Author Archives: The Voice

Intelligence report must be published before election – Umunna

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Sedwill, to demand that everything in his power is done to ensure the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report before the dissolution of Parliament.

In the letter, Chuka Umunna MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, raises concerns that No.10 are sitting on the Intelligence Security Select Committee’s report on potential Russian interference in the UK’s democratic process. The report contains information of significant relevance to the upcoming General Election.

Umunna calls on the Cabinet Secretary to clarify the process and timelines for publication of such a report …

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Celebration of Steve Hitchins’ life to take place on 21st November

It’s about six weeks since former Lib Dem Islington Council leader Steve Hitchins died suddenly.

There will be a celebration of his life at 2pm on Thursday 21st November at St Mary’s Church on Upper Street N1 2TX; the church is about 200 yards south of Islington Town Hall and mid-way between Angel Tube on the Northern Line Bank branch, and Highbury & Islington on the Victoria line/London Overground/rail line from Moorgate.

All are welcome. Speakers will include past Chief Executives and Leaders/ Deputy Leaders of Islington Council (as well as Simon Hughes!)

Lib Dem Peer and former MEP Sarah Ludford, Steve’s partner for 45 years – wife for 37 – said:

This is indeed firmly a celebration, at which we hope to have a few laughs as well as respect expressed for his achievements; so people should feel free to wear normal, preferably brightly-coloured clothes. There is even a rumour that The Land might be sung…

With December 16th the 20th anniversary of Islington Lib Dems winning control of Islington Council and Steve becoming Council leader (with the day after Steve’s celebration being the 40th anniversary of Roy Jenkins’ ‘break the mould’ Dimbleby lecture),  the very best tribute that LibDems could make to Steve’s memory is to work their socks off in the General Election to get lots of LibDem MPs elected!

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Stop Brexit. Build a brighter future. (The movie)

Here is the video that accompanied the launch of our election slogan yesterday. Enjoy!

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Antoinette Sandbach MP joins the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Antoinette Sandbach has joined the party.

Antoinette, who is the MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, will contest her seat as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the coming General Election.

She is the eighth addition to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party in the last few months.

Liberal Democrat MP Antoinette Sandbach said:

This general election will be the most important in my lifetime. People have a very clear choice, the Conservative party offers years of uncertainty whilst the Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit.

I’m so proud to stand alongside other Liberal Democrat candidates across the country to

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+++Breaking news – our campaign slogan for the general election

The Liberal Democrat slogan for the General Election has now been unveiled. It was heavily trailed in advance so it should not come as a surprise to anyone!

 

 

 

 

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is bad news for UK economy

A study from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has found that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will leave the UK £70bn worse off than if it had remained in the EU. Responding to the news Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Exiting the EU said:

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Wiliam Wallace

On Saturday, William Wallace closed the debate in the Lords for the LIb Dems. He said that during all the hours of debate, he’d not heard any positive arguments for the deal. People were just saying that we needed to get Brexit done.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has just said that remainers do not admit that the EU is not just an economic project. The European Union has always been a political project. The memorandum presented to Harold Macmillan in 1961 made it very clear that it was in our political interests to join the European Economic Community and that the Washington Administration were strongly of the opinion that Britain should do so. In Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech moving the Second Reading of the European Union accession Bill, he also spelled out that there was a political dimension to it. It was never the case that we were never told that it was more than just a common market. This is a peace project. It is how we deal with our neighbours, and it is important that we do deal with our neighbours.

This has been a long debate. I have listened carefully but have found it extremely difficult to hear any positive arguments for the deal. The arguments are mainly of exhaustion—“let’s get Brexit done”—or that there is too much uncertainty and at least this will end it, or that at least it is better than no deal. Another argument is, “It’s not too damaging economically. Well, it’s a bit damaging but not as damaging as some of the economic forecasts have suggested”. So what are the Government promising us that we will gain in return for these economic costs, whether they are modest or severe?

Here, I fear that we enter a looking-glass world in which facts and evidence are turned on their head. I heard Jacob Rees-Mogg on the radio yesterday saying that leaving the EU with this deal will strengthen the UK. No one in this debate has agreed with that idiotic remark. Many of us are deeply concerned that this is the beginning of the break-up of the United Kingdom. It takes us towards the potential reunification of Ireland, and certainly it takes us further towards the independence of Scotland. As the son of a Scot and as someone who has a son currently living in Edinburgh, this is a matter of personal, as well as national, concern.

We are told that we will regain sovereignty over regulations and standards but it has not been explained why that is so important. We are also assured that we want not to lower any of the standards but to raise them. However, perhaps we want not to raise them idiosyncratically so that we have different good ones compared with those of the European Union and America. Why that is so important, the Government have totally failed to explain.

The Prime Minister says in his Statement that,

“the greatest single restoration of national sovereignty in our parliamentary history”,

is part of the aim. I much prefer what was said by Geoffrey Howe—a man I much admired on the Conservative Benches—when he talked about the need for Britain to learn how to share sovereignty and how we would hold on to greater influence over our own affairs if we learned to share with our natural friends and partners. After all, we do not control our future prosperity. That lies in the hands of companies such as Hitachi, Nissan, Tata, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus, with their headquarters outside this country. When, and if, we leave the European Union, we will discover whether they are willing to stay committed to this country. If they move out and if foreign investment dries up, we will be in deep trouble and the economic assessments will prove to have been too modest in their gloom.

Then we are told that we can negotiate our own free trade agreements to our greater advantage. With whom? With India, China, Russia and the United States? Would the United States be more generous to the UK than it has been with the EU? That looks extremely unlikely. The world is at present moving away from free trade, as is the United States, and we in our turn are moving away from the world’s largest free trade bloc and single market.

Then we are told that leaving the EU will free us from bureaucracy. We have heard about the need to have new rules of origin, VAT receipts and refunds, ​and customs checks. That is a substantial extra collection of bureaucracy on cross-border trade. The withdrawal agreement and the future framework talk about a Joint Committee with a range of specialised committees that will manage our new relationship. We will need very large numbers of extra officials to manage those, as well as doubling the staff in our bilateral embassies because we will no longer be able to negotiate multilaterally in Brussels.

I want to turn to the future framework. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that there has been a remarkable lack of attention to this document, although it is extraordinarily important. The Prime Minister has offered us no coherent vision of the future relationship. Someone has to look at this to see where we are going. One hundred and forty-one paragraphs of the political declaration cover a very wide range of issues, including data protection; participation in European programmes on science and innovation, culture, youth exchanges and education development; the European Neighbourhood Policy; intellectual property; family law co-operation; transport; energy; fishing; global co-operation on climate change; sustainable development; health and epidemics; foreign policy, security and defence; the UK contribution to joint defence operations; intelligence exchanges; whether we have access to the European Union Satellite Centre; space co-operation, about which it says very little because we have not got very far; cybersecurity; illegal migration, counterterrorism; et cetera. That is all to be negotiated, ideally by December 2020. That is not going to be very easy, but it is at least the intention.

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Caroline Voaden MEP on Question Time tonight

There are no MPs on the Question Time panel tonight – a function of it taking place in South Shields when there were votes taking place eon the Queen’s Speech at 5pm.

Good news for us, though. Not only are we on, but one of our new brilliant MEPs is representing us.

Caroline Voaden will be flying the Lib Dem flag tonight at 10:35 on BBC1.

Here’s the rest of the panel:

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard is in an impossible position. Scottish Labour doesn’t want independence, yet John McDonnell said on a visit to Edinburgh this Summer that Labour would allow a second referendum. On the two massive constitutional issues of our time, Labour seems to be flailing about searching for a clue.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday Julie Smith: This deal is not in the national interest

We continue with our Lords speeches on the special Saturday sitting. This next one is highly significant. Julie Smith had not voted against the triggering of Article 50 because she felt that we would have to leave. She has changed her mind and explains why;

My Lords, it is normally courteous to thank the Leader of the House for repeating Statements from the Prime Minister. However, on this occasion, I rather wish she had not. The Prime Minister articulated a view, reiterated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, that he hopes that the two halves of our country—the 52% and the 48%—can now speak with one voice. I made a similar comment in July 2016, straight after the referendum.

I am a democrat and was willing to respect the result of the referendum. It is a matter of record that I did not vote against triggering Article 50. During the referendum, like the Government, I was very clear and said time and again that a vote to leave meant that we would leave. However, the fact that I believe in democracy does not necessarily mean that I have changed my mind, any more than any of my fellow Liberal Democrats have done, about the importance and value of membership of the European Union. That the Prime Minister could stand in the House of Commons this morning and say, “I have not heard anybody over the last three and a half years make a case about Brexit other than in practical terms” is deeply disingenuous. The fact that people have been arguing on the basis of the situation we are in does not mean that we have changed our minds. I have not rehearsed the pre-referendum arguments over the course of the last three and a half years, because we had already had that debate. That does not mean that I do not think that membership of the European Union is by far the best thing that this country can aspire to.

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Iain Dale to quiz party president candidates TONIGHT on LBC

Christine Jardine and Mark Pack will face broadcaster Iain Dale on LBC in just over half an hour’s time.

Listen live here.

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Roger Roberts: Don’t build walls, build bridges

While all the drama was happening in the Commons yesterday, the Lords was debating the Queen’s Speech.

One of the measures in that is an immigration bill that makes any liberal reach for a sick bag. Roger Roberts very eloquently described why freedom of movement is a good thing – what would Londoners have done for their tea without the Welsh farmers who moved their to set up dairies?

My Lords, listening to the Queen’s Speech, what drew my attention was the reform of the immigration regulations and that these would include restriction of freedom of movement. I agree that we need reform of the Home Office Immigration Rules, because they are totally unfit for purpose. For instance, this year we saw Windrush remembered, and only last week heard that a lass born in Glasgow 30 years ago now faces deportation. The whole thing is agony for so many people. They are here and yet the Home Office seems to treat them very unjustly. I therefore suggest that we make a fair adjustment of the regulations so that nobody will feel that they are being used in an unfair way.

We face immigration problems that will increase as the years progress. We see that climate change in Africa could well turn many people from their homeland to look for somewhere else to survive. Warfare in places such as Syria and Afghanistan will also lead many people to leave their homeland to look for somewhere they can have a fair and peaceful existence. We, as the United Kingdom, could be the leaders in this reform of immigration thinking. So often we are the people who react, not the people who lead. We could be the people who lead on these immigration transformations. That means we would need to take the initiative; we would have to forget building walls and start building bridges. That is the only way we can become a whole human family.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Jonny Oates

This deal is the beginning of a tortuous process, said Jonny Oates when he spoke in the Lords, and it would be the poorest who would be hit hardest. Here is his speech in full:

My Lords, the Prime Minister, we are told, has succeeded where all said he would fail. He has returned apparently triumphant, with a deal that the nay-sayers said could not be done. Or so his champions claim. Not all the nay-sayers doubted he could do it. I certainly did not, and I suspect that many others who have studied him over the years did not either. Experience suggested that he had just the qualities to succeed. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said, he is the quintessential showman, the man of smoke and mirrors who always prefers style over substance. It is not so hard, after all, to get a deal if you do not care much about what is in it or anything about the people you are prepared to betray to get it.

The Prime Minister is well practised in the art of abandoning people who are no longer of interest to him, as the DUP is now finding out. I cannot pretend to have huge sympathy for the DUP, because if you make government a purely transactional matter to get what suits you, you should not be surprised when the entity you are transacting with repays you in kind.

Nor do I have much sympathy for the DUP’s claims that the deal breaches the consent principle. It did not seem to care much about the consent of the nationalist community, or indeed the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, when it backed the disastrous policy of Brexit. We all failed Northern Ireland ahead of the referendum in not recognising the full extent of the difficulties that would be thrust upon its people, but no party failed it more than the DUP, which has done more to undermine the union than any allegedly unionist party in history. It is living proof of the adage that tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

So much then for how we have got here. What about where we have actually arrived? It is a dismal location. Someone described it to me as lipstick on Theresa May’s deal, but that implies something more attractive, and the changes that the PM has secured make it less attractive, ​if that is possible. It is nothing like the outcome promised in the referendum: it undermines the integrity of our union; it makes one part of our country subject to the courts of the European Union, which the Brexiters told us was unforgivable; it puts a border down the Irish Sea, which the PM told us would be unconscionable; it will make us all substantially poorer—estimates suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Reid, has said, that the deal will leave people around £2,000 worse off on average; far from having millions to spend on the NHS, we will have billions less to spend on everything. So much for the promises of the leave campaign. These are not abstract consequences; they are real-life consequences that will impact people up and down the country.

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Jo Swinson appoints new MPs to Shadow Cabinet

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has today announced an expanded Shadow Cabinet.

New MPs Luciana Berger and Phillip Lee will take on Health, Wellbeing and Social Care and Justice respectively. Angela Smith has been appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Development while Sam Gyimah will shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

As we enter a crucial few days for the future of our country, I am delighted to announce the new Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet.

This team will take the fight to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, and offer a brighter future

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How super Lib Dem MPs contributed to Super Saturday

Here are the Lib Dem contributions from our MPs in yesterday’s “Super Saturday” debates.

First up was Jo, basically telling the Prime Minister that he was too feart to put his deal to the people:

The Prime Minister’s deal removes protections on workers’ rights. It puts a border down the Irish sea and, according to the Government’s own analysis, will damage our economy on a scale greater than the financial crash. Today, hundreds of thousands of people will be outside demanding a final say in a people’s vote. Is not it the truth that the reason why the Prime Minister refuses their calls is that he knows that, if given the option, the people will reject his bad deal and choose to remain in the European Union?

Which he didn’t answer, of course.

Then Luciana tackled him on the fact that the Government hadn’t even provided back of a cigarette packet figures for how the deal would impact on the economy:

The Prime Minister’s Brexit Secretary was on television this morning. He confirmed that no economic analysis of the deal has been done. I ask the House to let that sink in: no economic analysis of the deal, on which we are all expected to vote today, has been done. How does the Prime Minister anticipate that Members on all sides the House can, in good faith, be expected to vote on a deal today that will impact on our country for decades to come?

Answer came there none. And the same when Sarah Wollaston had a go later:

Evidence matters, Prime Minister. How can he possibly assure our constituents that this is a good deal if he has not carried out an economic impact assessment of what it will cost them? If he has carried that out, why on earth are we not able to see it as we debate this today?

Tom Brake challenged him to rule out leaving at the end of the transition period without a deal:

Would the Prime Minister agree to pass an Act making it unlawful for us to leave at the end of the transition phase without a deal?

And he refused to do so. Quelle surprise. But look at what he said, while thanking ministers and civil servants for procuring the deal:

I respectfully say to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think their position has been made easier by measures passed in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). Not a good idea!

A bit of a contradiction since he’s been hailing this brilliant deal he brought back with the Benn Act in place.

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Sign Sheila’s petition on Northern Ireland and Brexit

The UK Government must not risk a return to ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. That’s what’s inspired Sheila Ritchie, our Lib Dem MEP for Scotland to launch a UK Parliamentary petition calling on the Government not to impose any additional border restrictions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Ms Ritchie’s petition comes as the Good Friday Agreement approaches the 20th anniversary of it taking effect and is sponsored by fellow Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Sheila Ritchie said:

For almost 20 years now, the Good Friday Agreement has kept the peace between communities. 

Freedom to move across the Irish border without restrictions has been a key contributor to this peace and should not be up for negotiation simply for Boris Johnson’s political convenience.

The UK Government must not threaten this agreement, or risk a return to ‘the Troubles’, by imposing any additional border restrictions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The petition says:

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WATCH: Second online presidential hustings

Yesterday a second online hustings took place between party Presidential candidates Christine Jardine and Mark Pack.

You can watch the whole thing here.

This weekend, there are in person hustings in Plymouth, London, Lancaster and Bedford. You can find details here.

And if you can’t get to a hustings, you can question both candidates in the official Lib Dem Internal Election Discussion Group on Facebook here.

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Jo: The fight to stop Brexit is far from over

So Boris Johnson has struck an eleventh hour deal which he intends to put to Parliament as hundreds of thousands of marchers take to the street demanding a People’s Vote.  The Lib Dems will be meeting at the Duke of Wellington Arch in Hyde Park at 11 am.

Jo’s reaction was pretty clear. We continue to fight to stop Brexit:

The fight to stop Brexit is far from over.

Boris Johnson’s deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment.

The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit.

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Poll sensation for Luciana Berger

A couple of weeks ago, Luciana Berger announced that she was leaving Liverpool to contest Finchley and Golders Green for the Liberal Democrats.

A Survation poll has put her way ahead of the Conservatives.

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The Lib Dems have a new Chief Executive

Mike Dixon, currently Chief Executive of Addaction, a mental health, drug, alcohol and young persons charity, has been appointed Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats. He will start his new role next Monday, 21st October.

He was previously Assistant Chief Executive at Citizens’ Advice.

Mike said:

I’m delighted to take on this role. We’ve just had our best ever European election results and new members are joining all the time, taking us to record levels of membership. Millions of people want the country to stop Brexit and focus on things like the climate emergency, investing in schools and people’s mental health.

I’m looking forward to getting started next week. We’ve got a great team, inspirational political leadership and a thriving, inclusive party. If you want change, join us today.

Sal Brinton added:

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Isabelle Parasram on how she’s working with the English Party to improve diversity

Over on the party website, the Party’s Vice President BAME, Isabelle Parasram, writes about how she is working with the English Party to improve diversity and our party’s engagement with diverse communities.

For example, when I attend high profile events, wherever possible I also invite BAME members and supporters to attend with me.  One such event was the launch of the Commonwealth 8.7 Network at the Australian High Commission.

Through the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, over 60 civil society organisations will work together to push for greater action across the Commonwealth in eradicating modern slavery and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7.

At my invitation, Michael Bukola, one of our London Assembly candidates, and Dr Victoria Shownmi, an academic specialising in race relations who has been supportive of the work that I am doing, both attended with me.

Not only did they support me that evening, but they built connections and represented the Liberal Democrat brand in a way that I could not achieve on my own.

In terms of community outreach, I met the outgoing Cypriot High Commissioner at an event hosted by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.  Stemming from the discussions I had that evening, I will be arranging an event that will build further links between the Cypriot community and our Party.  Recognising the unique needs of our fellow EU citizens and seeking to meet those needs through political policy is part of my broader goal of ensuring that our Party adequately reflects the communities we serve.

She described a visit to Hackney after the murder of a teenager:

I also work with key figures within the Party to raise issues, seek their help in pursuing the cause of race equality and ensure that diversity remains at the top of the agenda for our Party.

Jo Swinson, Pauline Pearce and I went to Hackney following the tragic murder of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and met with some of his schoolfriends who were on study leave preparing for their GCSEs.  We also visited the local community, observing for ourselves the knife amnesty bin – inaccessible due to building work – the community buildings – either run down or closed down – and the high-rise buildings, with few open spaces or facilities for young people.

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Shas Sheehan: The unimaginable horror of climate change for marginalised communities

Yesterday, the Office of National Statistics held an event to discuss the social impact on climate change. Lib Dem Peer Shas Sheehan spoke at the event, comparing the Extinction Rebellion protesters to the Suffragettes.

She spoke about how the impact of climate change would be felt most acutely by the most marginalised. Here is her speech in full:

In 1989 I cut short my career in advertising to do a masters in Environmental Technology, at Imperial College.

I wanted to get back to my science roots and study for myself the evidence for environmental degradation. Climate change wasn’t a big thing then. What was exercising environmentalists then included depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, species loss and of course the radioactive cloud that was the legacy of Chernobyl.

Governments took action on the ozone layer and acid rain, because the evidence that both were caused by man was there before our eyes.

We could see the ozone hole from space, we could see the dying forests and the lakes devoid of life.

Visuals that are quantifiable are important when it comes to carrying public opinion.

So, the cover of the Economist a few weeks ago will have a powerful and lasting effect.

It shows a stripey red, white and blue flag, which colour codes the average temperature for each year starting from the mid 1800s to the present day, as measured against the average temperature from 1971 to 2000.  Colours range from darkest blue to deep crimson.

It is, quite frankly, frightening to see the cumulative effect. Since the 2000s we have been in red territory. And two out of the last three years have been deep crimson.

No wonder people have taken to the streets. They, like the suffragettes a century ago, have right on their side.

Back in 1989 Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Report, “Our Common Future” was a sort of bible for everyone who wanted to make the world a better place.

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How you can help Liberal Democrat Voice

The Voice is only a success because of the interest and support from our readers. For many people just lurking and reading the site is all they want to do – and that’s fine, we’re grateful for people taking the time to read the site.

You can though help us continue to produce interesting content for a growing audience. Here are four simple ways:

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PREVIEW: Luisa Porritt MEP’s Brexit Reality film

London LIb Dem MEP Luisa Porritt has made a film about the reality of Brexit and how it affects the NHS. It’ll be out later this week.

Here’s a preview:

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Heidi Allen: I joined the Lib Dems to stop Brexit, heal the rifts and rebuild the UK

A very big welcome to Heidi Allen, our 19th MP.

Over on the Lib Dem website, she has written about why she took the decision to join, saying that Jo Swinson’s party was the only one in Britain offering to stop Brexit, heal the rifts in society and stop Brexit.

When I became an MP in 2015, I could never have imagined we would find ourselves in this position. Through the prudent and practical decisions taken during the coalition years, the economy was recovering and our country was on the up.

Coming from business, joining the Conservative Party seemed the logical thing to do. But two general elections and an EU referendum later, the landscape has shifted beyond all recognition.

In February 2019, I resigned from the Conservatives to sit as an Independent MP, because I recognised the Party had drifted irreversibly to the right and was more concerned with its own survival than the national interest.

The party had become utterly unrecognisable, uncompassionate and willing to wreck the economy and peace in Ireland by not just contemplating, but actively courting a No Deal Brexit.

The European Elections in May 2019 highlighted the need for MPs to work together in the national interest, putting aside party interests. Voters were crying out for a Remain Alliance to offer an alternative to the future portrayed by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

Believing that if you get the right people around a table anything is possible, I have always been comfortable with cross party working. So through the Summer and into the Autumn, as an independent broker, I have worked with the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Independents to build that Remain Alliance across England and Wales through the organisation I formed, Unite to Remain

Confident that good progress has now been made on building that Remain Alliance, I recognise that as with most things in life, I am stronger and more effective when I am part of a team.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know that the best way to serve my constituents and country is to join the Liberal Democrats.

Now is the time to stand shoulder to shoulder with, not just alongside, those I have collaborated and found shared values with.

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Online Presidential hustings at 7pm tonight

There is an online hustings for the two Presidential candidates tonight at 7pm until 8pm.

Here are some relevant links:

RSVP form for the event

Put forward your questions for the candidates

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sal Brinton urges us to THINK about our language

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent days about the language we all use in political discussion and debate.

Today, Sal Brinton has emailed all party members to urge us to play our part in being thoughtful and sensitive in what we say.

Here is her email, reproduced with her permission:

I chair the all party parliamentary group on bullying. We focus on helping young people and we know many schools now use the THINK acronym to teach good communication (Is it True; Is it Helpful; Is it Inspiring; Is it Necessary; Is it Kind?).

As a party, I think we need our own version of THINK:
Is it True
Is it Hurtful
Is it Illegal
Is it Necessary
Is it Kind?

Why am I talking about this now? Over the last few weeks and months, the tone and language of political discourse has become increasingly nasty, hurtful and – for too many politicians – dangerous. We have MPs (of all parties, whether supporting leave or remain) who have been targeted by trolls of the worst kind, who use language to harass and intimidate.

Women, people of colour, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities are particularly targeted and in a clearly hateful way. Diane Abbott is constantly trolled, Caroline Spelman has had to have police support and is standing down, and our own Christine Jardine was unmercifully targeted by SNP trolls.

As Liberal Democrats I hope we all abhor such behaviour. I am sure, like me, you believe that the language we use as Liberal Democrats speaks to our values. But we all need to check our own language because it is far too easy when insults are thrown at us, to respond in kind.

Two years ago, on behalf of the party, I appeared before the Committee for Standards in Public Life as they took evidence about the intimidation and harassment of parliamentary candidates in the 2017 General Election.

I was not there to tell of how many of our candidates had been on the receiving end of such intimidation and harassment – we had witnesses who spoke for themselves with shocking examples.

No, I was there to explain to the Committee what actions our party takes when we discover that a party member has behaved inappropriately, or worse, committed a hate crime. You can see the Committee’s report here. It is depressing reading. But, frankly, things are now much worse.

You will all have seen the debate in parliament last week which has forced us all to think about the language that we use in politics. And earlier this week, Jo Swinson was amongst party leaders who met with the Speaker of the House of Commons, and they agreed this declaration:

“Everyone is entitled to have a view – be they parliamentarian, journalist or a member of the public – and their right to safety cannot in any way be dependent on what that view is or the course of political action they take.”

It is important to remember that as members, under our members’ code of conduct, we have responsibilities as well as rights, and I would ask all of you to think carefully about what you say.

If you are on the receiving end of trolling often the best way to go is to say nothing at all – walking away could help you avoid making a mistake. Never post in anger!

There’s an old football adage “play the ball, not the person”, which is a good starting point, but we also need to think about the boundaries. Have you been upset by language used by an opponent? Is there anything that you have posted that could have been received in a way to upset the recipient, beyond the usual exchange of views? Or make them feel threatened? Or made them feel so worried that they need to go to the police because they fear for their personal safety?

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It looks like we’re standing down in Beaconsfield for Dominic Grieve

The Sunday Times reports (£) that we are standing down in Beaconsfield to support Dominic Grieve’s run as an independent following his unceremonious ejection from the Conservative Party.

Normally you don’t believe these things – I mean, we were supposed to be standing down in favour of Rory Stewart a few weeks ago and that was never going to happen.

But we do have this one from the horse’s mouth – our PPC in Beaconsfield, Rob Castell.

Dominic Grieve has been a consistent supporter of a People’s Vote, so this makes sense.

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Former Conservative Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell joins the Liberal Democrats

Stephen Dorrell was Health Secretary in John Major’s government and as recently as 2014 was Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee.

Tonight, in an article for The Times (£), he announced that he had joined the Liberal Democrats.

However, we belittle the distinct political traditions of Liberal Democrats, social democrats and liberal Conservatives if we pretend that voices in the “centre” are all the same. The argument for realignment is different. Democratic politics requires its practitioners to build coalitions of people whose views are not identical, but who share political objectives and a commitment to see them translated into reality.

Brexit is the immediate illustration of the issue. Liberal Democrats, liberal Conservatives and social democrats share a strong belief that the UK’s interests are best served by remaining a member of the EU and building in Europe the world’s most effective champion of liberal values. These values, enshrined in the EU treaties, are not, as Vladimir Putin says, “obsolete”; they are the essential ingredients of the success of western civilisation, and liberals should organise to defend them wherever and whenever they are threatened.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

Wera Hobhouse highlights women’s mental health

Yesterday, Wera Hobhouse led a Commons debate on women’s mental health.

Before the debate, she wrote for Politics Home about the responsibility MPs have to strengthen these vital services:

Whether it’s desperation over housing, Universal Credit, or Personal Independence Payments, the numbers of people struggling have increased dramatically, exacerbating mental health issues.

And for women, these problems are increasing.

More women – one in five – experience common mental health disorders like anxiety and depression compared with men, according to the charity Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk.

Young women are even more vulnerable with 26 percent at risk of these kinds of mental health problems — three times more than young men.

She outlined why it’s so important to make sure women have access to treatment for eating disorders at an early stage:

Many health professionals still reach for the scales when faced with an eating disorder, despite existing guidelines clearly advising against solely using weight for a diagnosis. Girls are turned away even when they are clearly suffering because they aren’t ‘thin enough’.

For over a year, I have been campaigning to #DumpTheScales – demanding shorter waiting times for adult sufferers and more education in medical schools around these deadly disorders.

We need to treat eating disorders as a mental health issue, not just a physical health issue.

And she looked at why women find it difficult to seek help for mental ill health:

A mother may be afraid to ask for help if she fears her children could be taken away. Services often fail to recognize the trauma that women experience through separation from their children, for example through extended stay in medical facilities.

We must think about what models work to support the wellbeing and mental health of women who are carers and mothers.

Mental health is complicated, and we don’t have all the answers yet. However, only by having open conversations about the problems can we can find lasting solutions.

Ultimately, as an MP, my colleagues and I have a responsibility to identify these solutions and safeguard them in law.

Only through strong laws can we build a society where equality, and wellbeing, is guaranteed for everyone.

You can watch her speech here. Unfortunately, the embedding was not working at the time of writing.

Here’s the text of her speech with the interventions:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

WATCH: Jo Swinson say that a vote of no confidence would play into Boris Johnson’s hands

Opposition parties met today to talk strategy for the next stage of the Brexit Drama.

Over the weekend we had seen talk of a potential vote of no confidence this week.

Matthew D’Ancona explained yesterday on Twitter why this would be a mistake.

Jo Swinson has always been clear we can’t risk an election until we are certain that the threat of no deal on 31st October has been gone and it appears that she won the day.

Lib Dem MPs held a photocall outside the Commons and this is what Jo had to say:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 24 Comments
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  • User AvatarMichael BG 16th Dec - 1:43am
    Yousuf Farah, Thank you for your support which I found surprising considering what I have read of your recent comments, which implied you wanted us...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 16th Dec - 1:42am
    For decades, British politics was defined in class terms, with Labour the natural party of working-class voters, Conservatives generally banking on the support of more...
  • User AvatarHywel 16th Dec - 12:17am
    Is a copy of the Federal Appeals Panel ruling on this available anywhere. I have a similar-ish appeal to them (on powers of the RO...
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    @Caron I joined on 9th September.
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    The party needs to address its values and to decide what they mean for the 2020s. The world is equalising and Britain needs to profess...
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    I agree with Jackmc that the LibDems need a movement/direction, and with Matt and other commenters that Electoral Reform and rejoining the EU are not...
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