Category Archives: Op-eds

Senedd Elections 2021 – the main points for Lib Dems as they come in (updated 22:30)

This post on the Senedd elections will be updated as results come in. We won’t be covering all results, just the main points. Fuller coverage will be posted on Sunday or Monday when we have the final picture.

If you want a result featured because it is a wow, email to [email protected].

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LDV Scottish Elections 2021 – the highlights for Lib Dems as they come in (updated 10:00pm)

This post on the Scottish Parliamentary Elections will be updated as results come in. We won’t be covering all results, just the highlights. Fuller coverage will be posted on Sunday or Monday when we have the final picture.

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England Local Elections 2021 – the highlights for Lib Dems as they come in (updated 19:40pm)

This post will be updated as results come in. We won’t be covering all results, just the highlights. Fuller coverage will be posted on Sunday or Monday when we have the final picture.

Please add your results in the comments. If you want them featured because they are a wow, email to [email protected].

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The 2021 elections are over. How was it for you? Open thread for comments

I write this shortly after the polls close. Many of you be hoping for a lie in. Some will be at work. Others will be too stressed to sleep much until the results are in and for many, that will not be until the weekend.

Lib Dems have been battling for seats in the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd. We have high hopes in many local councils. We have candidates in the mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. You can’t have missed that there has been a by-election in Hartlepool.

Our candidates and supporters have made supreme efforts on Super Thursday.

Lib Dem Voice will of course be publishing comment and analysis as the results come in. In the meanwhile, this blog is a space for you comment and tell anecdotes of the day. No nastiness please. This is a space for reflection not any attacks on campaigning or people. Such comments would not be fair on candidates anxiously awaiting their count. There will be space for analysis when the results are in.

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Local elections and the “Festival of Local Democracy”

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Well…I might be a bit weird, however I am really excited about tomorrow! Why? It is an election day, which gives us ALL another wonderful opportunity to shape our local communities by electing District and County Councillors. There are also significant elections in Scotland, to the Scottish Parliament and in Wales, to the Welsh Assembly. Tomorrow will be a busy day for voters and quite a nerve-wracking day for all the candidates!

We often don’t realise but it is very true that even the smallest elections to the parish council affect the way we live our lives.

I often wonder what makes us vote, particularly in the local elections? is it because we want to see a real change in our neighbourhoods? Is it because we want to positively influence the so called “status quo”? Or is it simply because we simply like a particular candidate?

Is our voting based on our political alliances? Would we vote for any candidates of the main political parties in the local elections only because we support their national policies?

Do we vote tactically?

Or do we vote because we passionately believe in democracy and we want to be part of the civic process?

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We don’t say “Thank You” enough

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our Lib Dem councillors, all 2600 of them. We don’t show our appreciation properly in normal times, but especially over the last 12 months, when they have been dealing with unprecedented levels of disruption and stress. A particular shout-out to those councillors who were planning to stand down in 2020 but have been forced to serve an extra year – enjoy your retirement.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our 50 Elected Mayors, Council Leaders and Deputy Leaders who have had to take on huge responsibilities for the wellbeing of their residents during the pandemic.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to our members on the Senedd, Scottish Parliament and London Assembly – only 7 of them in the last session, but all punching well above their weight.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to the thousands of candidates who are campaigning for election tomorrow. We are really grateful to all of you, including those who are making sure that Liberal Democrat is an option on the ballot paper in areas where we don’t have much hope of winning a seat.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to all our activists – those who are not enjoying the thrill of standing, but who still offer to knock on doors, print, bundle, deliver, tell, enter data, address envelopes, run websites, train and lead campaigning.

We don’t say “Thank You” enough to all our staffers – campaign managers and organisers. True they are “only” doing their job, but they all do far more than is strictly required and work punishing hours during election campaigns.

So how can we thank them? By getting out there today and tomorrow, and bringing in the vote.

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Liberal Democrats must acknowledge massive human rights abuse in India

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Britain’s announcement of a £1 billion trade deal with India coincided with a thundering condemnation of that country by the British-Indian artist Sir Anish Kapoor in The Times. He writes:

Sixty per cent of the population — 800 million people — live, or more accurately survive, in abject poverty and are forced into invisibility. The harshness of caste boundaries and endemic social segregation means they are the downtrodden of the earth and it matters not if they live or die.

Britain is pursuing India for post-Brexit trade deals and as a strategic ally against China’s expansion. By doing so, it is turning a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses there where individual suffering may well be equal or higher than that of China.

The voice of Liberal Democrats is close to silent on these atrocities.

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Why the Liberal Democrats campaigning to back British Farmers

Liberal Democrat agricultural spokesperson Tim Farron explains why his party is launching a campaign to Back British Farmers.

British farmers have been let down by the Conservatives. They’ve been promised that British standards will not be undermined, yet this hasn’t been guaranteed in law.

They’ve been promised that levels of funding will be maintained, yet the transition will see huge amounts of income lost.

And the Government is still expecting our farmers to be the stewards of our landscape, and work with us to cut emissions and help maintain and improve our natural environment – but if they’re not careful there won’t be any farmers left.

Family farmers are the backbone of our countryside, and that’s why the Liberal Democrats are launching a campaign to ‘Back British Farmers.’

Protect

Alongside launching this campaign, I am introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament to create a new environmental and agricultural regulator, to better protect our farmers and our natural environment.

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Let’s really be the opposition to Boris’ government

I am sorry that the person who has led the most serious criticisms of Boris’ government has had to self-isolate, i.e. Sir Ed Davey.  He was right to suggest that we Lib-Dems are the real opposition.  The leader of the Labour Party does not appear to be strong enough for the battles that are needed and is making a mistake if he thinks he can win public support only on the basis of sleaze.

Most importantly the handling of the pandemic is key to understanding the mistaken way this government operates under Boris.

What follows is a letter I had published on Monday 26th in my local newspaper, The Sentinel, with a picture of Boris and a headline using my last sentence.  I hope it encourages others to write in their local papers.  This surely is the kind of message that must be part of our campaign to show people we can do better than the Conservatives, both during the current elections and in the next year or so.  I refer, of course, to just a few of the elements of criticism that can be made of this government.

The main source of data that I have used is found here.

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Immoral – Conservative MPs are tarnished by association with PM Johnson

Roger Roberts – Lord Roberts of Llandudno – has written a letter to his MP, Robin Millar, as follows:

Dear Robin,

Like many other constituents, especially Christian church members I am deeply disappointed in this government and this prime minister. Whether this attitude is reflected in the coming elections is of little importance, so much of the moral lead necessary in a prime minister cannot be found in Mr Johnson. Your own character is tarnished by association with him. I would welcome a meeting and discussion with you.

Yours faithfully,
ROGER – Lord Roberts of Llandudno

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Britain’s role in the world… of corruption

Corruption is in the news again in the UK.

PPE contracts during the pandemic, the Greensill Capital scandal, and eye-watering local authority finance scandals, all serve to dent the historic public perception that politics and government in the UK is in the main ‘clean’.

In the early 1990s at a private lunch with senior civil servants I attended, one of them offered the view that the public’s perception of a broadly clean governance system in the UK, has been ‘the world’s most successful long-term government propaganda operation of all time’.

In my global project work, dealing with corruption at senior levels is just something you have to find a way of handling. Many times I have had to employ ‘forensic international accountants’ to trace missing tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. It just goes with the territory. In some cases I have found corruption linked back to the UK; kickbacks for visas, a market for ‘blank’ British passports, kickbacks for projects and so on.

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Lord William Wallace writes…Defending liberal values from wealthy reactionaries

The owners of five of the six English football clubs which they planned to hive off into an American-style Super-League are classic ‘people from anywhere’: three Americans, a Gulf sheikh and a Russian who made billions out of the post-Soviet free-for-all of privatisation. But neither David Goodhart, who popularised the distinction between ‘somewheres’ and ‘anywheres’ in his post-Brexit book, The Road to Somewhere: the populist revolt and the future of politics, nor Theresa May, who adopted the phrase in fighting the 2017 election, meant offshore billionaires by it. They were putting the blame for the loss of a sense of local community and national solidarity on ‘the liberal elite’: people like you and me.

Liberals are too nice, and too optimistic about reasoned argument, to fight back against the cynical campaigners of the hard right. Pluto-populism, in the USA and in England, has seen hedge-funders and offshore financiers fund populist politicians to discredit political moderates, telling those left behind by globalisation or confused by rapid social and economic change that it’s the intellectual classes who are to blame, not those who’ve made most money out of the disruption. Now that the public are beginning to learn about the close and murky links between right-wing politicians and casino capitalism, we need to work harder to undermine the credibility of their narrative.

I’ve just re-read Goodhart’s book. It’s astonishing that he pays so little attention to economic globalisation as a factor in creating popular disorientation. He blames social liberalisation, the expansion of university education and its inherently ‘liberal and international ethos’, and the espousal of ‘progressive causes’ like minority rights for popular disorientation. Nothing is said about the disappearance of local industries and banks, the enthusiasm with which free market ideologues sold off national assets to Gulf state wealth funds, Chinese state companies, and private equity speculators.

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Observations of an Expat: American Turning Point?

The guilty verdict in the trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin for the murder of African-American George Floyd has the potential to be a watershed in American race relations. But it has a host of hurdles to overcome.

The key to surmounting well-entrenched centuries old problems is the George Floyd Policing Act, also known more succinctly as the George Floyd Bill. It passed the House of Representatives in March and is now before the Senate where it needs 60 votes (nine more than there are Democrats) to circumvent the dreaded filibuster.

The Bill proposes slew of changes which has raised concern among the law and order lobby, police union, gun enthusiasts and states’ rights advocates. It would be more than just concern if it weren’t for the fact that Chauvin is obviously guilty beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt.

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Yesterday was Earth Day – was it also the day we really began to tackle the climate emergency?

Earth Day is now in its 51st year. If Donald Trump had gained a second term, it would have probably gone unnoticed in the Capitol yesterday. But Joe Biden is now leading America and he used the occasion to host an international summit and announce deep cuts in carbon emissions. Pledges came in from leaders across the world.

Boris Johnson got his pennyworth in earlier announced that he will set in law “world’s most ambitious climate change target”, cutting emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels in pursuit of zero carbon by 2050. Admirable stuff. More important than the headline figure is that the UK’s Carbon Budget will incorporate our share of international aviation and shipping emissions, which each contribute three to four per cent each to global warming.

Are we turning the corner at last in getting the political commitments we need to drive the business and societal changes needed to tackle climate change? Maybe.

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The Earth is not ours to abuse, we need to protect it for future generations

On 22 April 2021, The Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day will bring together leaders of major economies, including some of the world’s main polluters. Hosted by Joe Biden, the two-day conference aims to “galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis”.

In this month of Ramadan, Muslims globally should think deeply about climate change and steps they can take to address the issue.

Ramadan is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate and help each other. Muslims deliver food packages to the needy and recognise the importance of never wasting food, which in turn benefits the environment. Islamic teachings relate to the earth; planting a tree, for example, is like giving to charity, yet many Muslim’s awareness of this is staggeringly narrow. India, for example, has the world’s second highest Muslim population (as of 2018), yet is the world’s 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is therefore countries like these where education and everyday changes to lifestyle habits are fundamental in helping to address climate change. It is not just the responsibility of a few countries, but of every country and every individual.

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Jane Dodds launches Basic Income YouTube series

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds has launched a YouTube series in the runup to the Senedd elections to showcase the many ways in which a Basic Income could change the lives of people in Wales.

Published on the Welsh Lib Dems YouTube channel, “Basic Income Conversations with Jane Dodds” is a series of informal one-to-one conversations in which Jane asks men and women from all corners of the country about their day-to-day lives and how they think a Basic Income would make a difference to them and their communities.

In the first, she hears from Mary, a shop assistant and mother of one from Cowbridge, who reflects on the difficulties her and other working families face trying to make ends meet. “There are rural communities where they go without so much, they go without basics just to get by. And they’re all working families and that’s what I can’t get my head around. They’re all working so hard”.

Mary said the first time she heard about Basic Income was when the Welsh Lib Dems started talking about it and now she is all for it (and hopefully for the Lib Dems too, as a result!).

Jane Dodds has been a vocal supporter of Basic Income for many years and was delighted when the party adopted it as official policy at last year’s conference. “In this campaign I wanted to speak to regular, hard-working people across the country because I wanted to hear their stories and how they thought the financial security of a Basic Income could make a difference to them”, she told Lib Dems for Basic Income.

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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.

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The European Super League is a Liberal Democrat issue

The news that six of England’s biggest (if not currently best) football clubs are intent on joining a so-called European Super League is dominating both back and front pages today, and rightly so. This is a story about football, but not just football: it drives home the point that excessive foreign ownership of many of our industries is not in the public interest, and illustrates the grotesque outcomes we get when we allow market and consumer logic to totally dominate the economy at the expense of citizen and community power. As such, this an issue on which the Liberal Democrats should have a very clear point of view, and a very loud voice.

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A European Super League – do politicians need to step in?

The breaking news that a group of the most prestigious football clubs across Europe (in reality, Western Europe) are expected to announce the formation of an elite league has triggered widespread reaction across the British (actually, make that English) political spectrum. As Ed Davey put it;

Indeed, all three Party leaders have publicly condemned the proposal.

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Foreign aid budget cuts causes harm at home and abroad

Many Conservative MPs have been triumphantly crowing on social media that the government is planning to reduce our foreign aid budget.

Make no mistake, not only will this impact on some of the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people during a pandemic, but it will also impact negatively on scientific jobs and research funding right here in the UK. Decades of research will be affected.

If these Tory MPs, who claim we cannot afford to meet our foriegn aid commitments, were genuinely wanting to save taxpayer’s money, they would call out the corruption and cronyism from their own government ministers.

Instead, they are boasting about breaking their manifesto promises to maintain our current level of foreign aid. Conveniently, they don’t explain that our foreign aid budget helps fund polio eradication programmes, the manufacturing of prosthetic limbs for landmine victims, UN refugee camps and UK science jobs.

The most pressing challenges we face as a civilisation are truly global in nature – climate change, the growing resistance of bacteria to our antibiotics, how to manage and feed our fast-growing population and fighting pandemics.

All these issues will directly affect the UK.

None of these issues can be addressed by any country working alone.

Much of the UK foreign aid budget is focused on tackling these issues.

Some of this money funds British scientists carrying out research into infectious diseases in developing countries. Diseases such as rabies, polio and avian influenza all have the potential to affect the UK.

So when our foreign aid budget is cut, some UK scientists lose their funding and potentially their jobs. Ground breaking research projects which were awarded money some months ago have since had all funding retracted bringing them to a sudden halt. There is no doubt that this will cost lives.

The majority of our foreign aid is spent in the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries, including Syria and Afghanistan. In these conflict regions most of this research is built on years building relationships and trust to encouraging people to engage with science – all this hard work a progress is now at risk.

Some mean spirited Tory MPs have long banged on about reducing foreign aid because they are either too ignorant to understand the consequences of their actions, or they simply enjoy whipping up xenophobia by using the foreign aid budget and refugee crisis as a political football.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 18th April

America lost. It has joined other imperial powers—mainly Britain and the Soviet Union—in filling thousands of graves in the mountains, hills and plains of Afghanistan. More than 4,400 NATO troops of which 2,488 were American have died in the past 20 years. In addition, an estimated 43,000 civilians and 70,000 Taliban fighters have lost their lives. America’s longest war is estimated to have cost the US Treasury $2 trillion, and its NATO allies $525 billion. Afghanistan has been a melting pot, trade route and gateway to the riches of India for centuries. The Mughals conquered northern India through Afghanistan and the British fought three Afghan Wars to keep the Russians out of India. After the third Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah Khan moved to modernise Afghanistan. Inspired by Ataturk he secularised the strongly Islamic laws to allow co-education and other rights for women and introduced limited political rights. This never right down with the Mullahs who continued to hold sway in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush which covers three quarters of Afghanistan. The final straw for the fundamentalists came in April 1978 when the Marxist People’s Democratic Party grabbed power and started a major crackdown on fundamentalists. Civil war broke out and in December 1979 Moscow invaded in support of their communist clients. Their defeat after ten years was a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the fundamentalist-inspired Taliban who were nurtured in Pakistan’s Madrassas. With the help of Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia they fought their way to power in 1998 and introduced a medieval form of Sharia Law. They also provided a base for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeeda whom they refused to relinquish after the 2001 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. The result was an Anglo-American invasion which toppled the Taliban from Kabul in just two months. But the Taliban did not disappear. It regrouped in bases in Pakistan and fought back. It now controls roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan and will no doubt soon topple US-supported President Ashraf Ghani. But will they again become a base for international Islamic terrorism? Will their brutal suppression of women’s rights be too much for the West to bear? Will the 14 ethnic groups with three main languages collapse into civil war in the absence of a common foreign enemy? It is clear, as both Trump and Biden, has said that there is no military solution to the problem of Afghanistan. But is there even an acceptable political solution, or is Afghanistan like a chronic cancer—manageable, treatable but incurable and gets you in the end.

Minneapolis used to be best known for Lake Itasca, source of the mighty Mississippi. Then there is juicy Lucy, a delicious cheeseburger with the cheese inside the meat. And, of course, the famous Mall of America is only a stone’s throw away. Now, it is infamous for the police killing of George Floyd, the subsequent Black Lives Matter riots and the trial of his alleged killer Derek Chauvin And this week for the “accidental “shooting of 20-year-old African-American Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Centre. On the face of it, Minneapolis is not your typical racial hotspot. African-Americans comprise only 20 percent of the population (Detroit is 79 percent Black). Mayor Joseph Frey has well-established liberal credentials and Police Chief Medana Arradondo is African-American. But that is not the whole story. Blacks may be 20 percent of the population but 60 percent of all police shootings are of African-Americans, and in his days as a young police lieutenant, Chief Arradondo sued his own force for racism. The problem appears to lie with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and, in particular, its Trump-supporting leader Bob Kroll who has fought hard to keep the 800-stong force predominantly White. Kroll himself has been involved in three police shootings and 20 internal affairs investigations. He called George Floyd a “violent criminal” and branded protesters “terrorists.” The good news is that he has finally been forced out of office.

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Observations of an expat: Is Ukraine another Cuba?

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The conventional wisdom is that nuclear Armageddon was avoided in October 1962 by a plucky iron-willed young American President. Not quite. A new book by award-wining Russian author Serhii Plokhy reveals that the Cuban Missile Crisis was created by poor communication at every level in both countries and that it was more a matter of luck rather than pluck that saved the world.

Miscommunication and misunderstanding remains a Russian-American problem and is now coming to the fore again over Ukraine.

But back to October 27, 1962. The US naval blockade of Cuba had been in force for five days. To persuade the Soviet submarines to return home President Kennedy ordered US ships to launch a continuous barrage of depth charges on any members of the Soviet underwater fleet that they found. The purpose was to harass rather than destroy.

But Valentin Savitsky, captain of nuclear-armed B-59 was not privy to American thinking. By the 27th of October his crew had endured two days of tension, diminishing air supplies and increasing heat. Savitsky gave the order to surface. He was immediately subjected to a barrage of tracer bullets fired by trigger happy US fighter pilots circling the area.

Convinced that war had started and he was under full-scale attack, the Soviet captain gave the order to dive and fire a nuclear torpedo.

Fortunately lady luck intervened. The captain of the US destroyer Cony realised the danger and flashed an apology from his signal light. It was spotted by the sub’s signals officer just as the B-59 slipped beneath the waves, and was only seen because his searchlight became stuck. The apology was immediately relayed to Savitsky who, at the last minute, countermanded his attack order.

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Twilight over Burma

“History repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce,” according to Marx.

The 1962 coup in Burma was followed by five decades of harsh military rule. There is little farcical about the 1 February coup when in the weeks passing many unarmed protesters have been killed including many children. The situation in Myanmar gives rise to grave concern. Fitch Solutions is projecting a “conservative” 20% contraction for the 2020-21 fiscal year in Myanmar. It said this month the rising death toll combined with increased social instability means “all areas of GDP by expenditure are set to collapse.”

The garment sector is at a halt with many factories in Yangon being burnt down by a wave of anti-Chinese feeling. People are angry at the complicit support of China over the military take over. The military has been switching off the internet in order to prevent people from finding out what is going on and to organise protests. Also, to prevent news from reaching the outside world. Many journalists have been arrested, some still remain in detention, and news organisations have had their licenses withdrawn. Closing down the internet for periods of the day comes at an economic cost. The fragile banking system is already teetering with depositors limited to how much they can draw from their accounts. Exporters cannot reach their customers.

The Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, still has access to its funds from gems, jade, and oil and gas. Its business interests operating in a mafia like way which isolates it from the economic collapse. The ordinary Burmese have no such isolation with many now considering fleeing to India and Thailand. An influx of refugees shows the problems to Thailand of having an unstable Myanmar on its borders. The resistance has now shifted from the main cities to the Shan states in NW Myanmar. Police stations have been attacked. Another area of traditional resistance is on the Indian border with an equal influx of refugees. A massive humanitarian disaster is on the cards.

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Climate Change: We must not discourage young people

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When the Southampton Daily Echo ran a story recently featuring the likely sea-rise impact on Southampton, it unleashed a torrent of outraged climate change denial. Climate Central’s data was viewed as preposterous, extremely unlikely and unwarranted fearmongering. Barely 20% of respondents agreed with the report.

That reaction – the refusal to countenance the full impact of the way we live now – is perfectly understandable. There are not many things these days as trusted as bricks and mortar…as safe as houses. Unfortunately, that trust flies in the face of science. While countries are firmly in the grip of an addiction to never-ending growth, it is difficult to face up to the consequences of damage to our planet.

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Liberal Democrats: The party of football?

There are ninety-two football clubs playing in the English Professional Football League structure and forty-two in the Scottish equivalent. With AFC Wimbledon’s return to Plough Lane taking them out of the Kingston and Surbiton constituency boundaries, none of these are currently represented by a Liberal Democrat MP. For those of you interested, the highest ranked football team currently represented by a Liberal Democrat is St Albans City who are sat 5th in the sixth division at the time of writing.

This may simply be the nature of football geography in this country, with top professional football teams mainly representing the big cities that have become Labour heartlands over the years, the old working class, industrial clubs falling under the so-called red wall and our typically rural heartlands tending to be Rugby/Cricket country, nevertheless, it does beg the question should we be consider reaching out to the countless football fans up and down this country that have votes and are seemingly an untouched market of voters?

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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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We need more than diagnosis and training for neurotypicals to improve lives of autistic people

I was truly heartened by the recent Spring Conference debate on support for autistic people. Progress has been made on diagnosis and awareness since the Autism Act. I want to argue, however, that autistic people need tailored support to help them thrive in the real world, not just a speedy diagnosis and societal awareness – those don’t pay the bills.

My personal experience shows the need for action at a political level to ensure that tailored support is provided for those on the autistic spectrum.

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The Cost of Local Democracy

I often wonder what could be done to reduce the cost of democracy, particularly now when the public finances are stretched to absolute limits and when the national debt is rapidly rising. When I was a serving Councillor, someone who originally comes from Poland, where the political system is different, I often questioned the election cycle in the UK and I never really understood why it is that we need to have elections every year; either to the Local or County Council.

My “election cycle scepticism” was magnified when I was told that it cost annually on average £100,000 to set up and run the local elections in Welwyn Hatfield. I thought that if, for example, the elections were to take place every other year, the taxpayer would save £500,000 in one decade only. It is potentially a lot of additional resources for one Local Authority. This significant amount of money could support a number of projects in our neighbourhoods.

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A Crisis in Cameroon Crying Out for a Lib Dem Solution

The central African nation of Cameroon is better known for football, but its bloody, under-reported conflict deserves the attention of Liberal Democrats. The rights of minorities to determine their future, and the need for a new constitutional settlement based on devolution or federalism are key issues. A Liberal International British Group webinar on April 19th explores the issues.

The former colonial powers, the UK and France, offer bland calls for the respect for international human rights law, but neither government will apply pressure on Cameroon to attend inclusive mediated peace talks

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Wendy Chamberlain writes: Response to BLAC Lib Dems

Dear Avril, Alexandrine, Tumi, Yukteshwar, Rabi, William, Pramod, Tamara, Yeow, Ian, Afy, Alhaji, Flossy, Jacquie, Julliet, Lisa, Marisha, Nancy, Steven and Stuart,

Thank you for your letter about the report of the Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. I agree that urgent action is needed to tackle the injustices, inequalities and discrimination Black people face in the UK today.

As you may know, in recent years our party has developed a large number of wide-ranging new policies to address these issues. At our Spring Conference in March 2019, members endorsed the paper ‘Eradicating Race Inequality’, produced by the party’s working group on race equality. This set out measures to tackle inequality across six broad areas: education and learning, employment and income, health and social care, participation in public life, justice, and community and housing.

And at our Autumn Conference last September, we passed a further motion entitled ‘Racial Justice Cannot Wait’. This affirmed that Black Lives Matter and reaffirmed our commitment as Liberal Democrats to combat racism – whether conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional – wherever we find it, including within our own party. It called on the Government to enact a range of policies to address structural inequality and guarantee equal representation in society.

The need to tackle racial discrimination and inequality is also an important theme running through other key policy papers the party has recently adopted, including those on business and jobs, crime and policing, health and social care, and immigration.

As a result, the party has a very strong platform on racial justice – the strongest of any political party in the UK. That has been the basis for our ongoing campaigns to abolish the Conservatives’ discriminatory Hostile Environment and end the disproportionate use of Stop and Search, as well as our parliamentary activity on these issues and our interventions in the media – including our response to the Government’s recent commission.

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