Category Archives: LibLink

For highlighting articles by Lib Dems that have appeared elsewhere in the media.

LibLink: Rabina Khan: Life as a British Muslim changed forever on 9/11

Writing in the Independent, Lib Dem Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan reflects on how 9/11 changed things for British Muslims.

She described her reaction on the day. Like our editor Caron Lindsay, she was cradling her baby as she watched events unfold on the television:

She described her sadness, and anger at that the perpetrators had done but also fear about what was coming for Muslims as a result of the actions of a few extremists who would be held to represent an entire religion:

At the same time, I felt anxious, knowing that some people would assume that all Muslims harboured the same views as the terrorists. Extremists are not Muslims and have deliberately skewed the texts to fit their homicidal agenda. They are murderers.

America’s response to that fateful day rewrote not just its own democracy but reshaped our world and the way we live. Our world witnessed the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, secret surveillance, increased dawn raids on Muslim homes, the way our children and young people were monitored at school. It became an era of fear and mistrust.

And it was that fear which had a profound effect on her daily life:

How can I forget the countless times I saw the look of dread and panic on people’s faces when I reached for my phone from my bag on the tube or the time when my rosary fell out of my bag during Ramadan? I remember a little after the terror attack my elderly gran’s beloved Adhan clock (the call to prayer) went off in her bag and people in the queue in a shop ran for the door.

Oblivious to the lingering, uncomfortable and judgmental stares in the shop from staff, my gran dressed in her crisp cotton white sari and head covered with a shawl, turned off the alarm, picked up the toy a parent had dropped and handed it back to the cashier. Recently, I was travelling on the tube in London when I was called a “f****** Muslim whore” by another passenger, but there were people who stood up for me.

Things have got worse in the meantime and she’s not optimistic for the future:

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LibLink: Ed Davey says private capital must switch from dirty to clean

Now here’s an interesting thought. Why not ban any new listings of fossil fuel companies on the London Stock Exchange?

Ed Davey flags up this idea in an interview with The Guardian today to mark his first year as Party Leader.

Under the plan outlined to the Guardian by the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, another immediate policy would be to stop new bonds being issued in London to finance oil, coal or gas exploration.

Fossil fuel firms already listed in the UK would then have two years to produce a coherent plan about how they would reach net zero emissions by 2045, or risk being struck off the LSE.

In the longer term, pension funds would have to disinvest from fossil fuels by 2035, with all companies with fossil fuel assets removed from the exchange by 2045.

Ed said:

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Hydrogen has huge potential for decarbonisation

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at Hydrogen as a weapon in our arsenal against climate change.

She looks at many potential uses – from fuelling planes to heating homes and highlights the work of the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney:

EMEC is supporting a project known as HyFlyer which has already achieved the world’s first flight of a commercial-grade hydrogen electric aircraft in September of last year.

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric Piper Malibu Mirage successfully achieved a 20-minute flight from Cranfield airfield in the UK in which the only fumes it produced were water vapour.

The next phase of the project is targeting a successful commercial-grade flight of a 19-seater craft, potentially in 2023. The green hydrogen fuelling systems required for flight tests will be delivered by EMEC.

Perhaps the best indicator of the potential for hydrogen-powered flight is that the project is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Football racism shows why those who oppose taking the knee are wrong

In her column for the Scotsman this week, Christine Jardine tackled the racism we saw against the three England footballers after the Euro 2020 final.

A young colleague told me that some black friends had abuse shouted at them while making their way home from the England-Italy game. “It’s always your kind that lets us down.” We all knew it was there, simmering amongst those who booed any team taking the knee this summer.

But watching it boil over against fans, footballers and someone who has made a real and determined difference to the well-being of vulnerable children should be a wake-up call for all of us.

She expressed her admiration for Marcus Rashford and the other players:

A young man, hugely successful, who doesn’t just remember where he came from but carries it with pride and channels his success into making a difference.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: A sinister sign our human rights are in peril?

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine described something worrying that took place while she took part in a protest for Hong Kong democracy in Edinburgh:

A drone. Hovering a couple of feet above the heads of the group was a small grey machine, the single eye of its mounted camera recording the event and everyone there.

This was, it is important to stress, a Covid-compliant, socially distanced, perfectly legal outdoor gathering of a small number of people in Edinburgh’s High Street. Unremarkable even in these times, save for one thing. It was about the threat to democracy in Hong Kong

She asks if we take our civil liberties for granted:

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LibLink: Mark Pack’s June report

Party President Mark Pack has written on a number of topics in his monthly report to members for June. Here are some extracts:

Chesham and Amersham

I’m writing this month’s report before we know the result. But we do already know that we’ve had the best candidate in Sarah Green, run the best campaign and had an awesome amount of help from people all around the country.

Westminster selections are up and running

New Parliament, new name: this time around we are ‘tiering’ our seats, so the most winnable seats (aka target seats, aka key seats) are now called Tier 1 seats. Selections have started up, with advertisements going out to people on the approved list and appearing on the members-only section of the main party website.

One of the new things for this Parliament is Project Stellar: a support package for our top candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Anyone selected in a Tier 1 seat from such a background can automatically qualify for this support, and depending on the numbers, we may also be able support candidates in Tier 2 seats in this way too.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine – Biden has changed the narrative

Writing in the Scotsman as the G7 summit takes place in St Ives, Christine Jardine breathes a sigh of relief that we have a grown-up in the White House again and looks at how Joe Biden has been a good friend to the UK. Sometimes, she says, your best friends tell you the truth.

She compared this summit to the Atlantic Charter, Churchill and Roosevelt’s vision for the post war world:

Eighty years later, Biden referenced that moment as he cast the other leaders in his shadow to declare that the United States will donate half a billion dozes of Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and middle income countries.

“America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19, just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War Two”, he promised.

This was the statement of intent that the world needed.

A commitment from a US President to those who had begun to doubt his country’s engagement with foreign affairs. Leadership.

The UK and others have made similar vaccine commitments but this was America’s moment to step forward and begin to lay the foundations of a post-Covid international order.

Christine also sees hope in the fact that we now have Joe Biden in power after four years of someone who inspired contempt, protests and blimps.

America got rid of Trump, and maybe we can get rid of our equivalent:

Three years ago, every utterance of the then President brought fresh waves of disillusionment bordering on despair.

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Tim Farron on the “historic betrayal” of British farmers by Australia trade deal

Tim Farron slates the proposed trade deal with Australia in an article in The House:

So often we see Conservative MPs and ministers take to social media to tell us how much they love British farming and how they think it’s the best in the world.

But their plans for a free trade deal with Australia show that when push comes to shove they seem to have no problem whatsoever with throwing British farmers under a bus.

As a liberal I am firm believer in free trade – but only as long as it’s fair trade.

Australian animal welfare standards are lower than the UK’s which makes for lower production costs and cheaper produce. Therefore, the only way that small British family farms could compete would be to lower their own standards – which nobody except the government wants them to do.

A trade deal on these terms would be a historic betrayal of British farming and will set a dangerous precedent. If Australian farmers are given the green light to undercut British farmers then surely it’s inevitable that the government will allow Canadian, New Zealand and American farmers to do the same.

And not only is the Government betraying farmers, but going against the public’s wishes too:

A survey from the consumer watchdog Which? found that 94% of people think it’s important to maintain existing food standards, while 81% were uncomfortable eating beef reared using growth hormones – a practice which is widespread in Australian farming.

So why is the Government doing this?

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Independence would do even more damage than Brexit

In an article in the Scotsman, Alistair Carmichael has pointed out the similarities between Scottish independence and Brexit. He said a hard border between Scotland and England would be inevitable:

Just as it is uncontested that ursine mammals defecate in forested areas, it is not a matter of debate that, under SNP plans, an independent Scotland would have a hard border with the rest of the United Kingdom.

He points out the harsh realties of independence:

The reality is that if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK and cuts itself off from its “single market” then there will have to be customs posts and officials, checks and barriers between Scots, our businesses and our biggest trading partners.

It is a simple matter of common sense – and for those lacking in common sense it is also a fact affirmed by experts in international trade and economics, the same experts who voiced the same concerns about Brexit and are in the process of being proven correct.

He compares Sturgeon’s language to that of Farage and Johnson over Brexit:

It speaks volumes that Nicola Sturgeon’s statements around independence and trade barriers mimic almost to the word the arguments of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – that we would somehow be re-engaging with the wider world by building yet another hard border.

And an SNP candidate’s claims that a hard border would create jobs was no barrier to a campaign visit from Sturgeon:

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Win for women’s pensions after Steve Webb and media campaign

After a campaign by the former Lib Dem pensions minister Steve Webb, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed to investigate underpayments of state pensions over the last 20 years. That could lead to back-payments averaging about £13,500. The problem is thought to affect 200,000 women who retired before 6 April 2016 and received the old state pension.

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LibLink – Ed Davey: LGBT+ history month is a time to celebrate the lives and experiences of the entire LGBT+ community.

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Over on the party website, Ed Davey has written about LGBT+ history month, which has started:

The fight towards equality is a long one and we all owe a huge debt to the activists and campaigners who have fought tirelessly for the freedoms so many are able to enjoy today. Let us celebrate historical figures like Alan Turing and Marsha P Johnson, as well as modern day activists such as Lady Phyll, founder of UK Black Pride.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael Scotland’s fishermen have been used by opportunists

In a hard-hitting and justifiably furious article in the Sunday Herald, Alistair Carmichael highlights the betrayal of those working in the seafood industry whose livelihood has been ruined by Brexit enhnced by the incompetence of UK Government ministers.

He sets out what is wrong with the deal:

Having made a great pantomime of holding out to get the best deal for fishermen, Johnson folded. Instead we found a deal that the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described this week as “desperately poor” and “the worst of both worlds”.

On close scrutiny the deal leaves our fishermen able to catch fewer fish in most key species, “wins” us shoals of “paper fish” (which we have no economic interest in catching) and leaves us locked into a deal that we barely control and will only be able to leave in 2026 if we are prepared to pay a heavy political and economic price.

It’s already having a devastating impact:

Traditionally, the first week of the new year is a bumper one for exports before trade quietens down for a couple of months.

This year, red-faced Scottish traders were unable to meet their orders as the lorries carrying their slowly deteriorating stock sat idling in Larkhall – unable to penetrate the new fog of bureaucracy in Johnson’s deal.

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LibLink: Vince Cable asks “What if the vaccine isn’t enough?”

Vince Cable has written in the Independent today asking that rather worrying question.

Most of us, including the government, are assuming that if the mass vaccination goes ahead speedily we shall see relaxation of the Covid restrictions in March and be largely free of them in the summer. The economy will bounce back and we can begin to enjoy the Roaring Twenties with a good holiday in the sun. My own sense of optimism is fuelled by the fact that I am in line to get my first vaccine jab this week and I already feel safer and freer.

But maybe that is wishful thinking? What if the vaccination rollout is slower than we hope (and impeded by idiotic NHS bureaucracy, such as the requirement that volunteers should have a level 2 “safeguarding” qualification in case they encounter children)? What if another variant of the virus arrives that requires new vaccines and repeat vaccination programmes? What if there are sufficient numbers who fail to get vaccinated – because of ignorance, groundless prejudice or fear – as to keep the pandemic alive?

He says that we need to plan for these eventualities to avoid restrictions through 2021 and beyond. Several actions are required.

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LibLink: Young Liberal calls on Cheltenham’s MP to take action to end period poverty

Over on the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats website, Young Liberal Jessica Jeffries writes to her local MP, calling on him to take action to end period poverty:

The negative impact of period poverty can affect women in many different ways. Physically, there is a high risk of infection due to the repeated use of old sanitary products, and the use of dirty rags/pieces of cloth which many have to use as an alternative. Psychologically, as a result of the stigma, many women feel embarrassment/shame when discussing menstruation and those who struggle financially will face much stress as they choose between feeding themselves and their family or buying period products.

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LibLink: William Wallace on the House of Lords

Last week The Yorkshire Post published an article by William Wallace on “House of Lords plays vital role in democracy but needs reform“.  William is our spokesperson for the Cabinet in the House of Lords.

In the article he writes:

The House of Lords is indefensible in its current form.  But it plays a vital role in our executive-dominated democracy.

Formally, the UK has parliamentary sovereignty.  But when one party has a secure parliamentary majority, government proposals usually sail through the Commons without careful examination. A former Conservative Lord Chancellor once described British democracy as ‘elective dictatorship’ – when his own party was in government.  The Lords is the chamber that examines bills and regulations in detail, forces ministers to justify them clause by clause, and quietly wins concessions before they become law.

He lays down this challenge:

Are you a democrat or a supporter of strong government?

If you are a democrat, you have to support reform of the Commons as well as the Lords, and tackle the weakness of local and regional representation as well.  If you believe in strong government, beware that governments without parliamentary challenge become authoritarian and corrupt, and take note that billions of pounds have been handed out to large consultancies and outsourcing companies this year without open contracts, that many of these companies contribute to Conservative funds, and that retiring ministers are offered large sums to advise them.

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LibLink: Vince Cable on Biden and Trump post election

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Vince Cable has just published an article on The Independent: “Biden faces a war on many fronts – Trump has the tools to make the presidency a poisoned chalice“.  He considers the worrying consequences of Trump losing but still able to call upon substantial support.

Trump’s career in the New York property market owed much to the deployment of batteries of lawyers to intimidate and out-manoeuvre his competitors. Every legal argument in the book will be deployed to block or invalidate the postal ballots which have tipped the balance in key states. If he can get a case in front of the Supreme Court, he calculates that the justices will forget their oath of impartiality and remember their political debt to the president who appointed them.

It is rumoured he then plans to challenge the make-up of the electoral college. There is also the possible scenario I described in this column three weeks ago, where uncertainty generated by the legal challenges leads to people taking the law into their own hands, leading to a state of emergency and – in effect – a coup d’etat.

However, Republicans like Mitch McConnell …

… will have no truck with legal chicanery designed to frustrate the election result.

Even if Trump’s attempts to reverse the result fail, and he reluctantly agrees to leave the White House, he has plenty of options to make life for the new president somewhere between very difficult and impossible.

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LibLink: Jamie Stone on the digital revolution

Jamie Stone is the Lib Dem spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and he has written an article “Ministers must ensure no one is left behind by the digital revolution” in The House magazine.

Talking of his constituents in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, he writes:

Many still do not have access to any broadband, let alone high-speed broadband. With such poor infrastructure, it is virtually impossible to conceive of how communities like mine can avoid being left behind as this digital revolution continues apace.

But I beg the Government to do more to invest in those communities that are currently not well-served by digital technologies to make sure we do not fall through the net of progress.

To date, in my patch, we have seen post offices, banks and other services disappear at a rate of knots, leaving my constituents strapped for cash (not that anyone is taking cash these days), and unable to access basic financial services without – in many cases – driving for miles and miles. For those who are not mobile, the growing isolation they face is extremely alarming.

He refers to the ways in which jobs are changing as technology evolves:

Many of the millions of people who may face redundancy as a result of Covid-19 will be terrified that they will not be able to find new work, because they simply don’t have the relevant skills to break through.

That is why I am joining my colleague Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, in calling on the Government to back our party’s plan for ‘Skills Wallets’, which would give everyone £10,000 to spend on life-long education and training.

This would be made up of an initial £4,000 Government investment when people turn 25, a further £3,000 when they turn 40 and, finally, another £3,000 at the age of 55.

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LibLink – Vince Cable: Is Rishi Sunak about to go from hero to zero?

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Writing in the Independent, Vince Cable says that ‘the chancellor’s rapid transition from spendthrift to Scrooge has not yet been noticed by the admiring public but a change has undoubtedly occurred’:

One of the hot stocks of 2020, British chancellor Rishi Sunak, is starting to look seriously overvalued. His political allies, having talked up Sunak earlier in the year, tipping him for the top job, are now hedging their bets. The hero of the spring offensive may be on the brink of becoming the zero of the autumn retreat.

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LibLink: Jane Dodds We must fulfil our moral duty and embrace refugees who seek safety and sanctuary

Jane Dodds makes a compelling case for a compassionate and welcoming approach to seekers of sanctuary in a column for Nation Cymru this week.

She challenges the “invasion’ narrative put out by the right:

With Nigel Farage decrying an “invasion” of our shores and Sarah Atherton, Conservative MP for Wrexham, calling for the Royal Navy to stop “huge scale” crossings, you could easily be led to believe we were seeing hundreds of thousands of people coming to the UK every day.

But the numbers of people seeking asylum are not increasing; despite the rhetoric which wants us to believe we are being invaded.

By allowing this dangerous narrative, which tells us we are under attack, we are directly putting lives at risk.

This is far from hyperbole – earlier in the summer Abdulfatah Hamdallah, a refugee from Sudan, tragically lost his life trying to cross the channel in an unsafe makeshift vessel.

When did we become so heartless and cruel, she asks:

Five years ago I travelled to Calais to donate tents, tarpaulin sleeping bags collected from across concerned people in Powys and saw first hand the living conditions these people were in and heard about the horrors they were escaping from. Just like Abdulfatah they weren’t coming to the UK to “scrounge” or to “take our jobs” they were doing what anyone of us would do if we found ourselves I n that situation – striving to make life better and safer for them and their loved ones.

I am a child protection social worker by profession. I have spent years supporting vulnerable people all around the world, particularly children seeking refuge and do you know what? I have never met a single family who does not have a heart breaking story for why they’re making the journey.

We hear a lot of talk about how “we’re full”, that we should “look after our own” and “have enough problems already to deal with”. Since when did we become so heartless and cruel?

These are people’s lives we are talking about, people who have nothing and are risking their lives to travel to a place where they feel is safe.

And she points out that those who come here seeking asylum contribute to our country too:

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LibLink: Vince Cable – Were the political ‘bad guys’ right all along?

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Vince Cable has written an article in the Independent with the clickbait headline: “When it comes to handling coronavirus, were the political ‘bad guys’ right all along?

He writes:

As the UK contemplates yet again a change in direction, with more restrictions on activity to curb Covid-19, we should reflect on what is happening elsewhere in the world. Only a few months ago, Sweden was the heart of darkness: a country which, for unaccountable reasons, had gone off the rails, embracing weird theories about the pandemic, disdaining lockdown, resulting in the slaughter of its elderly population and ostracism from the club of civilised social democratic countries in Scandinavia. Now it emerges that they may have been on to something, with a consistent – and apparently successful – approach.

The most recent (very preliminary) economic data also suggests that the United States, under a president regarded by most progressive folk as a malign, Covid-denying buffoon, has suffered less economic damage than most of the rest of the developed world. And Brazil, presided over by another malign, Covid-denying buffoon, has got away with much less damage, and less impact on its poor, than its Latin American neighbours, like Peru, Chile and Argentina who took the pandemic seriously.

So, were the Bad Guys right?

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Labour and Lib Dems have to work together to beat Tories

In his Independent column this week, Vince Cable talked about the need for Liberal Democrats and Labour to set aside their differences and work together to oust the Tories in 2024.

He didn’t call for a formal pact, but for the sort of non aggression agreement struck up by Paddy and Blair pre 1997.

He waded into the broad appeal vs ideology argument:

The two centre-left parties are currently at very different levels. But they face essentially the same two problems: how to connect with a public which is confused, frightened and divided; and how to translate support into seats in parliament to effect a change in government.

As to the first, both parties have the same destructive tendency, in different ways: each gets hung up on abstract debates on values and principles. Labour has a long history of sectarian feuding over the relative merits of “social democracy” or “socialism” (now represented respectively by the Blairites and Corbynites). Starmer is smart enough to realise that the public has little interest in “isms”, is impressed by people who seem both practical and optimistic, and doesn’t like extremes. The Lib Dems, by contrast, don’t have ideological feuds but love talking to themselves about “liberal values”, which are either very vague or targeted at microscopically small groups. The tough lesson for both is that Britain’s most successful centre-left leaders – Wilson, Blair and, long ago, Lloyd George – were pragmatic to a fault.

He had a couple of ideas on economic policy:

Aligning capital gains and income tax, removing generous tax reliefs on pension pots, and removing perks for well-off pensioners. All this sounds like Lib Dem “alternative budgets” proposed over the years, and certainly too much to swallow for the Tory backwoodsmen. Ed Davey, in particular, with a strong economics background, has an opening to occupy the centre-ground while the right of the Conservative Party squabbles.

Then there is the wider issue of the direction of the British economy once it is cut loose from the EU. As it happens there is an immediate challenge: what to do about Britain’s only major global tech company, ARM, designer and maker of advanced microchips. Opposition leaders should be shouting from the rooftops to save it. Without a clamour, it is likely to be gobbled up by a predatory American company and then spat out in Trump’s new cold war with China. One of the successes of the coalition was seeing off a (Pfizer) takeover for Astra-Zeneca, now key to the work on a Covid-19 vaccine, and the wider revival of industrial strategy. Keeping ARM British is a campaign that could create a popular front page for both left- and right-wing press.

And a warning on how we should save the union:

And all the unionist parties risk a failure to appreciate that Scottish nationalism is rooted in emotion, and will not be vanquished by talk of pounds and pennies alone. One respect in which the Lib Dems can make a major contribution is to refresh its thinking about home rule within a federal UK. This would be welcome north and south of the border since many English people also reject our horribly over-centralised, London-dominated, system of government.

He warns that we leave the Tories to govern if we don’t work together:

A serious agreement could be done with a lot of self-discipline, but to be credible with the electorate it would need a common “offer”, as well as common candidates. The risk of such an approach is that it looks like a “stitch-up”, which could turn voters off. There should be serious discussion about how to cooperate, but where I suspect we shall finish up is a tacit understanding about priority constituencies, as in 1997, when Blair and Ashdown made a breakthrough for both parties.

The growing numbers who are angry and disillusioned with this government will expect no less than intelligent cooperation between “progressive” opposition parties. Both need to remember that pragmatism is the path to power, while continued self-righteous airing of differing “values” and “principles” will gift the Tories another decade in office.

You can read the whole article here (£).

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LibLink: Malcolm Bruce Scotland’s unionists need a new vision

This is one from a few weeks ago, but worth sharing.

Malcolm Bruce, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, wrote in the Scotsman about the need for those who want to stay in the UK to build a stronger and newer vision of why it is so essential to Scotland’s interests.

He argues for a federal UK as the best option. It’s all about focusing on the positives of staying together:

The SNP clearly articulate the disruption that Brexit brings. The same arguments apply in spades to Scotland opting in a fit of pique to leave the UK.

I dislike intensely the ideology of the Brexit-obsessed Conservative Party and despise the cheery incompetence of the privileged clique that constitute the present Government.

But my reaction is to face reality and recognise that the people who share these islands – which whatever the constitution we will continue to do – will need to regain our senses and work for a better shared future.

So what do Liberal Democrats want?

The Liberal Democrats want to build a federal United Kingdom by recognising what we can do together, not concentrating on what drives us apart.

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LibLink: Vince Cable Disbanding Public Health England is the last thing the Government should be doing right now

Writing in the Independent this week, Vince Cable condemned the Government’s decision to shut down Public Health England.

He suggested that it was the scapegoat for the Government’s policy failings before setting out why it is such a bad idea:

Aside from practical questions about who is to deal with other public health issues like obesity and sexual health, the long-term challenge for the new agency and its network of local public health officers is to make Britain better prepared for serious pandemics in future. They must be ready, too, for the more predictable annual rounds of flu, which though they are sufficiently understood to be countered by vaccination still affect 15 per cent of the population, and each year kills 10,000 people in the UK and a quarter to half a million people worldwide.

He talks of the need to look at environmental factors at an international level to limit future pandemics:

But prevention cannot be achieved by any one country working alone when we are considering the complex origins of zoonotic viruses which have jumped species. Blame for Covid is placed on Chinese wet markets and dietary preferences which fits the politically convenient narrative of Chinese culpability. But there are deeper problems.

Some scientists point to the impact of deforestation which is bringing humans and domesticated animals into closer contact with previously unknown species and viruses. As forest cover disappears, the species face mass extinction but the viruses contained in the fauna can strike back. And once new, dangerous, viruses are in circulation, growing connectivity means that local outbreaks become global very quickly. Worryingly, there is little sign that the necessary lessons about unsustainable lifestyles are being drawn.

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LibLink – Christine Jardine SNP’s policies on education have failed to make the grade

It’s been a hugely stressful week for thousands of Scottish teenagers and their parents.

They did not receive the results they were expecting for their HIgher exams after marks submitted by their teachers were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This has disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Willie Rennie supported pupil protests against the system used by the SQA.

Pupils who have worked hard for months have been marked down because of how previous students performed at their school. This is grossly unfair as it reinforces the inequity that has been growing for years.

The Education Secretary and the SQA were warned for months that their moderation process would damage the prospects of pupils for life. It’s no surprise that so many young people are out protesting. They feel as if their grades and their futures are being robbed by the SNP.

We can only hope that the appeals system is robust enough to deal with the tsunami of appeals heading its away. The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand and the Scottish Government must ensure teachers have the time they need to fully support the many appeals that will be required.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon apologised and today Education Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

But the problems in Scottish education go much deeper than this fiasco. Christine Jardine used her weekly Scotsman column to highlight how pupils leaving school this year have had their entire education under SNP Government – and the system is mired with problems with schools, colleges and universities.

International reports show Scottish education plummeting down the league tables which compare our schools with those abroad.

That proud boast that ours was the finest education in the world now seems empty, and out-dated.
Certainly for those at the chalk face it has long ceased to be the case, replaced by the reality that too many of our young people leave school functionally illiterate and the past few years have been to endure rather than enjoy.

Many of those who graduated from our universities this year are the same young people whose school years were disrupted by being the first to sit the new National 5 exams. Their teachers had to deliver a curriculum which was not only untried and untested but, by common consent, largely chaotic and stressful for all.

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Layla Moran: Government must step up its support for people who have to self-isolate

Over on the Torch website, Layla Moran explains why the Government needs to do more to support those asked to self isolate because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. She was prompted to do so after seeing members’ views on one of the many social media groups.

Employees who have to self-isolate under the scheme are currently only entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95 a week. That is around five times less than the £460 net income a week received by a worker earning the maximum of £2,500 a month under the furlough scheme. And while the minimum isolation period is two weeks, some people may have to wait longer for their test or be asked to self-isolate several times. I’m therefore advocating for the Government to step up its financial support workers required to self-isolate under the coronavirus test and trace programme and ensure they receive the same level of support as furloughed employees.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: We need to change the Domestic Abuse Bill

Christine Jardine has written for the New Statesman (£) on why the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill needs to be changed in order to make sure that migrant women get the support that they need to escape abusive relationships.

Imagine this. You’ve moved halfway across the world with two children, leaving behind everyone you know and love, to be with your partner in a different country. But instead of starting a new life, he starts to abuse you emotionally, financially and physically. That’s what happened to one of the women who now campaigns for others like her to have better rights and protections.

Eight months after she moved to the UK, her partner turned violent. She fled from the house with her eldest child. But when she went to the Home Office for help to return to Brazil because her visa had run out, she was told she would have to wait for seven days. She was given no financial support or accommodation and had no choice but to sleep on the street. Her situation is still precarious – living from one short-term visa to the next. Because of her immigration status, she can’t access public funds.

This is why she and the Lib Dems are supporting amendments to help those in this situation:

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Wera Hobhouse sets out her plans for a progressive alliance

Wera Hobhouse has set out her plan for a progressive alliance on her website.

She wrote:

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LibLink: Layla Moran A once in a generation opportunity to make our country fairer and more liberal

With the announcement of the revised leadership election timetable starting in two weeks’ time, there are three expected candidates. Ed Davey has yet to formally declare, but everyone expects him to be standing. Layla Moran and Wera Hobhouse have already announced that they are standing.

LDV is, as always, neutral in these things and will report equally on all the candidates.

Layla Moran has outlined her leadership pitch in an article for the Independent (£) which you can also read on her website.

For me, the best leadership is calm, measured and purposeful. It is open, transparent and direct. Good leaders spell out what they and their parties stand for, allowing people to grasp the ideas, embrace change and move forward together.

She outlines her position in three policy areas: economy, environment and education:

When I reimagine the education system, I picture more investment in the early years, to reduce inequalities before children get into a classroom. More power for teachers to design a world-class education system, which recognises and supports children with practical skills as well as academic. And, a nationwide adult retraining programme to get people back on their feet and into work.

Our economic approach also needs urgent change. As the country recovers, we mustn’t leave anyone in our society behind. A universal basic income is necessary to support those who fall on hard times. We must invest in education, health, social care and public services, and give all frontline workers the support they deserve. And let’s prioritise our wellbeing and mental health alongside economic growth, because now more than ever, we need to move forward positively and compassionately.

We have an opportunity to steal a march on the environmental crisis, too. In the past months, travel has reduced, and the demand for coal and oil has plummeted. This presents us with a precious opportunity to flatten the climate curve.

I want to see a UK which is not just carbon neutral but carbon negative. Young people, given they will have to carry this burden for us all, should be involved in the decision-making processes for achieving this ambitious goal. We must acknowledge the part that biodiversity catastrophe plays in pandemics, and recognise that to build resilience, we need to talk about habitat as well as carbon.

And what does the party need to do?

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Jo Swinson: I’m not finished making change in the world

I know that many readers will be wondering how Jo Swinson is getting on.

Her leadership, which offered so much promise, came to an abrupt end at the General Election.

She has written an article for the Sunday Times today in which she describes how she learned to deal with a sudden mid-life career change.

Given what she has been through in the past few months, it is really uplifting and optimistic.

In looking for what to do next, it wasn’t a surprise that she looked for guidance in books:

I longed for simplicity in reinventing myself. But most big career changes aren’t simple, says Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organisational behaviour. Having studied people transitioning from bankers to novelists, and psychologists to monks, Ibarra concludes that people rarely set out with a clear and simple plan that they execute. More common is the test-and-learn approach.

Reading her book, Working Identity, gave me confidence to explore the possibilities. I mixed paid speaking engagements and consultancy with volunteering and board experience. Networking was crucial and people were kind with advice. I learnt that by helping others with your own expertise, you can complete the circle of kindness. It is a feature seen in business more than politics.

Jo was an early adopter of Twitter and won an LDV award back in the day for using it, but she’s mostly stayed away:

Some things, such as avidly reading Twitter for the latest news, put me in the headspace of my old job. Breaking that habit helped me focus on the future.

One thing you will never find me trying, but is also very typically Jo:

When a friend told me she went open-air swimming, my initial reaction was incredulity. Then I figured, why not give it a go? So one January morning I found myself squeezing into a borrowed wetsuit and wading into a 2C lake. I loved it. I’ve even found myself changing al fresco into my swimming costume in appalling weather and high winds.

And, as always, her Dad, Peter is a key inspiration:

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LibLink: Cllr Rabina Khan: This Eid, technology will ease loneliness and bring people together online.

Eid Mubarak to everyone who is celebrating this weekend.

To mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Cllr Rabina Khan has written about how technology will help as people who would normally be together have to spend this special time apart:

This year, under Covid-19 restrictions, Eid will mean that families and communities will not be able to come together in each other’s homes or any other public places. They will pray and eat Eid food without being together, but they can be connected to each other’s lives through technology. When I was a child, the technology to connect people worldwide through a phone or iPad did not exist, so we are incredibly fortunate today to have these tools at our disposal.

She remembers those who don’t have access to technology, though.

Muslim garment workers in Bangladesh face no pay and the prospect of begging for food after western retail giants cancelled hundreds of millions of pounds worth of orders. Some companies, however, have taken a more ethical approach and have honoured all existing contracts, such as H&M and Zara.

Without access to technology, these workers will be completely alone. This brings to mind Imam Shaykh Ahmad Faruq Siddiqi, chaplain at the Royal London Hospital, who spent the last seven weeks facilitating last farewells via Zoom for dying loved ones and their families. He may well be experiencing another difficult day.

She talks about the significance of Ramadan and hopes for the future:

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