to lose £3.5bn in science and research

Currently, the UK ranks 3rd in the world for the scientific research behind the USA and China. For the period 2007/13, the UK received €8.8 billion out of a total of €107 billion expenditure on research, development and innovation. In the same period over 3,000 UK-based researchers received funding to work overseas (mainly in Germany and Italy).

EU’s flagship research and innovation programme are Horizon 2020. Since 2014 we have received about €3.6 billion in new grants, and over 10 per cent of research income for top UK’s university comes from the EU. By leaving the collaborative research community in the EU, the UK may well be isolated, and because of the international standing of UK in scientific research, it will also affect Europe’s overall standing in the world. In the UK, there is concern that if we no longer part of Horizon 2020 and implement a strict immigration regime, the UK will find it harder to attract the best scientists from around the world. University College London stated that 30% of the applicants for their research fellowship were from EU countries and this year there have been no applications.

Research Councils UK highlights that we benefit significantly from the investment and growth resulting from the EU scientific grant. The grant has already leveraged an additional £229 millions of funding from other partners. The government has so far stated that they will continue to fund scientific research to 2020, but there is no firm funding plan after that.

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Lib Dems demand new money to fund pay rise for teachers

Leading Liberal Democrats have written to the Chancellor calling for new, dedicated money from the Treasury to fund teachers’ future pay rises and are seeking cross-party support. 

The call comes amid fears that the Government will accept a pay rise for teachers, but won’t provide schools extra money to fund for it.

The Liberal Democrats MP argues that schools are “under huge financial pressures” and it is the responsibility of the Chancellor to “save them and their pupils from the inevitable consequences of a further erosion in the funding.”

The School Teachers Pay Review body has been looking into the issue of teachers pay and has made recommendations to the Government, which Education Ministers are due to respond to shortly.

The party’s Education Spokesperson Layla Moran has written to MPs seeking cross-party support for the campaign.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said: 

Posted in education, News and Op-eds | 19 Comments

Brexit will devastate food and farming standards

For the £110bn-a-year agriculture and food sector in the UK, the EU accounts for 60 percent of exports and 70 percent of imports. As there is likely to be no trading or customs agreement with the EU, it will mean that we will have to trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs. The WTO tariffs will increase the price of goods coming into the UK, and this will have a significant adverse impact on the agricultural industry and consumers.

Although we will be able to agree on trade deals with other parts of the world (if we leave the EU), we should not compromise on our high standards for animal welfare, environmental and food standards. The government also needs to ensure that whatever border agreement they finally settle on, that movement of food perishable goods is not at risk.

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Childhood obesity a “time bomb”

Public Health England estimates that a quarter of children between two and ten years old are overweight or obese. There is a strong relationship between obese children and adults who have grown up and are overweight. Records show that obesity among children starting their first year of primary school has risen for the second year in a row and results from a survey of more than 1 million pupils across England, show 32.4% of girls and 36.1% of boys in the final primary school year are overweight or obese. Unfortunately, the children in deprived areas are much likely to be obese than those from affluent areas.

As the children grow obesity increases the risk of many health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety.  Estimates suggest obesity cost the NHS over £5 billion a year.

There is no single solution to obesity, and sustained actions are required to change poor diets. The government says that obesity is a priority and they have made efforts to introduce a soft drinks levy and sugar reduction programme. The government, however, needs to act on adverts for unhealthy foods and junk food.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 15 Comments

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