Category Archives: News

Rennie: Tackle drug addiction with compassion and treatment, not imprisonment

Liberal Democrats care about people being able to fulfil their potential and getting the care and support they need to recover from illness and addiction. That’s why our Scottish manifesto highlights the need to take a public health approach to addiction. Scotland has the highest drug deaths rate in Europe, something which became very real to a friend of mine recently when her son died after taking street valium. Typically, she thought of others before herself and allowed the BBC to film his funeral.

Willie Rennie said today that the next Scottish Government will only end the drug deaths crisis through compassion and health treatment, not prosecution, as he revealed new figures showing 605 people convicted of possession without intent to supply being sent to prison.

Meanwhile, only 108 people received a Drug Treatment and Testing Order during the same three year period (2016/17 to 2018/19).

1264 people died of drug related causes in 2019. Each of them were individuals with talents and skills. Each of them loved and had people loving them. Pretty much 3 people a day lose their lives and each one of them, with the right intervention, could still be alive today.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats, looking to the best evidence, has the following measures to tackle the harm that drug addiction causes to people and communities that are focused on help and support. The party will:

  • Reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
  • Take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
  • Establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
  • Protect and enhance drug and alcohol partnership budgets, and adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol.
  • Use emergency housing funding to help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.

Willie Rennie said:

The SNPs failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.

It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. We will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution. After years of being told no, Scottish Liberal Democrats have just won cross-party agreement for that important principle.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 9 Comments

New play celebrates Floella Benjamin’s childhood

Lib Dem peer Floella Benjamin’s book about her life as a child is to be turned into a stage play. In her children’s book Coming to England she wrote about her journey from Trinidad to the UK at the age of ten, and about the racism her family experienced. But, as anyone who has met her or heard her speak will expect, the tale is essentially optimistic and encouraging, providing inspiration to children to overcome their own difficulties.

Floella has written some 20 books and pursued a career as an actor and singer, but is best known as the charismatic presenter of Play School in the 1970s and 1980s. She has used that fame to campaign on children’s issues and has been honoured with a place in the House of Lords as well as being made a Dame.

The Birmingham Rep has announced that it will present the premiere of a stage adaptation of her memoir during its forthcoming season.

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Brick thrown at Scottish Lib Dem HQ

So, yesterday morning, this happened:

This would have been awful if it had happened to any political party, but you always feel it more deeply when the building is full of your friends, people you really care about.

You have to wonder what goes through the mind of someone who thinks it is ok to put human beings in danger like that.

Elections are stressful enough for any party’s staff. By this time, they’ve been working ridiculous hours for months, and the idea of work/life balance has completely gone out the window.

They shouldn’t have to worry about missiles coming in the window or any other threat to their safety.

Alistair Carmichael, our campaign chair, said:

This morning a brick was thrown through the window of our HQ in Edinburgh.

“Fortunately no one was hurt but it could have been very different and our staff are understandably shaken by this.

“I’m dismayed that this kind of behaviour seems to have taken root in Scotland. Political campaigning should be about the clash of ideas, not about acts of violence.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland for their work in detaining a suspect. I also want to thank all our party staff who have been affected by this incident but who continue to give their all in delivering our campaign in this election.”

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Remembering Jonathan Fryer

It’s just over 3 weeks since Ed Fordham told us in a typically empathetic and eloquent post that well known LIb Dem internationalist, broadcaster and blogger Jonathan Fryer had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Ed wrote:

In 2006 Jonathan and I didn’t win the ward of Hampstead Town in Camden for the Liberal Democrats. We failed in that short term objective but that campaign saw the Liberal Democrats emerge as the largest party on the Council and for the first time ever we led the Council under Cllr Keith Moffitt. Camden Liberal Democrats under the tutelage of Cllr Flick Rea had mastered politics and sociability. This was the principle of an army marches on its belly and under the organisation of Janet Grauberg, Louise Malin and others we fed and watered our army through a dazzling array of discussion and events. Jonathan, himself living in Bow for much of the time, was always present. I quizzed him on why he always attended: “grassroots politics” was his simple and, for me, utterly compelling answer.

A Quaker and European, a writer and traveller, homosexual and a campaigner Jonathan understood that you must be there and he always was. Jonathan is still with us but he has posted his farewell. It is perhaps the most compelling and shocking Facebook message from any friend I have ever read. He captured his own bravery, his radical soul and his clarity of thought.

Sadly, on Friday, we heard that Jonathan had died. His friend Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett posted a photo of the two of them in the grounds of the hospice, taken on Easter Sunday. Jonathan was drinking a Campari Negroni. It’s so sad to lose someone who was such a powerful liberal voice who was so well thought of here and across the world.

When he announced on Facebook that he was dying, it  was so shocking, but at the same time it felt like he was giving us the enormous privilege of saying goodbye to him that we so often don’t get.

Here are some of the tributes posted on Twitter which show how much he was loved in and beyond the liberal world.

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Lib Dems’ parliamentary tributes to Prince Philip

I am sure that all our hearts will go out to the Queen today as we see her sitting alone in St George’s Chapel at the funeral of her husband of 73 years.

Bereavement is horrific at any time, but the pandemic has made it even more cruel for millions of people.

For the Queen there is a particularly difficult aspect. She’ll be on her own, but with the eyes of the entire world upon her. I just hope that she gets some comfort from knowing that she has the compassion and love of those millions of people.

This Monday, all our Parliaments were recalled to pay tribute to Prince Philip. Below are the tributes paid by Ed Davey, Willie Rennie, Kirsty Williams and Dick Newby, covering so many aspects of his life. Ed’s tales of Paddy’s encounters with the Duke will make you smile.

They are fitting tributes to someone who was such a huge part of our nation’s life for almost three quarters of a century.

Ed Davey

Princess Anne said yesterday:

“You know it is going to happen but you are never really ready.”

That is a truth shared by so many grieving families. Most people know that their loved one is near the end of their life because they are old or very sick, but that does not mean that they can avoid the tidal wave of grief—that moment of finality. This year more than most so many families have faced that moment, so I am sure that the Princess Royal speaks for not just the Queen and the royal family but the whole country: you are never really ready.

However, as people grieve, we can also say thank you— thank you to one of Britain’s greatest public servants of the last 100 years. As other party leaders have said, Prince Philip has been a rock in the life of our nation since his betrothal to our Queen, then the young Princess Elizabeth. Above all, he has always been her rock. After 73 years of marriage, it will be our Queen who feels this loss far more than anyone else. If anyone says that bereavement is easier when a loved one has lived a long life, I have to say that that is not my experience. So, ma’am, our hearts go out to you.

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Welsh Liberal Democrat Manifesto puts recovery first

This afternoon, Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds launched the party’s Welsh Manifesto ahead of the Senedd elections on 6 May. Writing in the foreword to Put Recovery First, Jane said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on all of us, and we have much to do. We understand how you feel: frustration, exhaustion, loss, disappointment, anxiety, relief, hope.

Like you, we want to focus on the things that are most important to you and your family after a tough year. To do that, we first have to get Wales back on its feet…

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will put recovery first.”

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London Liberal Democrats launch manifesto to Take London Forward

Luisa Porritt has launched her manifesto for the London mayoral elections on 6 May saying:

“London is a liberal city. I’ll offer the progressive alternative to Sadiq Khan’s poor record our city needs. What would have been ten years of steady change has been accelerated in a year by the pandemic.”

Luisa is pledging to introduce a flexible travel card, block the Silvertown Tunnel and make the streets safer.

Also posted in London | Tagged and | 4 Comments

Daisy Cooper challenges the government on return of students to university

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, Deputy Leader and spokesperson for education has just been challenging ministers in the Commons on the problem students have been experiencing during the pandemic. She said that students felt forgotten, that their mental health had deteriorated and government funds for students facing hardship should be doubled.

Also posted in education | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Local elections broadcast


Enjoy!

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Government’s LGBT panel disbanded

Last month three members resigned from the Government’s advisory panel on LGBT issues, which had been set up by Theresa May.

Jayne Ozanne was the first to go. It is worth watching the news clip, in which she reveals that she has also resigned from the Conservative party over this issue.

The main concern of those who resigned was that the Government was not acting as promised on gay conversion “therapy”.

And now Liz Truss has disbanded the rest of the panel, to disbelief and anger from campaigners across the political spectrum.

Wera Hobhouse, Lib Dem Equalities spokesperson, said:

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All female Party Political Broadcast is a first for Wales


The Welsh Liberal Democrats made television history last night with this party political broadcast (above) comprising solely of women.

The broadcast shown on ITV Wales at 18:25 (to be repeated on Friday on BBC1 at 22:35) features Party Leader Jane Dodds, education minister Kirsty Williams and three female candidates who are all running for Parliament for the first time.

Speaking about the broadcast, Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds said:

Too often politics is seen as an all-male club. I’m proud to be a leading my party in this election, and I’m equally proud to be joined in this broadcast by Kirsty Williams who’s done an incredible job as Education Minister.

Also posted in TV and film and Wales | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Breaking news: Shirley Williams

We have just learnt the very sad news that Shirley Williams has died, at the age of 90.

Ed Davey said:

This is heartbreaking for me and for our whole Liberal Democrat family.

Shirley has been an inspiration to millions, a Liberal lion and a true trailblazer. I feel privileged to have known her, listened to her and worked with her. Like so many others, I will miss her terribly.

Political life will be poorer without her intellect, her wisdom and her generosity.  Shirley had a limitless empathy only too rare in politics today; she connected with people, cared about their lives and saw politics as a crucial tool to change lives for the better.

As a young Liberal, Shirley Williams had a profound impact on me, as she did on countless others across the political spectrum. Her vision and bravery, not least in founding the SDP, continues to inspire Liberal Democrats today.

Rest in peace, Shirley. My thoughts and prayers are with your family and your friends.

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Tom Arms World Review – 11 April 2021

Northern Ireland was a key part of Britain’s Brexit referendum. Remainers claimed that withdrawal from the EU risked undermining the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and a return to The Troubles which raged through the province for 30 years. “Fear Factor” retorted the Brexiteers. “It won’t happen.” But after a week of sectarian violence it looks as if there was something to fear. The Troubles began in 1968 because the Protestant-controlled Stormont government insisted on anti-Catholic legislation. The Catholics saw their only hope in unification with the Republic of Ireland in the South. The Good Friday Agreement kept the dream alive for the Catholics and kicked it into the long grass for the Protestants. The north/south border was to stay open. Why not? Both countries were members of the EU. The aspiration of Irish unification was allowed to remain on the table, but no date or form was agreed. Perhaps the two EU members would gradually move towards some sort of federation under the auspices of an overarching European Union. After all, the EU was a guarantor of the peace along with the US, Britain and Ireland. Then came Boris Johnson’s easy-peasy-oven-ready-you-can-have-your-cake-and-eat-too deal. In a major concession to Brussels, Washington and Dublin, Johnson stabbed the Protestant Union Democratic Party in the back and agreed to keep open the north/south border and draw a new customs border down the Irish Sea, separating mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. This is the Northern Ireland Protocol. It immediately complicated trade between the Ulster provinces and Britain and it moved the aspiration of Irish unification from the long to the short grass. The result is that this time the Protestants are taking the lead in violence and they can be even more stubborn than and just as nasty as the IRA.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 92 Comments

New issue of Liberator out – 406

Liberator 406 is out and can be downloaded for free here. You can also sign up through the website to receive each issue as it comes out.

Alongside Radical Bulletin, Letters, Reviews and Lord Bonkers’ Diary, Liberator 406 includes:

NUCLEAR OPTION
Are Liberal Democrat members just electrons floating around or part of the nucleus of something larger, asks David Grace

THE VOTERS TORIES WANT TO TURN AWAY
Voter suppression – in particular of young people and ethnic groups – is a feature of Americans politics the Government seeks to import here, says Shaun Roberts

DETENTION QUESTIONS ON THE DOORSTEP
The Government looks set to make the immigration detention system even worse, and the issue will come up at elections. Margaret Lally arms Liberal Democrats with some answers

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Observations of an Expat – Consequences of Greenland

Greenland is not usually a world election hotspot. This is because most of the time the biggest issue for the 57,000 inhabitants is filling the pothole on Nuuk’s high street or the siting of a new streetlight to illuminate the long cold winter nights.

Not this time. The issue at stake—mining—will have consequences well beyond the shores of the misnamed Danish possession involving the environment, world shipping, defence, economic development and tectonic shifts in global power.

The election was won by the Inuit Ataqatigiit or Community of the People Party on the platform of stopping development of the uranium and rare earths mine at Kvanefjeld. The increasingly sought after rare earth minerals are essential for the running of computers and various medical treatments. Eighty percent of the world’s rare earths are found in China who are keen to keep their virtual monopoly. Greenland has the world’s second largest deposit, which is why a Chinese company is behind the Kvanefjeld mine.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 8 Comments

Tributes as Duke of Edinburgh dies at 99

Here is the full statement released by Buckingham Palace following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 99 today:

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“Further announcements will made in due course.

“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

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Rennie marks 10,000 deaths of people with Covid-19 in Scotland

Responding to Scotland having passed 10,000 deaths from covid-19, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

“When I think of 10,000 deaths, I think of 10,000 broken families and friends. I think of the pain and the loss. 

“For their sake we must learn the lessons of what went right and what went wrong.   

“With one of the highest numbers of people dead in Europe, Scotland has a special responsibility to conduct an early public inquiry. That inquiry must look at the lack of testing for new care home residents, the lack of preparation in the summer for

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“Creeping authoritarianism” – Liberal Democrats condemn government’s plan for Covid passports


Embed from Getty Images

Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat MPs have been very busy condemning the government’s plans for Covid passports.
The BBC quoted Ed Davey as accusing the government of “creeping autoritarianism” over the plans, adding:

As we start to get this virus properly under control we should start getting our freedoms back. Vaccine passports – essentially Covid ID cards – take us in the other direction.

Yesterday evening, Ed tweeted:

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Ed Davey’s Easter message

Here is Ed Davey’s just-released Easter message!

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Hartlepool Lib Dems select Andy Hagon for by-election

Andy Hagon will stand for the Liberal Democrats in the forthcoming Hartlepool by-election.

Andy, a teacher who stood in the seat in 2017 and 2019, said that he was honoured to be standing for Hartlepool again:

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Lib Dem Council leaders slam decision to end remote meetings

During the pandemic local Councils have been permitted to hold formal meetings online, and this has enabled them to carry on Council business through lockdowns and other restrictions. The Government has now announced that this ruling will be withdrawn after 7th May and Councils will have to meet in person after that date.

This is quite bizarre in the short term because meetings are not permitted under current Covid rules. According to the roadmap, from 17th May groups of 30 will be allowed to meet outdoors, but only 6 indoors.  The earliest date at which meetings could be held indoors would be 21st June. In stark contrast, Parliament will continue to allow remote attendance until 21st June.

But it is also worrying in the long term, since the current practice has made it possible for councillors and members of the public to attend meetings even when they could not physically attend easily for reasons of health or disability.

Some 90 Lib Dem Council Leaders and Opposition Leaders have signed an open letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and to Luke Hall MP,  Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government. Here is the text of their letter:

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Ed Davey comes out against vaccine passports

Someone asked me the other day what I thought our position should be on vaccine passports.

I said that if we supported them, then it would be something that would make me question my membership of the party.

Ed Davey has missed his chance to get rid of me with a blistering article in today’s Telegraph:

He said that they would be “illiberal, unworkable and utterly ineffective in keeping people safe from Covid.”

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Autumn Conference will be all at sea

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Lib Dems in Torquay have alerted us to the fact that a number of cruise ships have been anchored off shore since the first lockdown. Apparently long-term docking fees at the usual cruise ports are unaffordable for many cruise lines, and in any case there are simply not enough berths available worldwide for all the ships.

Some careful research and negotiation have resulted in the proposal that is being considered seriously by the Federal Conference Committee – that Autumn Conference this year should be held in one of those underused ships.  The resources are perfect on the ship which offers a large theatre that could serve as an auditorium, several other function rooms for fringe meetings, and plenty of bars. What is more, accommodation and restaurants are on site and will be included in the registration fee. If the weather is fine then members will be able to use the swimming pool.

To counter the perception that Autumn Conferences are always based on the South Coast the ship will spend the four days cruising around the British Isles, stopping to pick up Alistair Carmichael in Orkney.

The cruise ship option comes with some particular opportunities and challenges for a “hybrid” conference, with some members able to connect remotely via the Hopin platform. Data connectivity is straightforward enough but movement of the ship on the water may cause incoming and outgoing speeches to speed up and slow down due to the Doppler effect.

There will be some additional benefits on offer on the ship. The casino will be open 24 hours a day, but only to those who did not sign the petition against FOBTs. The midnight chocolate buffet will be available every night at the specific request of Mark Pack.

Glee Club will take place in a real theatre with the ship’s resident dancers and acrobats providing much needed relief. We understand that negotiations to secure ‘The Cruise’ star Jane Macdonald to do a turn are going well.

Also posted in Conference | 27 Comments

Lib Dems mark Trans Day of Visibility

Today is the annual Trans Day of Visibility, a day for celebrating the achievements of trans people.

LGBT+LIb Dems looked at 7 trans politicians from the UK and across the world. If you were at Spring Conference you will have seen Charley Hasted make some incredibly powerful speeches, on issues like NHS pay, describing the horrors they and their colleagues went through as ambulance call handlers.

They also spoke about their life as a carer, describing how they had not been able to do anything with their sibling for 23 years as one of them has to look after their mum.

They showed why they are needed in elected office:

Luisa Porritt, our London mayoral candidate, tweeted her support.

As did Alex Cole-Hamilton

Christine Jardine encouraged us to show support:

Last week, Jamie Stone took an anti trans group to task:

Today he tweeted:

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Willie Rennie highlights Lib Dem plans for health, education and climate change in first major campaign interview

It’s been a good start to the Scottish Liberal Democrats election campaign with our first photo opportunity getting on the front pages of the two main Scottish broadsheets:

Willie was out and about early for his morning run today. He posted it on Twitter at 6:30 when it was still dark due to the clocks going forward:

He had to be up so early because he Willie had a great first interview of the campaign on the Sunday Show. He always sounds so joyful and optimistic and got across our main talking points while avoiding the usual traps. He contrasted the SNP and Conservatives constant arguing over independence, which would continue into the next Parliament with our approach to get our health and education services.

Here are the highlights:

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Ed Davey’s message for Passover – Chag Sameach!

Here is Ed Davey’s message for Passover, published last night. Our best wishes to all celebrating today.

At sundown tonight, Jewish communities in the UK and around the world will mark the beginning of Passover, the eight-day festival commemorating the liberation of the Israelites after 400 years of slavery in ancient Egypt.

The story of the Exodus has inspired generations; it’s a story of hope and triumph. It shows us what’s possible when we hold tight to faith in the midst of darkness and uncertainty. This is a message that’s relevant, even today.

Usually, Passover is a large celebratory affair, marked by generations of families gathering around the Seder table to share a festive meal. However, this year celebrations will be smaller. Many will look around the table and think of loved ones who cannot be there and some traditions may even be modified in an attempt to adapt to these unprecedented times.

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Willie’s morning runs – Friday and Saturday

Here are Willie Rennie’s videos from his last two morning runs, posted at a more civilised hour.

On Friday, he talked about the campaign launched – and talked about how the Lib Dems are the alternative to the toxic battle between the SNP and the Conservatives.

Today, it’s less blustery and he contrasts how the Lib Dems offer changing people’s lives for the better, investing in education and the NHS, tackling climate change and unemployment People will be alarmed at the prospect of the election and beyond.

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Carmichael: Alex Salmond is not the answer to Scotland’s future

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has announced he will lead the pro-impendence Alba party, which was registered just four months ago. He told a press conference today: “We expect to field a minimum of four candidates in each regional list and we’re hoping to elect Alba MSPs from every area of Scotland.”

Scottish Lib Dem leaders responded: “There are no questions about Scotland’s future to which Alex Salmond is the answer.”

Also posted in Scotland | Tagged and | 35 Comments

Safe way?

The Home Office’ s proposals to change the Asylum law is disturbing. They don’t reflect an understanding of the hardship and difficulties that refugees face. Desperate people resort to desperate actions risking their lives to find a better life.

It is very difficult for these people to come directly to Britain. No visitor visa, no way of boarding a plane. It is unlikely those in conflict zones can obtain a visa anyway. They will have to cross borders and journey across countries to reach Britain.

The measures proposed to send them back are not based on any humanitarianism but a simple desire to keep foreigners out of Brexit Britain. Indeed, there is no legal basis for the EU to accept those that have crossed their territories and I doubt if the EU is in any hurry to make such an agreement. Britain in fact has a smaller number of people seeking asylum than other western European countries.

In these last few years, I have got to know some Pakistani Christian refugees who have fled to Bangkok. They faced a situation where Christians were being murdered and being driven out of their homes. The level of intolerance led to heavy discrimination making life extremely difficult. I knew of someone who tried to set up a Unitarian church. He faced death threats and eventually his employer told him he would not employ him any longer as he didn’t want the company to have any trouble.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Ed Davey: We will not support the extension of the Coronavirus Act

Yesterday Ed Davey attracted quite a lot of media coverage when he asked this question during Prime Minister’s Questions:

He explained his reasoning in more detail in an article in The Independent titled Why the Liberal Democrats won’t vote to renew the Coronavirus Act.

He writes:

When Boris Johnson asks MPs to renew the Coronavirus Act on Thursday, he is asking us to give his government a blank cheque to reduce everyone’s rights and freedoms for another six months. No MP should vote for that.

It’s important to remember what this vote is not about. It’s not about lockdown, or quarantine, or the requirement to wear face-coverings – all of which the Liberal Democrats have consistently supported as necessary to contain the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

Despite its name, the Coronavirus Act doesn’t actually include the most important Covid laws. Even though the Act originally passed through the House of Commons on the same day the prime minister announced the first national lockdown – a year ago yesterday – the lockdown itself was implemented through completely separate legislation, under the 1984 Public Health Act.

So what does the Act cover?

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