Category Archives: News

A cautionary tale from Norman Lamb

One day last year Norman Lamb woke up in his London flat with double vision, which did not clear. According to this newspaper story, he called his sister who is a GP, and she advised him to go to A&E immediately.

When he got there he was sent to the eye clinic for eye tests after which the staff told him that there was nothing wrong. But when he rang his sister again she feared a brain tumour. She told him not to leave the hospital but to go along to the neurovascular department. Once there he had an MRI brain scan and was told he’d had a minor ischaemic stroke.

The Stroke Association’s website advises that ‘sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes’ indicates a potential stroke.

‘I’m articulate enough and confident enough to go back and challenge what I’d been told,’ he says.

‘But there are many who wouldn’t have a GP sister to advise them, so there was a lot of luck in my stroke even being diagnosed. That worries me.’

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Young Liberals launch annual freshers campaign

The Young Liberals have launched their annual recruitment campaign which will feature in universities all over the country, leading with a “Stop Brexit” campaign.

The Liberal Democrat youth wing produces materials for students to launch into a year of campaigning on their campus, and to recruit new members at university Freshers Fayres.

This year, the Young Liberals will be campaigning on ‘Stop Brexit’, ‘Demand Action’ , ‘Demand Dignity’ , and ‘Teach Love’ . The youth wing will be running the period poverty campaign on university campuses which do not already provide free menstrual products, and the LGBT inclusive education campaign on campuses which do provide such products.

In addition to these, the state and London bodies of Young Liberals are also running campaigns this year, in Wales on expanding the provision of the Welsh language on campus (‘More Welsh’), in Scotland on the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (‘Trans Rights are Human Rights’), and in London welcoming the Freshers who will be studying in the city at the time of the mayoral election (‘A Mayor for You’).

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++Breaking news: Jo Swinson announces Shadow Cabinet

Jo Swinson has just announced her Shadow Cabinet.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet
Jo Swinson Leader
Ed Davey Chancellor of the Exchequer
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Chuka Umunna Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
International Development
International Trade
Christine Jardine Home Department
Justice
Women and Equalities
Deputy Chief Whip
Tom Brake Exiting the European Union
Duchy of Lancaster
Jamie Stone Defence
Scotland
Vince Cable Health and Social Care
Layla Moran Education
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Wera Hobhouse Climate Change and Environment
Transport
Tim Farron Housing, Communities and Local Government
Work and Pensions
North of England (Northern Powerhouse)
Alistair Carmichael Chief Whip
Northern Ireland
Jane Dodds Wales
Food & Rural Affairs
Catherine Bearder Europe
Siobhan Benita London
Willie Rennie Scotland
Kirsty Williams Wales
Dick Newby Leader of the House of Lords
Sal Brinton President of the Liberal Democrats

*Please note that Norman Lamb and Sarah Wollaston will attend relevant Shadow Cabinet meetings but given their roles as Chairs of respective Select Committees they will not take a formal Shadow Cabinet role.

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Lib Dem Brexit campaign chief to be Jo Swinson’s chief of staff

Today has been pretty much perfect.

I am in my favourite place in the world, the weather is glorious, I had almost eight uninterrupted hours of sleep for the first time in a long time and the local shop had in stock Lotus Biscoff biscuits just when I had a craving for them. There is a chicken roasting in the oven and some very nice gin waiting for me when I get back from our evening beach walk.

I thought it couldn’t really get much better and then I heard who Jo Swinson had appointed as her Chief of Staff.

Rhiannon Leaman, as the Liberal Democrats’ Head of National campaigns was responsible for our Stop Brexit campaign. And that’s seen us almost triple our opinion poll ratings in the last few months. She has had various campaigning roles in the party over the last few years and she knows it backwards. She has the keenest of political instincts.  She has a brilliant combination of skills to bring to the role. And I can also imagine that she will be good at  what every good Chief of Staff needs to do – tell the boss “No” from time to time. No matter how good they are, they all need that.

Rhiannon started out in politics working for Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid in the days before we were in government. You could not imagine two more different people to work for than Alan and Jo, I have to say.

As an aside, Alan has had a role in developing some very talented people in the party. Willie Rennie’s political “parents” when he was a student in Paisley were Alan and Cllr Eileen McCartin.  Back in 1989, they fought a brilliant campaign in a Council by-election that gave Labour a fright – they came so close to winning.

Jo has an outstandingly strong team around her. Her Senior Adviser, Sara Mosavi, is promoted to Head of Office. She will lead on things like policy development.

It has already been announced that her press secretary will be Ben Rathe who worked in the party’s media operation during the years we were in government. More recently, he played an absolute blinder for her in the run-up to and during her leadership campaign. 

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The Lib Dem surge continues in Shropshire

Just one by-election last night, and it provided a very encouraging result for the Liberal Democrats. In Meole in Shropshire, Adam Feifer slashed the Conservative majority and overtook Labour to finish a strong second.

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In Full: Jo Swinson’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Jo seems to have offended the Corbynista who are doing their thing and attacking her on all forms of social media.

But look at the letter she wrote to Jeremy Corbyn tonightL

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for your letter of 14th August 2019 in relation to stopping a damaging “No Deal” Brexit.

We are determined to do whatever it takes not only to stop “No Deal” but also to stop Brexit.

Since becoming Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have travelled across the United Kingdom speaking to people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to discuss their concerns and worries. It is clear that a “No Deal” Brexit is a bad for our environment, bad for our NHS, bad for rural Britain, and bad for our family of nations.

So, in this moment of national emergency, I stand ready to work with anyone to stop Boris Johnson and his hard-line Brexit government in pursuing “No Deal”. My party has already been working with the Labour Party and other opposition parties to do this for many months now. That will continue under my leadership.

As I said before the start of the summer Recess, the Liberal Democrats will support a motion of no confidence in the government if it is brought before the House of Commons. If the motion is successful and a new Prime Minister is sought, our constitution operates on the principle that that person must command majority support of the House of Commons.

Based on on-the-record statements that have already been made, at least seven MPs on the opposition benches have indicated they would not give you confidence in these circumstances.  Regardless of how my party were to vote in those circumstances, in order for you to command the confidence of the House, at least eight Conservative MPs would need to support you in taking office. For this and other reasons, I do not believe your plan is viable. I would be interested to know whether eight or more Conservative MPs have indicated to you that they will support you in these circumstances.

However, there are clearly other senior members of the House who could potentially command a majority in the House. Today I suggested that Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman, the Father and Mother of the House, could lead an emergency government.

They are the most experienced Members of the House, widely respected on both sides, and neither are seeking to lead a government in the long-term. I would be interested to hear your suggestions. I can understand that you would have a preference for a Labour alternative. Indeed, if she can command the support of the House of Commons Harriet Harman would be Labour’s first female Prime Minister.

Obviously, we hope legislative measures in the House of Commons will be successful in securing an extension to Article 50 to ensure that the UK does not fall out of the European Union with No Deal and no long-term security or stability.

Finally, a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal is vital. I hope that you can reassure me, and everyone campaigning for a People’s Vote to give the British people the final say on Brexit, that you are doing all you can to can to persuade the 25 or more Labour MPs who have previously voted against it to now back it in a Commons vote. I hope that we can now count on the full support of all Labour Members of Parliament.

I am ambitious for the Liberal Democrats, as you are for the Labour Party, but we are facing a national crisis and we may need an emergency government to resolve it. This isn’t the time for personal agendas and political games. We cannot allow party politics to stand in the way of Members from all sides of the House of Commons working together in the national interest. What matters right now is a plan that works and will stop a “No Deal” Brexit.

With this in mind, I would be happy and keen to meet in the coming days to discuss how our parties can work together to stop “No Deal” and who else might be able to lead an emergency government.

I look forward to hearing from you.

My door remains, as ever, open.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP

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++ Breaking news: Sarah Wollaston joins the Lib Dems

Jo Swinson has just announced that Sarah Wollaston MP has joined the Liberal Democrats. In an email to members Jo says:

I am thrilled that Sarah has chosen to join the Liberal Democrats.

Sarah is a fierce campaigner who I have enjoyed working with in the campaign to stop Brexit and as one of the most respected Members of Parliament and brings real expertise to our team.

She is one of more than 30,000 members who have joined us since May, along with 10,000 new registered supporters in rejecting the politics of nationalism and populism, showing it is the Liberal Democrats who can deliver an alternative vision for our country.

Dr Sarah Wollaston is the MP for Totnes in Devon. She came to people’s attention as the winner of the first open primary for a Conservative PPC in 2009. Sarah worked as a GP until she was elected in 2010, and she retained her seat in 2015 and 2017.

In February she resigned from the Conservatives and joined The Independent Group/Change UK, but in June she left them to sit as an independent. However she continues to chair the Liaison Committee and the Health Select Committee.

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LibLink: Chuka Umunna: Don’t let these reckless Brexit gamblers claim they speak for the British people

Chuka Umunna writes in the Independent about how the Brexiteers are trying to manipulate us:

Ministers know that a no-deal Brexit will involve an immediate shock to the economy which is one reason why they will seek to hold an election almost immediately after exit day – if it hasn’t happened beforehand – so it takes place before the pain is really felt.

Michael Gove even floated the idea of announcing a bank holiday on 1 November in an attempt to delay the inevitable chaos until after people have been to the ballot box. There is a description for this type of behaviour – vote rigging.

He argues that the Government doesn’t have a mandate for no deal

Parties representing a majority of electors in 2017 had set their faces against a no-deal Brexit. So any mandate claimed for a hard Brexit died at this point – something the Vote Leave cabal in government have never accepted.

They try to deny the parliamentary arithmetic but the fact they could not get their extreme form of Brexit through the House of Commons this year has provided something of a wake-up call. Now they are seeking to force their no-deal Brexit through even if Johnson’s administration – to all intents and purposes, a Vote Leave government – has lost the confidence of the House of Commons before 31 October.

This is definitely unconstitutional and, quite possibly, unlawful. It is certainly hypocritical given they argued for Brexit, in part, on the basis that it represented a reassertion of parliamentary sovereignty.

Let’s put aside the issue of leaving without a deal for one moment, and turn to the core question of whether we leave the EU at all. You see, if the Remain/Leave question were put to the public again in a referendum, the opinion polls have pretty consistently had Remain in the lead since 2017. Today it would be 52.2 per cent Remain to 47.8 per cent Leave.

He offers an insight into Labour thinking on a no deal Brexit.Is this why they are not embracing initiatives to stop it?

All Tory rebel MPs and, indeed, a substantial minority of Labour MPs would not give the Labour leader that confidence but would be open to other suggestions. The bottom line, though, is that for it to work Labour would have to support it and Labour has ruled out an emergency government. Shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, was the latest to reject it last night.

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Jo Swinson visits Irish Border

Back in 2017, LDV held a fringe meeting at the Bournemouth Conference where we talked about the areas that could be most harmed by Brexit – the Irish Border and Gibraltar. We heard that the manufacturing process for some products could involve crossing that border five times. You can just imagine the chaos Brexit brings to that process.

Today, Jo Swinson, who has barely had a break since being elected leader 3 weeks ago, headed to the Irish Border to hear from the people who would be amongst the worst affected by any Brexit.

She went one better than Boris Johnson who has never bothered himself to actually go and find out what havoc he is so cavalier about wreaking. Here is the interview she gave to BBC News.

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Jo Swinson’s message for Eid-al-Adha

As Muslims celebrate Eid, Jo Swinson says that as Leader she will continue to make sure our party defends Britain’s Liberal values against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms. On the party’s website, she wrote:

For those who have taken part in Hajj, this is a season of new beginnings and Muslims across the globe will be taking time out to reflect on the significance of their faith in their own individual lives.

Sadly, we are witnessing a horrifying rise in Islamophobia which is often accompanied by exclusionary, right-wing nationalism. Islamophobic tropes are becoming commonplace and attacks on Muslims have been espoused by the man who has just become our Prime Minister. This is unacceptable. We must confront this poisonous rhetoric which, if left unchecked, will permeate our communities in the most extreme and hateful ways.

As Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I will continue to defend our country’s liberal values and will redouble our Party’s efforts to defeat discrimination in all its forms.

As we celebrate Eid, let us let us recognise the enduring and valuable contributions of Muslim communities across the country and let us refuse all attempts to divide our nation.

My warmest wishes to all those celebrating. Eid Mubarak!

In London, Cllr Hina Bokhari, Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita and Cllr Sam Foulder-Hughes went to a celebration in Kingston and recorded this video:

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Observations of an ex pat: Kashmiri powder keg

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider the age-old truism “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Actually, to say that Kashmir isn’t broke would be putting an optimistic gloss on the Asian sub continent’s number one flashpoint. Since independence and partition in 1947, the mountainous region has been the cause of three wars and numerous border clashes which have threatened to escalate into full-blown conflicts.

Kashmir is a simmering political cauldron whose lid has largely been kept in place by two clauses in the Indian constitution which give the Muslim-dominated, but Indian-controlled region autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications.  Kashmir has its own flag and has passed laws favouring the property rights of the Muslim majority. Modi has revoked the constitutional clauses—articles 370 and 35A—and dropped big hints that he wants to develop Indian-administered Kashmir with imported Hindu settlers.

The result has been riots, demonstrations and the recall of the Pakistani ambassador to India. But that could only be the start. Both states are armed with about 150 nuclear weapons each and blinkered by a dangerous religious zeal. The conflict also has the potential to drag in China and possibly the US. China’s interest is its claim to a desolate and sparely-populated section of Kashmir.  The Chinese have also $46 billion investment in Pakistan to protect.

America’s position is more ambivalent. It needs Pakistani support the fight in Afghanistan, but is angry at what President Trump has called Pakistan’s  “lies and deceit” in combating the Taliban. At the same time, Trump and Modi enjoy close personal relations through a shared right-wing populist approach to political issues.

The problems started with partition. Kashmir has three religious populations: Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Muslim. But at the time of partition it was ruled by a Hindu Rajah. As the sub-continent edged inexorably towards partition, Irregular troops from Pakistan moved into Kashmir to claim the entire country. The Hindu Rajah, Hari Singh, appealed for help to the Congress Party in India who dispatched troops to the region.

The result was a stand-off; A UN-mediated ceasefire and the division of Kashmir which left Pakistan in control of the under-developed provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir which are 100 percent Muslim and India in control of the more prosperous Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir  provinces which are 66 percent Muslim with the balance made of up Hindus and Buddhists.

The UN ceasefire agreement included a clause for a referendum over the decision of who governs the whole of Kashmir. The Indians failed tocomply with this part of the agreement as their part of Kashmir was 66 percenty Muslm.  Instead they came up with the compromise of autonomy in the form of constitutional clauses 370 and 35A. The Muslims in Indian-administered  Kashmir were generally satisfied  with this. They were not as zealous as their co-religionists in Pakistan and were happy to remain part of India as long as they were allowed control of domestic affairs.

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Government forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit

New data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from HM Treasury shows less than 3 in 10 exporters to the EU are ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Figures suggest most will not be ready until the beginning of 2021.

In a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently only trade with EU countries will need to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade goods into and out of the UK. HMRC uses this number to identify the business and collect duty on their goods.

Various business lobbying organisations have been warning for months of a serious lack of …

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3-4 August 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

Police should reduce fear, not create terror

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey has criticised Home Secretary Priti Patel as “out of touch” for her comments about the police making people “literally feel terror”.

Responding to Priti Patel’s interview with the Daily Mail, Ed Davey said:

The Liberal Democrats want many more police so they can catch criminals, prevent crime in the first place and work in our communities to help people feel safer – and it’s a shame Priti Patel didn’t back our campaign for more police these last four years.

Yet Priti Patel’s notion that making people terrified of the

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Listen to St Alban’s candidate Daisy Cooper: People are voting Lib Dem because of our values

St Albans’ Lib Dem candidate Daisy Cooper was on The World at One yesterday talking about how people’s voting patterns are shifting and people are turning to the Lib Dems because of our values.

St Albans voted heavily to remain in the European election and they have a Leave supporting  Conservative MP who’s quite happy with no deal.

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Morning round up – We did it! Welcome to Jane Dodds MP

If you’ve actually been asleep and not, like me, sat up all through the night to wait for the results, here’s a summary of the overnight electoral gymnastics.

Let’s start with a good local by-election:

And another one.

And now on to Brecon.

I’m writing this at 3:30 am when I have had more gin than is wise and I have just about stopped crying with happinesss. Jane Dodds MP.  That sounds good.

We did it!  will never forget that shot of Shaun Roberts and Dave McCobb on Sky News. They were smiling, and looking very smug indeed.

And Jane walking in and looking so happy.

Here’s the result in full:

Davies C  Conservative 12,401

Davies T   Labour 1,680

Dodds J 1 Liberal Democrat 13,826

Parkinson D Brexit 3381

Phillips L UKIP 242

Pink, Lily the 334

We have done it!!!

 

Jane’s speech, paraphrased:

People in Brecon and Radnorshire have sent a powerful message.

34 years ago a Liberal victory sparked a liberal revival.

People demand better.

The message from me and our new leader – is that you can have better, and better with the Liberal Democrats. This victory must be a turning point for not just for b and r but for our whole country too.

There is no time for tribalism when our country is faced with the threat of a no deal brexit.

My first act as MP will be to find Boris wherever he is hiding and tel him to rule out no deal Brexit now.

This is a time when people who share liberal values must work together which is why I want to thank the Green Party and Plaid Cymru to back me this time.

It is an immense privilege to follow in the footsteps of Roger Willians and Richard Livesey.

I am so glad I went down and spent those 4 days in Llandrindod Wells. LDV team members spent about 18 days there in all.

If you want to get to know Jane and what makes her tick better, here is my interview with her from  two weeks ago on Saturday.

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2:50 am round up: Jane has done it and it wasn’t even that close

So we’ve done it! I will never forget that shot of Shaun Roberts and Dave McCobb on Sky News. They were smiling, and looking very smug indeed.

And Jane walking in and looking so happy.

It’ll be a while before I stop crying.

Here’s the result in full:

Davies C  Conservative 12,401

Davies T   Labour 1,680

Dodds J Liberal Democrat 13,826

Parkinson D Brexit 3381

Phillips L UKIP 242

Pink, Lily the 334

We have done it!!!

Jane’s speech, paraphrased:

People in Brecon and Radnorshire have sent a powerful message.

34 years ago a Liberal victory sparked a liberal revival.

People demand better.

The message from me and our new leader – is that you can have better, and better with the Liberal Democrats. This victory must be a turning point for not just for b and r but for our whole country too.

There is no time for tribalism when our country is faced with the threat of a no deal brexit.

My first act as MP will be to find Boris wherever he is hiding and tel him to rule out no deal Brexit now.

This is a time when people who share liberal values must work together which is why I want to thank the Green Party and Plaid Cymru to back me this time.

It is an immense privilege to follow in the footsteps of Roger Willians and Richard Livesey.

I am so glad I went down and spent those 4 days in Llandrindod Wells. LDV team members spent about 18 days there in all.

If you want to get to know Jane and what makes her tick better, here is my interview with her from  two weeks ago on Saturday.

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Brecon and Radnorshire by-election open thread

Well, it’s all over bar the counting. In just a few hours, we’ll know if Jane Dodds has succeeded in her attempt to become Wales’ only Liberal Democrat MP.

She has been an amazing candidate. We could not have asked more of her. She’s talked about local issues and Brexit, she’s been engaging and warm and kind.  We should all be very proud of the work she has done.

So, what happened in 2017?

Chris Davies (Conservative)                                20 081

James Gibson-Watt (Liberal Democrat)          12 043

Dan Lodge (Labour)                                                 7 335

Kate Heneghan (Plaid Cymru)                               1 229

Peer Gilbert (UKIP)                                                       576

This time, Plaid Cymru has stood aside in favour of Liberal Democrat Welsh Leader Jane Dodds.

The Brexit Party is represented by Des Parkinson, Labour by Tom Davies, UKIP by Liz Phillips and the Monster Raving Loony Party has Lady Lily the Pink.

The Liberal Democrats have had the weight of expectations in what was always going to be a tough fight. At the start of the campaign it looked like the Brexit Party might be our main opponents. However, since Boris Johnson took office and appointed a horrifically right wing extreme Brexiteer Cabinet, the Brexit Party has felt the squeeze as voters return to the Conservatives and their Brexiteer candidate. Whether enough Labour and Plaid voters have come to Jane remains to be seen.

When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I met Labour, Plaid and Green voters who were enthusiastically voting for Jane. I met a few very hostile people who were obviously looking for the most extreme form of Brexit to vote for. And there were so many people in the middle who had questions or who weren’t particularly motivated to go and vote. Whether we win tonight will depend on how many of these people we were able to persuade in the tail end of the campaign.

Postal votes went out six days before Boris took office so may well have a big Conservative/Brexit Party split.

It’s going to be close and this is going to be a very nervous few hours. Stick with us as we look at the commentary and try to stay awake…

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Lib Dems knocking up can be very useful….

I have never been on the receiving end of a Liberal Democrat knocking up operation at full pelt and I can imagine that, important though it is, it can be quite annoying.

However, Lib Dem campaigners calling round after 9pm at night can have their uses, as Harrow’s intrepid and brave Adam Bernard showed tonight:

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Help Jo get the vote out for Jane Dodds in Brecon – 3 hours to go

Jo Swinson shows her energetic style by heading down to Brecon for polling day and doing some knocking up with the candidate.

It isn’t usual for party leaders to do this sort of thing, but it’s very Jo to want to be there in the middle of the action, doing her bit.

It’s just great to see two of our party’s leaders out on a beautiful election evening knocking on doors.

And you can join Jo, if not in person, on the phones. All you need to know about how to do that is here. I’m about to hit the phones too.

Seriously, you want to be part of this campaign. It’s been positive, joyful, and vibrant – just like the politics we want to see, bringing people together.

Other parliamentarians spotted today around this vast constituency:

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Good luck to Jane Dodds in Brecon and Radnorshire – and how YOU can help her win

As Paul and Kirsten have have already written, today voters in Brecon and Radnorshire choose a new MP.

It would send a huge message to Boris Johnson that people don’t want his cavalier and irresponsible pursuit of the most disastrous option to his country if Jane Dodds were returned as MP.

And, more importantly, it would reduce his parliamentary majority to just one, reducing his scope for harm.

But it’s not just about that. Jane is brilliant. She’s wise and kind and is on a massive mission to fight for rural communities, to eradicate poverty and loneliness. If you need convincing, watch my chat with her here as we had a cup of tea in Llandrindod a couple of weeks ago.

Liberal Democrats from all over the country have been to this stunningly gorgeous part of the world to help Jane win over the past few weeks. The LDV team has notched up about 18 days between us.

Jane has made a final pitch for votes in Politics Home, saying that she would give the rural communities of the constituency their voice back.

Even the most basic of services – taken for granted in more urban areas – are more like luxuries here. Many villages are lucky if they’re served by a bus at all, let alone a service of any useful frequency. The words “fibre optic broadband” are a distant dream to the farming families who are lucky to get anything faster than dial-up. Patients’ hopes of timely medical treatment are dashed the moment the English hospital finds out they have a Welsh postcode.

The people of Brecon and Radnorshire deserve better than this. And as their next MP, I will demand better.

I was born and brought up in Wrexham in a Welsh speaking family. My mother instilled in me from a young age the importance of giving back to your community and making a positive difference to other people’s lives.

I graduated from Cardiff University and trained in social work, and 27 years later I’m still working as a child protection social worker, having worked with vulnerable children both at home and abroad. I hope I made a difference to the families I worked with. But what drove me into politics was realising that to achieve real social justice, you need to change the system.

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Constitutional Amendments at Bournemouth conference

As vice chair of the Federal Policy Committee, I’m proud of the substantial policy papers that FPC is bringing for debate at this conference. The future of the NHS and care system (including the many threats to them from Brexit), making a serious effort to support the least well off in society, tackling knife crime and other crime, and a real actual plan for tackling climate change, are all major issues where our answers can really help us in communicating Liberal Democrat values to voters. They, and the many other motions, are the real work of conference and I hope they succeed in getting us lots of positive attention in September.

At the other end of the spectrum of political importance, conference will also spend an hour late on Sunday afternoon, doing one of its other jobs, some internal organisational housekeeping (F23 and F24). Back in 2016, the party carried out a substantial review of the party’s constitution and how the party is organised, and made a number of quite important changes. Following that, we committed to reviewing how the new systems were working, and to bringing back any further smaller adjustments needed. This set of constitutional amendments is just that: the bulk of it (what’s called Part 5 in the agenda) is really small changes, which will no doubt invite lots of amused satirical responses (putting in one committee which got accidentally missed out of a list of all committees, removing stray apostrophes, that kind of thing). But some are a bit more significant so I thought it might be helpful to explain the thinking behind them, especially as unless you know what they are about, it’s not always very clear!

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30 July 2019 – today’s press releases

Boris’ no-deal spells disaster for farmers

Commenting on Boris Johnson’s visit to Wales today, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:

It would appear that Conservative aides have finally dusted off a map, given Boris Johnson the nametag for their candidate and pointed him to Brecon and Radnorshire.

This last minute quickdash visit is symbolic of just how much the Conservatives have taken local people for granted.

People deserve better than the Tories’ half baked plan to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal and thereby lumping farmers with an eye watering 40% tariff on Welsh lamb.

By voting Liberal Democrat on

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29 July 2019 – today’s press release

Swinson: Sturgeon and Johnson have more in common than they realise

Commenting on Boris Johnson’s visit to Glasgow today, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson warned against the divisions profered by the new PM and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Jo said:

The best way to strengthen the United Kingdom is to stop Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson have more in common than they realise. Both are failing to listen to Scotland with their respective ideological pursuits of independence and Brexit.

When it comes to working with our closest neighbours, we have been clear: our future is best served with a

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27-28 July 2019 – the weekend’s press release

The people of Sheffield Hallam can send a powerful message for change

Responding to the news that Jared O’Mara will resign as the MP for Sheffield Hallam, Liberal Democrat PPC for Sheffield Hallam Laura Gordon said:

By resigning Jared is doing the right thing – both for himself and his constituents.

People in Sheffield will now get their chance to have their say, both on Boris Johnson’s dangerous Conservative Government and on Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to provide effective opposition at a time of national crisis.

This by-election can send a powerful message for change and the Lib Dems ready for the challenge.

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Jo Swinson gives Jeremy Corbyn a lesson in opposing a terrible Government

Jo Swinson has had a very effective first six days as Lib Dem Leader. She’s been popping up all over the media and the fact that both Labour and SNP supporters alike have gone for her big time shows that they know she is a massive threat to them.

This morning, viewers of Sophy Ridge on Sunday will have seen Jeremy Corbyn offer his usual tired and hand-wringing approach to Brexit and his less than robust approach to anti-semitism in his party.

Immediately afterwards, they had Jo on. She was clear, engaging and she answered the questions put to her.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Sheffield is a lovely part of the world, and Laura Gordon would be an excellent Lib Dem MP

The Star is reporting that Sheiffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara is to resign his seat after the parliamentary recess:

The MP, aged 37, said he was ‘not well and in the process of receiving medical help’ and would resign following the MPs’ summer recess, which is due to end on Tuesday, September 3.

Mr O’Mara: “Please let everyone be assured that I will be tendering my resignation via the official Parliamentary process as soon as term restarts.

“I am not in any fit state to continue and nor would that be appropriate if I was. I reiterate my apology to my constituents, the people of Sheffield and the people of the UK as whole.”

This news comes at the end of an extraordinary week in which his chief of staff resigned via O’Mara’s Twitter account, accusing him of “vile, inexcusable contempt” for the voters. This was followed by allegations that he had sexually harassed a young woman on his staff.

He issued a statement yesterday saying that he was struggling with mental health issues and said that he would be making a further statement in a few weeks. However, the Times gives details today of messages sent to the young woman concerned. He also sent some pretty horrible messages to his staff about Lib Dem candidate Laura Gordon.

It’s that Times report that seems to have prompted his statement of intent to resign.

A by-election in Hallam is definitely winnable for us. And Laura is a brilliant candidate. I can definitely feel a trip to the city coming on. However, almost everybody expects there to be a General Election in the Autumn, so it’s possible that either a by-election gets disrupted by the dissolution of Parliament or the by-election doesn’t happen at all. It’ll be Labour who get to decide when to move the writ.

I suspect they may wait a bit. The prospect, as Kevin Lang put it on Twitter, of every Lib Dem in the country descending on Hallam in a by-election will be something that Labour wants to avoid.

Labour have been all over the place on a General Election this week. The spectacle of them having a rally outside Parliament calling for a General Election while, inside the building, refusing to support a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s horrific government would have been amusing if the mess we were in wasn’t so serious.

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An Autumn election the Liberals should win

This autumn, there will be general election. It will pit liberalism against conservatism. It will dictate who will be in power for the next few years. No, I’m not talking about the UK (although it is highly likely too), I’m talking about Canada. 

Four years on from Trudeau’s barn-storming election result, Canadians will return to the polls to elect their new government. The polls see the Liberals neck-and-neck with the Conservatives, so the election in October should be an interesting one. 

The poster boy of progressive politics has had a difficult 2019, after enjoying a three-year honeymoon period. His Carbon Tax has fallen flat across many of the ‘Prairie’ provinces, and his plans for a Trans Mountain Pipeline have seen many critics question his promise to Indigenous people and the environment. He also appeared to throw two of his ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, under the bus for the SNC-Lavalin affair. 

In spite of this, Canadians should focus on his enormous successes. One million new jobs since 2015, roll out of the Canadian Child Benefit, record investment in transit, banning single-use plastics, tax cuts for the middle class (paid for by the top 1%), legalising marijuana, a strengthened Canada Pension Plan, as well as trade agreements with trans-Pacific partners, Europe, and the US and Mexico (USMCA). Imagine we had had similar policies in the UK over the last 4 years!

While he’s still seen across the globe as a highly popular statesman, he has a struggle on his hands to get re-elected. Regional elections since then in Liberal strongholds, such as the Atlantic provinces, have seen the Liberals lose ground. However, when Canadians enter the poll stations for the Federal Election, they have the real question over who they think best represents them, Trudeau or Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer. 

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The Lib Dem Lowdown – Swinson Surge Special

Welcome to the thousands of people who have joined the Liberal Democrats this week. The Swinson Surge has seen our total number of members and supporters surpass 120,000. When you think that just 4 years ago, our membership wasn’t much more than 40,000, that is spectacular.

A Lib Dem Lowdown piece would not be complete without a Greg Foster (Lib Dem Head of Membership) GIF.

Though the GIFs are great, he may have to pay some attention to his hashtags.

It’s so great to check Twitter in the morning and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

Some of our newest members are:

The Scottish Lib Dems have a new Councillor:

And he wasn’t the only former Conservative repelled by Boris Johnson. Justine Greening’s former special adviser joined us too.

As a new member – or an old one – the best thing you can do over the next few days is help us win the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.. See more below in the real ale bit.

You might, by the way, have noticed the wee orange diamonds some people have on their Twitter posts to show that they are Lib Dems. Here’s how to get one:

You basically copy the code from here and then go into your Twitter profile paste it next to your name.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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Observations of an ex pat: Sorry

To the Young People of Briton,

I am so sorry.  I really cannot apologise enough for landing you with a far-right, anti-EU government led by a delusional buffoon who appears to have abandoned reality in favour of policies which have more in common with blind religious faith than practical politics.

You may kindly respond: “It’s ok. You did what you could. It’s not your fault.” Thank you. That is very kind. But my generation (the baby boomers) collectively failed to do enough. If we had we would not be in the mess we are in today.  Furthermore, we would not be landing you – our children, grandchildren and future generations—with decades of debt coupled with a security and political mess.

Let’s just look at a few mathematical facts which our new prime minister whose single mindedness to ignore is matched only by his determination to exit the EU on 31 October regardless of the cost to the nation. Theresa May’s Brexit deal was bad enough. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated that it would cost £100 billion a year, or £2,000 per British resident.

Still, her deal was nothing compared to Boris’s threatened No Deal. The respected UK Trade Policy Observatory has warned that the government is likely to have to cough up an extra £100 billion just to compensate businesses affected  by No Deal Brexit. This is before any account is taken of an anticipated fall in the value of the pound, increased holiday costs, damage to drug supplies and the NHS, drop in foreign trade investment, transport snarl-ups, increased tariffs, the end of EU regional grants and research money, inflation, security cooperation  cost of trade negotiations and the vital need for political and economic stability amongst our continental neighbours.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has already warned that the British economy is slowing down as foreign investors reluctantly accept that No Deal is now the most likely scenario. In fact, the OBR are predicting that if No Deal goes ahead the economy will shrink by two percent a year for the foreseeable future.

So what is our new prime minister’s response? Well, to start with he dismisses these expert reports as essentially fake news. Then he announces that instead of trying to adjust government spending to accommodate his political ambitions, he will increase it.

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A double Lib Dem GAIN in Gloucester

Good news to wake up to this morning. The Liberal Democrats have gained not one but TWO Council seats in Gloucester – one each from Labour and the Conservatives. The one from Labour was proper knife edge stuff. Not between us and Labour, who absolutely tanked because, you know, what is the point of them these days? We won by three votes from the Conservatives.

There was a nail biting recount in Podsmead where Sebastian Field triumphed and Ashley Bowkett won in Barnwood.

Here are the changes from last time:

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