Category Archives: Interviews

In conversation with the founder of LibDem Friends of Taiwan, Jonathan Philip Bird

Jonathan (JPB) talks with Merlene Emerson of the Chinese Liberal Democrats (CLD)

CLD: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you developed your interest in Taiwan?

JPB: I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2004. I would have been a member of an Alliance party from 1983/84 but I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and the group forbids political involvement. I have been an active member of my branch since then, running as a ward candidate a number of times.

As well as Taiwan I am passionate about Europe being a core member of the cross-party campaign Cardiff for Europe since 2016.

I lived in Taiwan in 2009 and 2010. I found the political situation of the island fascinating. I discovered the Liberal English language newspaper Taipei Times, in a newsagent. Since my time there I have been a daily reader of the Taiwanese press, and kept up with developments, there.

The year of 2015 saw both ends of my political interest overlap. The historic victory of our Liberal International sister the Democratic Progress Party victory in Legislative assembly and Presidential elections. That contrasted so strongly with the trauma of May 2015 here. I contacted Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat leader and suggested he send a letter to Tsi Win as a fellow liberal. He did so and
I believe it is important that those who champion democracy should support each other.

CLD: What are your observations of the political future of Taiwan?

JPB: Unfortunately, the status quo is not an alternative allowed by the CCP. In 2008 the People’s Assembly passed the “Anti Succession act” it caused consternation in Taiwan and extended the post TianAnMen Square European Union ban on arms exports. Not only did it threaten war on Taiwan should it declare independence or redefine its constitution as the Republic of Taiwan etc.. but also, commands the Bejing regime to continually assess the rate of progress to unite with China. If that progress is considered to have stalled, then to use force to “reunify” China.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 1 Comment

For International Women’s Day: an interview with Yue He Parkinson

On International Women’s Day, Chinese Lib Dems’ Merlene Emerson interviewed our newest member, Ms Yue He Parkinson, about why she is interested in UK and China politics and her decision to join the party.

ME: Yue, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, education and career?  When did you settle in the UK?

Yue: I was born, educated and worked in Canton, China, and moved to the UK in 2004 to study International Relations at the University of Bristol, and awarded an MSc. Since then, I have settled down in Portishead, Bristol with my family of 4. I am now working as a bilingual writer and author, and was invited by the BBC World Service to comment on Chinese politics in Dec 2022.  

ME:  What made you decide to go into politics yourself, first as a journalist writing about UK and China relations and now by joining a political party?

Yue: I have always been interested with politics, I studied politics at the University of Bristol, I have interviewed politicians, studied British history, and analysed politics and UK-Sino relations for over 8 years. It took me about 20 years to understand British politics and society, say democracy, freedom, equality, fairness, etc, as the politics and society in China ARE ABSOLUTELY DIFFERENT FROM British politics and society EXCEPT in the areas of trade, business and science where both share certain common languages. I now feel confident to get more involved in British politics. Also my two girls are over 10 now, so I am free to devote myself to my own interests.

ME:  Did you consider joining any of the other major parties before joining the Liberal Democrats?   What attracted you to the party?

Yue: Yes, I knew the Chinese organizations in the three parties from 2015 when I covered Chinese in British politics for BBC Chinese. For the majority of mainland Chinese immigrants, the only party that can get their attention must be the Conservatives, not only are they in power, but it is also the only party mainland Chinese immigrants are able to understand and accept.  British society is kinder and fairer as compared to Chinese society, where you are reliant on yourself, and no one will help you unless you have money or power. It is an extremely hard and cruel social environment, no freedom of speech, no right to strike, etc. That’s why I have always said that the British don’t know how lucky they are.

Liberal Democrats embrace beliefs which I find are the best in the UK. It’s in the middle way, not that conservative, not that labour either.

ME:  I like that, describing the Lib Dems as in the middle way (very Chinese).  What are your political ambitions, if any?  Would you consider standing as a candidate in local or general elections yourself?

Yue: I don’t think I am that ambitious as I have long way to catch up with the front line of British politics. Yet I am keen to stand as a candidate in local and general elections. I came from China where the focus is on people’s duties and responsibilities, with few rights, opposite to British society where there’s a higher degree of emphasis on human rights. The middle way – balanced with rights and duties are the best for the community – has been a dream to achieve, although I understand that often only extreme politics, right or left, can win most voters over.

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An interview with Vince Cable

Former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has just written a thought-provoking new book about China. So what motivated him to do so, and how does he think the West should respond to the emergence of this Far Eastern superpower? We spoke to him to hear his thoughts…

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Stephen Lawrence Day

Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime Isabelle Parasram interviewing someone affected by knife crime

On 22nd April 2020, we commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence – a black British teenager who, in 1993, was killed in an unprovoked racist attack by a gang of white men.

Stephen had been waiting for a bus with his friend, Duwayne Brooks (who later went on to become a Lib Dem Councillor). Duwayne escaped unhurt, but Stephen died of his injuries.

Five suspects were initially arrested, but the charges were dropped, and a private prosecution by The Lawrence family of three of the suspects failed. At Stephen’s inquest, a verdict of unlawful killing ‘…in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five youths’ was delivered by Sir Montague Levine.

The day after this, The Daily Mail newspaper used its front page to name the five men it says killed Stephen Lawrence. It invited them to sue if they were wrong.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Interview with Chair of Covid19 Anti-Racism Group (CARG)

Dr Yeow Poon

ME: Dr Yeow Poon, you have been the Chair of the Chinese Community Centre in Birmingham since 1995, founded the England China Business Forum in 2013 and are also a trustee of the Chinese Welfare Trust national charity. Why was it necessary to set up the Covid19 Anti-Racism Action Group (CARG)?

YP: The spread of COVID-19 in the UK has led to an increase in racism and hate crime towards British Chinese, East and Southeast Asians. Incidents ranged from children being taunted in schools to international students being violently attacked. The insistence of some political leaders and media commentators calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus, and attempts to deflect blame to China, has also further inflamed racism. CARG was set up to counter these negative narratives in the media.

ME: As of today, COVID-19 has infected nearly 2m people globally, and the UK is in lockdown with over 10,000 deaths. Why would the British public be concerned with the rise in hate crime against the Chinese and East Asian communities?

YP: Hate crime towards any community should never be tolerated. COVID-19 does not discriminate ethnically. On the frontline in the NHS, in care homes and the community, we are working together to combat and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. These selfless acts by individuals from diverse backgrounds should be applauded. Also, the many examples of mutual help and research collaboration between the UK and China should be encouraged and strengthened.

Also posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

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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Jo Swinson interview: part 5 – contemporary politics and what she’s doing now

This is the fifth and final part of an interview which took place during the Party’s Spring Conference in York. Events have somewhat overtaken it, as you will realise when you get to the end… The first part of the interview can be found here, the second part here, the third here and the fourth here.

As I’m sat opposite a prominent Scottish Lib Dem, I must ask you about the recent call by the SNP for a second Scottish independence referendum. What are your views on independence for Scotland and is Theresa May right to refuse

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Jo Swinson interview: part 4 – the battle for greater equality

In yesterday’s third part of the interview, Jo talked about a range of issues from Easter eggs to body image. Today, it’s the turn of equality issues, both in society and within the Party. The first part of the interview can be found here, and the second part here.

Perhaps, what you are best known for is your continual fight for gender equality. You were the Minister for Women through much of the Coalition. In your recent article in the Huffington Post, you paint a bleak picture of the current state of the road towards gender equality and what, as a society, we need to do at both macro and micro levels. In your heart of hearts, do you ever think equality for women will be achieved?

I challenge the premise of your question slightly. It’s not just about equality for women, but it’s also about equality for men. Gender inequality harms men as well as women. The words ‘gender’ and ‘women’ are not interchangeable. If you think about men’s role as fathers and about the pressure on males in terms of masculinity and what it means to be a man, the stats on male suicide rates and male mental health issues are really worrying.

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Jo Swinson interview: part 3 – campaigns, social media and a political hero

In yesterday’s second part of the interview, Jo talked about how she entered politics and, subsequently, Westminster. Today, the conversation turns to Easter eggs and body image… The first part of the interview can be found here.

Throughout your time in office, one of your bugbears appears to be excessive Easter egg packaging. Seeing as Easter is upon us, I thought it would be an apt topic to discuss. At face value, this doesn’t seem a particularly important issue, but when you realise that the excessive packaging causes thousands of tons of waste each year, it clearly is a reasonable concern. You started campaigning on this in 2007 and have even named-and-shamed the main culprits. Has the situation improved in ten years?

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Jo Swinson interview: part 2 – first steps in politics and what it’s like to be a young woman at Westminster

In yesterday’s first part of the interview, Jo spoke of how she entered politics and why. In today’s excerpt, she talks about what it is like to be a young woman in politics and how she dealt with it….

TIME IN POLITICS

From watching you on YouTube and from sitting opposite you here listening to you speak, you come across as very confident and it’s difficult to imagine you suffer from nerves. When you were 21 years old and stood for parliament, were you nervous? And do you still get nervous nowadays?

Of course. I was nervous going up

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