Category Archives: Op-eds

Could you be the PPC to win England’s Number 1 target seat?

Wimbledon is the Party’s closest target seat in England , with a Tory majority of just 628 and the Merton Party are now looking for a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to win it at the next General Election. It needs a swing of just 0.6% to turn Wimbledon orange.

Could you be the candidate that turns another London constituency orange?

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Backbench victory could reverse overseas aid budget cut

Rishi Sunak’s £4 billion cut to the overseas aid budget last November was a populist move, playing to the sections of the media that believe most aid is wasted and we should keep the money for ourselves. But the cut of almost a third from the budget is having an impact on relief and development projects, on education for girls and on the UK’s standing in the developing and developed world.

Backbench MPs are angry. So angry that a Conservative amendment to an unrelated bill of Monday looks like being supported, providing it is selected by the Speaker. This would reinstate our nation’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid.

Boris Johnson will perhaps spend the weekend wondering whether it is worth the damage to his reputation ahead of the G7 summit over what one of his ministers calls a “small” cut in overseas aid.

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Members call for Defence and Disarmament Working Group

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The Federal Policy Committee will soon be meeting to discuss the establishment of new policy working groups. A petition has been submitted by 104 party members calling for the setting up of a working group on Defence and Disarmament issues.

Here is what it says:

We urge the FPC to recognise that since the party Conference last discussed issues related to nuclear weapons in 2017 the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been ratified and come into force. In addition, the UK Government is thought to have broken the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by deciding to increase the number of Trident warheads on its nuclear submarines (see Early Day Motion jointly sponsored by Wera Hobhouse MP). We consider that in the light of these events, changes in governments worldwide, IT developments, and the Covid pandemic, the establishment of a party policy working group to consider developing new and responsive policy on defence and disarmament issues is now urgently required. We further believe that the findings of such a working group should be presented to party Conference at the earliest possible opportunity.       

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Towards a one-party culture in the media

We should all be concerned that not only is this a populist government, but they are using Boris to ensure that the media sees every event from their point of view, thus brainwashing people into thinking that any criticism is not to be taken seriously. We have long complained about lack of attention to the Lib-Dem leader, but we should be concerned about the lack of attention to the Labour leader too. Conservatives are intent on squeezing any challenge to the margins, including a diminishing of the independence of the BBC and the case of Martin Bashir and Lord Hall gives them the ammunition they need.

We must learn from what happened over Brexit when, for over a decade, the Brexiteers worked hard at getting more of the public on their side. We assumed that they so distorted the truth that people would see through them, but they did not, mainly because they spoke to people’s basic emotions.

We have seen the bias in comments about Dominic Cummings’ appearance before the select committee on 27th May, slanting it to the first Covid wave and Dominic’s own lack of credibility, rather than focussing properly on what actually happened, especially in subsequent events.  Before that ‘interview’ I wrote a letter to my local paper and it was published on 26th May:

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This issue needs examining, closely


Centre Assessed Grades are almost done.  The bane of every GCSE and A level teacher is almost over, the marking is largely done and standardisation will then occur by the exam boards.

As an economics teacher, I get curious about numbers.  Particularly when teachers, not exam boards were asked to do the marking this year.  The back of the envelope figures look roughly like this:

There are roughly 800,000 A level students in England.

Most do three subjects, so that’s 2.4 million subjects that need marking.  Exam entry fees are around £60 at a minimum.  So that’s roughly £144 million in exam fees.

Marking I’ve done for A level papers.  You tend to have a contract of between £800-£1000 and end up marking over 400.  So around £2 per paper is a rough estimate.

Students usually sit 3 papers per A level.  At 2.4 million subjects sat, that’s 7.2 million papers that need marking at a cost of £14.2 million

The situation is even worse with GCSEs.  GCSEs cost around £40 per subject.  There were 4.7 million GCSE entries in 2020.  So that’s £188 million in income. 

Most GCSE exams have on average 2 papers that need to be marked by examiners.  So that’s 9.4 million+ papers to be marked.  At £2 per paper that would be another £18.8 million.

This means that the exam boards have taken over hundreds of millions in exam fees. Headteachers estimate this to be £440 million with other qualifications added in, and they’d like half back – £220 million (Headteachers in England call for refund of £220m summer exam fees | Exams | The Guardian)

Now exam boards still have a lot to do – alternative question papers this year (although they just used a mix of the past papers in most cases), standardisation, appeals – they do need some money to function.  

But there’s still the money not spent on marking – £33 million!  This £33 million – at a bare minimum should really go to schools and FE colleges (particularly the latter as they receive lower funding than schools).  There is a strong moral case for this when schools and FE colleges are making staff redundant due to a funding crisis for education, as is the case at my college. 

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New issue of Liberator out!

Liberator 407 is out.

You can download it free here, or see this and our back issues for free on: www.liberatormagzine.org.uk

Alongside Radical Bulletin, Letters, Reviews and Lord Bonkers’ Diary, and an appeal to help our colleague Sarah Green in Chesham and Amersham, Liberator 407 includes:

 IT’S EQUALITY, STUPID

Chris White draw lessons from the curate’s egg of England’s local elections

CHASING THE PENGUIN, CHESS PIECE AND BADGER VOTE

None of them can vote, but humans in Scotland got little attention from a misguided Lib Dem leadership obsessed with unionism, says Nigel Lindsay

WHY DID WALES FAIL AGAIN?

Peter Black says the Welsh Lib Dem hierarchy should take responsibility for a hopeless and failed Senedd campaign

HORSES NO LONGER FRIGHTENED

The electorate is realigning even if politicians have not caught up, and that creates an opening for Liberals to put their case loudly says Roger Hayes

POOR PEOPLE ARE PAYING THE POVERTY PREMIUM

Claire Tyler explains why a House of Lords report on financial inclusion found millions cannot acmes the service stye need, and how this could be improved.

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Have your say on the disciplinary process

We want your views on how to improve the party’s independent complaints process.

Any organisation with a hundred thousand members will have conflicts: what matters is how we deal with them. Wherever possible the process needs to be quick and effective – and it must always be transparent, fair and independent of political influence. It is key that if someone actions are damaging to other party members or members of the public, they can’t expect to be protected by who they know or what role they hold in the party. 

When conference voted for a new independent complaints’ procedure at Autumn Conference 2018, members voted to put these principles into action. 

The new process introduced in July 2019 is much more transparent – with published rules and regular reports of its outcomes reported by the independent Lead Adjudicator to conference. It is independent of the federal party, being run by volunteers who don’t hold party office. 

Unfortunately, though, a combination of poor administration in its first year meant it was not quick or effective for a lot longer than was expected. Some members have also found the published rules too legalistic and difficult to follow.  

At Spring Conference 2021, members voted again to look at the complaints process and that is what we want to do now. We want to hear from party members about how they want it to change. Whether you’ve been involved in a complaint (as a complainant, respondent, supporter, witness or volunteer) or not, if you have thoughts on how we can improve the process please let us know.

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Come and help Sarah Green win Chesham and Amersham!

Yesterday a group from Hinckley and Bosworth went down to help out in the Chesham and Amersham by election.

It was great to see so many other Lib Dems from across the country there to help the campaign of our excellent candidate Sarah Green.

From speaking to people in the constituency it’s clear many people are fed up with being taken for granted by the Conservatives and many long standing traditional Tory voters are considering backing us this time.

Although it’s traditionally been a strong Tory seat many Tory voters are open to backing Sarah Green to send a message that they are unhappy with the Tories and many Labour and Green voters are open to voting Lib Dem in Chesham and Amersham to beat Boris Johnson’s Tory candidate.

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World Review by Tom Arms: The Middle East, Capitol Hill, Boris and Dominic

In today’s World Review, our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, looks at the outcome of the bloody battle between Israel and Palestinians. Should there be an inquiry into the attack on capitol Hill? Or should the matter be left to the law authorities. The police are also investigating the latest mass shooting in America just as Texas loosens gun control laws. Here in Britain, our conflicts have been political – Cummings, Boris and Hancock. And Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is coming to Number 10. Will Boris challenge him on human rights?

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So how might a progressive alliance work?

In today’s Guardian, our Layla Moran, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Clive Lewis argue that we need progressive parties to come to an arrangement to beat the Tories.

Meanwhile the rightwing parties have consolidated, after the Tories swallowed the Brexit party whole. But progressives remain split, competing for the same voters – we divide; they conquer.

And yet poll after poll shows there is a progressive majority. We need to shape and win that majority.

This is why citizens are now using their votes wisely, to back the best-placed non-Tory; and why, under the radar, local parties are campaigning tactically to best direct their resources.

They argue against the tribalism that prevents progressive parties working together:

Old politics holds us back. The Labour rulebook demands the party stands candidates in every seat, regardless of whether doing so guarantees another Tory win. Local parties should be allowed to decide. But tribalism runs deep everywhere, and trust takes times to grow, with the inevitable result of another likely general election loss. We cannot allow that to happen. This self-defeating tribalism must go. While well-intentioned, party bureaucracies could be the last bastions of the old politics to fall. If this needs to be a grassroots alliance, then so be it.

Part of the problem with the idea of a progressive alliance was that loads of people think it’s a fab idea, but nobody has been able to set out how it might work in practice. But in recent years, there have been some good examples of where parties have worked together to our mutual gain.

Layla’s arrangement with the Greens in Oxfordshire has helped both parties and hurt the Tories badly. From Lib Dem wins in Oxford West and Abingdon in 2017 and 2019 to a joint administration of Lib Dem Labour and Green ousting the Tories from power in Oxfordshire County Council in May this year, this is a shining example of how a progressive alliance can work in practice. The test will be whether they can govern as cleverly as they have campaigned.

During the leadership election last year, Layla talked about how she had made great efforts to win over the Greens in the run up to her win in 2017. She went along to their meetings and talked to them and answered some tough questions. She put the effort into building up strong relationships with them on the ground.

However, the Unite to Remain effort at the 2019 election was doomed to failure, mainly because Labour refused to get involved and partly because it was imposed on seats in a way that was never going to work.

The last time Caroline Lucas faced a Lib Dem in her Brighton Pavilion seat was in 2015. Her then opponent Chris Bowers went on to co-edit The Alternative, an argument for a more progressive politics with her and Labour’s Lisa Nandy. I interviewed both Chris and Caroline for Lib Dem Voice back in 2016.

No progressive alliance would work without the co-operation of the Labour Party. In 1997, we and Labour by and large kept out of each other’s way except in places like Chesterfield where we were genuinely fighting each other for the seat. I was involved in that campaign and our move forward then put us in pole position for Paul Holmes to win in 2001.

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Tim Farron: Planning reforms are an ineffective, illiberal and dangerous power-grab

There is a housing crisis in this country and it has been going on for years. Lack of housing is forcing people out of their areas where they grew up, while high rents mean young people cannot afford to save for a deposit. That’s why Liberal Democrats want to build 300,000 new homes a year, including 150,000 homes for social rent.

But decisions on local housing should be made by local authorities working with their communities. Not by Tories in Whitehall. Local authorities, working with their communities, know best where homes are needed and what infrastructure is needed to support them.

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Report of the Federal Policy Committee – 26 May 2021

We hope this autumn federal party conference, our third online one, will have plenty of interesting topics to debate, and FPC is certainly planning to play its part in that by bringing what we hope will be some interesting and important policy papers and motions.

What this means practically for us now is that over the next month or so, before the motions deadline on 30 June, we have an intense burst of meetings to discuss all the work on our proposals, and finalise them. Towards the end of this period, after the hoped-for lifting of restrictions, we hope to have an in-person awayday meeting, our first physical meeting since February last year.

This week saw the first of these meetings. We started by remembering two long-standing servants of Liberal Democracy, Tony Greaves and Jonathan Fryer, both of whom had been active members of FPC at the times of their deaths in March and April. In their very different ways they contributed a huge amount to our work, and we hope to continue to remember their perspectives in our future work.

We welcomed Phil Bennion, the new chair of the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) back to FPC, and also Martin Dickson, the chair of the working group on the “Nature of Public Debate”. Since re-starting work in February, and drawing on their previous consultation at conference, this group has developed some really strong, and powerfully Liberal Democrat, responses to some of the quite inchoate challenges here. We had a good and full discussion of their analysis and proposals to promote good and effective public discourse, on aspects such as tackling ‘fake news’, the competitive and regulatory perspective on social media, supporting journalism, and information during elections. We will come back to this again to finalise the paper and motion.

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Observations of an Expat: The Alex Problem

Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Belarussia’s Alexander Lukashenko can blatantly break international law with an act of air piracy and kidnapping because he thinks he can get away with it. He feels politically secure.

He feels secure because he has total backing from Russia’s Vladimir Putin who regards the maintenance of a pro-Russian Belarus as vital to Russia’s national interests. And because he knows that the rest of the world—especially the European Union—is frightened of stepping on the toes of the Russian bear.

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Tories’ broken Environment Bill ignores local communities

Protecting our beautiful green spaces should be a priority for any Government. They are hugely important to the environment and help make our local communities so beautiful.

And this year, where many of us have spent less time in the pub and more time outside absorbing nature, was a timely reminder of why our environment should always be at the top of the agenda.

But for this Government, our natural spaces are only an afterthought, a distraction that can be brushed away under the carpet. If there was any doubt of that, look no further than the shoddy Environment Bill that came back to Parliament today.

The Bill does little to address the real concerns people have in protecting their local environments and preserving biodiversity.

We are already living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, our waterways are in a poor state with just 14% in good condition, and more than 40% of native species are in decline.

This is an embarrassment as the Government claims to be increasing ambition and pushing for nature-based solutions in the run-up to COP26. It’s now or never to get this right and we have to get our own house in order first.

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Delivering a Rainbow Crossing in Sutton

Since I was elected in 2018, as one of 33 Lib Dems on Sutton Council, I’ve been working with our local LGBTQ Forum to advocate for and promote the LGBTQ Community across our borough.

I’m extremely pleased of the close working we’ve been doing as local community champions on the Council to draw attention to and support minorities in our borough, from supporting our faith communities in the aftermath of the horrific attack in Christchurch and working with local Black Lives Matter groups to address racial inequality in Sutton to supporting organisations like the Sutton LGBTQ Forum.

Parts of this work have included attending their events, promoting their activities and most visibly, working with them to install two Pride crossings in the borough, with the first being installed in June 2020.

One, most recently installed in May 2021 is the UK’s first ever permanent trans pride crossing, unveiled to mark IDAHOBIT this year.

In both cases, the projects undoubtedly benefited from the fact Sutton has one of the longest-running Lib Dem council administrations in the UK: it didn’t take much convincing to get colleagues on board! I’m very grateful for the support the ideas have received from Cllr Manuel Abellan in his capacity as Chair of our Environment & Sustainable Transport Committee, and Cllr Steve Cook as the Arts lead for the Council. Together we brought officers – both from cultural services and Highways – and the community together to work on technical details to get these projects implemented. As ever, to get the ball rolling the first step was simply to ask!

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Campaign highlights illegal online advertisiing

I suspect many people, including me,  aren’t as clued up on how their personal data is used as they should be.

The idea that everyone should know what data is held about them and have a say in how it will be used is a very liberal one.

In fact, it was a liberal government in Estonia which brought in liberal information laws which ensure citizens have the right to see who has accessed the information about them that government holds.

Today is the third birthday of GDPR, which was supposed to give us all a much better say on how data about us is used.

But the Open Rights Group has teamed up with others across Europe to highlight the continuing problem with online advertising systems violating our privacy rights.

They explain what is going on in a video which suggests that our data is being shared with all sorts of third parties without our knowledge or consent.

They want the EU Parliament to pass the ePrivacy Regulations which would limit this.

I think it’s a really important issue to highlight. I’m still heartbroken that we don’t have MEPs in there fighting for change on these sorts of issues at EU level.

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My Jewish journey to understanding Israel and Palestine

As I watched with horror, the escalating flames in Jerusalem, and their reverberations around Israel and Gaza, it was bitterly ironic that preview screenings of my film, The Tinderbox, are running now.

Five years ago I set out to make a single film that would allow audiences to understand what’s been happening in Israel/Palestine for the past century. Despite being told that there must already be historically rigorous, balanced documentaries clarifying past and present context, I have been unable to find another. This notwithstanding, after two years it became clear that despite being a BAFTA/RTS-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary film team, I and my colleagues were going to have to make this film unpaid. No one was interested. Thankfully, crowd-funding enabled us to pay for many of the costs that couldn’t be deferred and three years later the film is being distributed.

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Scotland – time for Project Facts

As Liberal Democrats, we do not support independence and we don’t want a second referendum; we have better ideas about the constitution. However, we must live up to our title as democrats and must recognise that there is now a clear majority at Holyrood for such a referendum. It would be foolish and self-defeating to oppose it. We must not repeat the mistake we made at the 2019 General Election when we were proposing to ignore the outcome of the EU referendum by not going back to the electorate for a second vote. That surely damages our reputation and cost us votes.

But we can take a constructive, different and positive view about how a second independence vote should be organised, learning lessons from the disastrous EU referendum process involving four years of discord and wrangling, and resulting in an outcome that few seem to be happy with. The simple yes/no, in/out binary approach to referenda with little in the way of facts, just opinions, guesswork and hope, and a promise on negotiations later, is not the way forward this time. It will give no guarantee that the outcome, if in support of separation, will meet the expectations of all those voting for change. The reason for this is the massive imbalance between the population of Scotland and the rest of the UK with whom Scotland will be negotiating and who will be very much affected by separation. Their representatives will bring a different set of requirements to the table that will potentially have a huge influence on the outcome. Another White Paper, as promised by the SNP, given this scenario will serve no real purpose other than again being a wish list and merely a basis for negotiations from one side only.

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The Windrush scandal – a sign of things to come for EU citizens?

For me personally, a huge advantage of living in the UK is the fact that I’ve had so many opportunities to meet so amazing (and inspiring) people, who migrated to Britain from all corners of the world. Many of them I call friends.

Due to the pandemic, I feel that we often miss some important stories. This week, my eye caught a report about the Home Office’s appalling failure to protect and support the victims of the Windrush scandal.

I wonder whether statistics (see below) show the inefficiency of the Home Office or whether they clearly demonstrate an implementation of hostile …

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Hay Festival highlights – including Vince Cable on Money and Power

Until last year, I’d never been to the Hay Festival, much though I’d have loved to go to the beautiful Welsh town. I drove through it when I was in Brecon and Radnorshire for the by-election in 2019 and would love to spend more time there.

Anyway, the pandemic has meant that the annual festival has had to go online and is free to access. Although when I say free, there is a danger that you end up buying many books.

Last year, I registered for so many events and enjoyed them all. This year’s event starts this Wednesday, 26th May, and goes on until 6th June.

The beauty of this is that if you are working from home, you can have the events on in the background – but they are available to listen to for 24 hours afterwards.

I also have a subscription to the Hay Player (only £15 for the year) and many events end up there after the Festival is over.

I’ve spent some time this morning browsing through this year’s events. On 3 June, from 1-1:50 pm,  our Vince Cable will be talking about his book Money and Power: The World leaders who changed economics. From the programme:

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How YOU can support EU citizens in the UK

Put yourself forward to be a member of the EU Citizens’ Panel.

Many members of the Liberal Democrats will have been horrified to hear about the treatment of EU citizens arriving in the UK, as reported in the Guardian, Politico and other newspapers. 

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are cases of European citizens who have lived among us for many years suddenly finding themselves unwelcome with questions being raised about their entitlement to healthcare and even school places for their children. This was not supposed to happen. EU citizens were told “nothing would change” after Brexit and it was one of the negotiating positions of the European Commission during the withdrawal negotiations. The principle set out in the  Withdrawal Agreement was that those Europeans living in the UK at the end of the transition period would continue to maintain their rights. It is simply not happening.

The Withdrawal Agreement set up an Independent Monitoring Authority to monitor the implementation of the citizens rights aspects and its website can be found here

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Tom Arms’ World Review: Palestine, Trump, Morocco v Spain and China

At last a ceasefire. But not until acting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reduced Hamas’s rocket manufacturing capability to a pile of smouldering twisted metal and brick dust. Hamas had tried smuggling ground to air missiles into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt. But they were too easily discovered and closed by the opposition. So they turned to Iranian expertise to develop a home-grown defence manufacturing industry. It worked. At the start of this latest spat, there were thousands of missiles launched from sites dotted around Gaza with ranges of between six and 120 miles. Netanyahu had to react quickly because of the ever-present threat that the conflict could rapidly escalate. Iran could join in from bases in Lebanon and Syria. The US would then be obliged to come to the aid of Israel. What would Russia do? How about Turkey? The Arab countries….? In fact, four rockets were fired from southern Lebanon, and they appear to have been a factor in Israel’s decision to cave into the growing international chorus for a ceasefire. But a military truce is only a tiny step towards resolving the underlying problems. That can only come with the implementation of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and the implicit two-state solution. These were shelved in favour of Israeli hegemony by increasingly right-wing Likud governments which was emboldened most recently by the unquestioning support of Donald Trump. During this most recent clash Joe Biden has taken the traditional pro-Israeli line (“Israel has the right to defend itself”), but changing American demographics and a growing pro-Palestinian faction in the Democratic Party is shifting political parameters. It is also further polarising the parties with the Republicans embracing Trump’s sycophantic pro-Israeli position and the Democrats starting to question it.

The news that New York has moved their investigation of the Trump Organisation from a civil to a criminal case is no shock horror story. Falsely manipulating property values to obtain loans and tax breaks—as the Trump Organisation is alleged to have done—is fraud, which is a criminal offense. The bigger question is what effect will this have on the ex-president’s political future. It could go either way. True to form, Donald Trump was quick to brand the switch from the civil to criminal legal system as part of a Democrat-organised “witch hunt” which puts it alongside the Mueller Inquiry, double impeachment and election “Big Lie”. At last count 70% of Republicans believe him and the handful of Republican Congressmen and Senators prepared to oppose the ex-president are losing their jobs and being booed on the floor of the house by their party colleagues. But New York’s actions have moved the future of Donald Trump out of the political arena and into the courtroom. The fight now is not between Republicans and Democrats in Congress but between Trumpists and the independent judiciary, or Trump v. the constitution.

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Observations of an ex pat: Lies, damned lies and the Russian Government

What a hoot. I mean, I nearly landed in hospital with laughter split sides. Did Russia actually believe that US and British intelligence would launch a major cyber-attack on the American government in order to cast blame on Moscow?

To be fair to Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), he didn’t actually categorically blame the CIA, National Security Agency, MI6 and GCHQ for the December Solar Winds hack into US government departments and about 100 private companies. Naryshkin simply denied Russian culpability and claimed that the tactics were similar to those used by American and British intelligence. The careful intelligence-speak gives him wriggle room to deny the denial should that ever become necessary.

What we are talking about is what the intelligence world calls a “false flag” operation. The term dates back to at least the early days of European empire when marauding pirates would hoist the flag of a friendly nation in order to close quarters with their prey before raising the skull and bones and opening a broadside. The same tactic was used by the British and French navies with great effect during the Napoleonic Wars.

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Why have choirs been silenced this week?


This evening I will be attending a rehearsal with the other members of my large amateur choir (in concert a couple of years ago in the photo). We were looking forward to meeting again in person today – 30 members were going to be able to attend at the school hall which is our usual rehearsal venue, with the rest of us watching on YouTube and singing along. Next week a different group of 30 were planning to go along to the school.

Then on Tuesday we learnt that the guidance from DCMS had changed (see Section 2.4) and that the rule of 6 now applies to in-person rehearsals. Choirs around the country were both shocked, disappointed and bemused at this unexpected change and have had to make rapid re-arrangements, which, apart from anything else, will have financial implications both for their Musical Directors and for their rehearsal venues.

So this evening we will all be meeting yet again on Zoom, just as we have been doing for the last year. As anyone who has tried singing on Zoom will know, the time delays make it completely impossible for everyone to sing at the same time, so we all mute ourselves and sing along to a backing track without hearing anyone else. It’s a poor substitute for singing together, but we have been putting up with it when there was no alternative.

You may think this is a niche concern, but over 2 million people sing with an amateur choir in the UK, more than play amateur football. It brings immeasurable benefits, both physically and in terms of mental health. When I was going through ultra-busy and quite stressful times in my political life the one thing that I continued to do was to attend choir because, as I used to say, “it keeps me sane”.

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The Pause: hardest part to deal with

These weeks after the Super Thursday’s elections can be difficult to handle, whether you were elated by success, deflated by lack of it, or partly arriving where you want to be. Our mostly steady-as-you-go results are challenging but can also feel rather trying, both locally and nationally.

Locally, we have to get on dutifully with Liberal Democrat President Mark Pack’s blog post: ‘9 things you must do to wrap things up properly after an election’. But the questions arise straight away and require hard thinking: How can we build from victory? How can we rise from defeat? Or, if it’s No Change, how to motivate the troops and keep activity going?

This can feel exhausting. Thoughts arise of taking a holiday now instead, or at least organising some trips to see family or friends shut off from us for so long by the Pandemic.  But yet we can’t shut out the plight of our Covid-ridden country because the victims are right here.

The latest for whom our concern is needed may be people in our neighbourhood renting their homes. Half a million private-sector renters were behind with their rent, Citizens Advice reported in January, and debt charity StepChange estimates that 150,000 tenants are in danger of eviction, yet the Government’s freeze on evictions is due to stop at the end of this month. That is a problem clearly requiring urgent campaigning and probable local supportive action.

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Pupil Premium at risk

The Pupil Premium is a system designed to invest more in areas where there is greatest need.  At a time when Covid has exposed the growing extent of child poverty, the logic of Pupil Premium means that greater investment in teaching must be made to support their needs – unless, apparently, the Department for Education changes the rules.

Just when the eligibility for free school meals (the metric used to calculate the Pupil Premium) is increasing (up by more than 100,000), the Department for Learning to Save Money has decided to calculate the schools budget from data before the recent upsurge.

Naturally, the Department for Depriving the Deprived, objects to this dismal characterisation.  The Children’s Minister, Vicky Ford, says the change “won’t make a huge difference” – which begs the question – why have they done it?  The Department for Hiding their Homework were asked to show their working, but refused to release it, claiming it “could harm the department’s reputation in regard to the accuracy and credibility of the statistical information it produces”.

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All Liberals must call out and combat the alarming rise of antisemitism in the UK

One of the most depressing and dangerous reactions to the current upsurge of Israeli and Palestinian violence in the Middle East has been the alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents here in the UK.

On 13th May the Jewish Times highlighted a 250 percent increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents since the start of the recent violence.

Incidents include the now notorious video of racist abuse in North London, vile anti-Semitic abuse shouted at a Jewish schoolgirl, altercations outside synagogues and a swathe of anti-Semitic hate on social media, some of which I have witnessed.

Whatever our opinions of the rights and wrongs of the conflict, whatever our view of current policy and actions of the Israeli Government or of Hamas & Hezbollah, we must ensure in our comments that we do not fan the flames of anti-Semitism.

I do not support the Israeli government violent action in Gaza, I support a two state solution to the conflict and the rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland. I also support the right of Israel to exist and prosper.

There are four common anti-Semitic tropes, currently repeatedly appearing in social media posts about the conflict:

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Save Palestine by rediscovering the British Liberal tradition

Right now, as events unfold in Gaza, a test case is emerging for British Liberalism, and European Liberalism more broadly, the response to which will say a lot about the state it is in within Western Europe. That test case is the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

For too long, some liberals have been indifferent to the persecution of Palestinians by the Israeli state, with the honourable exception of the Liberal Democrats. A lack of forceful criticism or forbidding expression of objection to the actions of the Israeli state, in the case of Emmanuel Macron, is to the disgrace of the noble cause of liberalism. That is why British liberals need to rediscover their liberal heritage to save the reputation of liberalism as something more than what cynics dismiss as mere talk.

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How easily we have surrendered our private freedoms….

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On Sunday we had a visit from a relative in the garden at a two metre distance.

On Monday they kindly returned and we hugged several times.

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A positive approach to constitutional change

George Foulkes is seeking cross-party support to change the rules for any new referendum on Scottish independence. This is a wrong, undemocratic, and above all negative way to go. We should instead address the real issues in a positive spirit. We should concentrate on the issues, not try to gerrymander the process.

Process

First, in response to George Foulkes’s suggestion, we should take the advice of the 2018 Report of the Independent Commission on Referendums, which made specific recommendations on both the franchise and whether a simple majority should suffice:

  • For UK wide referendums, the franchise should be the same as for elections to the House of Commons (with the addition of members of the House of Lords who are entitled to vote in local elections). For referendums in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, the franchise should be the same as for, respectively, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, or Northern Ireland Assembly. For regional or local referendums, the franchise should be the same as for local elections in the corresponding area. ($12)
  • Supermajority requirements are extremely rare in other mechanisms for political decision making in the UK. To impose them for popular but not parliamentary decisions would challenge legitimacy. It would therefore be inappropriate to require a supermajority for a referendum. ($33)
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