Category Archives: Op-eds

What happened to those burning injustices?

When she took office, Theresa May spoke on the steps of Downing Street about the just about managing.

She said, “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you”.

In our own Borough – Richmond upon Thames, 6,000 children are living in poverty. Last year 14 desperate families went to Citizens Advice to seek a reduction in …

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The holistic Need for the Ask an Expert Stand at Conference

At our last two conferences, the Ask an Expert stand has gradually been expanded and developed. Many people have asked me why we need this facility? My answer would always be that sometimes a one to one conversation can be a really good way to solve a nagging question or issue.

On the stands previously, we’ve had experts in compliance, Connect, communications, campaigning, Diversity & Inclusion to name but a few, and all have had detailed conversations – sometimes quite private and confidential – to overcome those issues which wouldn’t necessarily have been possible to explain or detail in a general training session.

The stand is a great addition to the programme of training that goes on at conference. For those that perhaps find large training sessions intimidating, or suffer from difficulties in learning, or feel awkward asking questions that they feel they probably ought to know, then the volunteers on the Ask an Expert stand offer support on a one-to-one basis. This means they can help in a far more intimate way to explain, cajole, reason and support our members and activists. If the activists learn more skills on the ground, then they can spend more time using the new skills they’ve been shown, or the ways they’ve learned to support critical issues in their local party, region, Council group, SAO (Specified Associated Organisation) or AO (Associated Organisation). 

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A Canvasser’s Dilemma: “Hello, Mr Smith”

Knock, Knock!  Door opens… “Hello Mr Smith, my name is Tahir.  We are out today …”

Mr Smith: Let me ask you a question. A Labour guy and the Tory bloke came last week and promised the same things.  What is it that makes you Lib Dems different or more caring and able to deliver this for me as compared to them?”

Tahir:  “Mmm…”  A simple question that is not easy to answer for a resident.

I often wonder what is our local government raison d’être that differentiates us and gives us resident voting loyalty, other than hard work on local issues and name/face recognition.

The Party is determined to maintain its historical reputation for being the party of community politics and decentralisation.  Councils are and should remain central to our plans for the country.  We want to reduce the powers of central government to interfere in democratically elected local government. 

Mr Smith: “You just want local elections to be held using proportional representation and introduce local income tax?”

“Well we believe in equality and fairness. That means everyone’s vote matters and counts when electing a representative, as it should. We also want to have more local power to make our own decisions based on local needs and not those imposed on us from central government. Don’t you think that fair?”

Mr Smith: “Maybe, but what about local Income Tax?”

“Well it’s a better system and fairer than the local rates. Residents should pay on their ability to pay and not an outdated rates system that over a period of time has become unfair resulting with the poorest people paying a much higher proportion of their income than the richest.

Local income tax is a fairer tax system to feed local needs like repairing pot holes, better upkeep of parks and hedges, provide community gardens, more funding for child protection and better services for pensioners, to name but a few.

Mr Smith: “I don’t want you to build on the green belt but we need more houses.

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20 years on from the “Bolton Seven” case

On 12th January 1998 seven men from Bolton were convicted under sexual offences legislation that clearly discriminated between gay sex and heterosexual sex.

I phoned the office of Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Evan Harris, to alert him to the plight of these men and he agreed to help their cause. Evan tabled Early Day Motion 117 and questioned the Attorney General to raise the plight of these men in Parliament.

Early day motion 717
SEXUAL OFFENCES LAW
• Session: 1997-98
• Date tabled: 02.02.1998
• Primary sponsor: Harris, Evan
That this House notes with grave concern the case of the Bolton 7 who were convicted following private, consenting, victimless homosexual behaviour; notes that the prosecution was brought under the age of consent legislation found to be a breach of basic human rights by the European Commission of Human Rights and under the ban on homosexual relations involving the participation or presence of more than two persons (section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967), which violates Article 8 of the ECHR – the right to privacy; notes that the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts unfairly discriminate against homosexuals; calls for equalisation of treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals under the criminal law; and, in the light of the Government’s decision to give the House a free vote on the age of consent and not to contest the ECHR ruling, calls for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to use their discretion and suspend prosecutions under the gay age of consent legislation until Parliament has reconsidered; and believes that custodial sentences in the case of the Bolton 7 and other such cases of consenting homosexual behaviour are not in the public interest nor in the interests of justice.

The Liberal Democrats were not alone in raising the plight of these men, Outrage ran a major national campaign and Amnesty International stated that were the men to be imprisoned they would be declared prisoners of conscience. These campaigns may well be the reason why the men did not receive custodial sentences, although three of them had their names added to the sexual offences register.

In 2000, six of the men appealed to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecutions against them had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by interfering with ‘the right to respect for a private family life’ enshrined in article 8 of the Convention. They were subsequently awarded compensation.

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What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

It seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don’t think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

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Voting reform is vital for a more diverse Parliament

When Sal Brinton and I did the Hungry for Democracy fast last week, we did it to raise awareness of why we need a different voting system for Westminster so that we can get the Parliament we ask for.

Also in our minds was the fact that proportional voting systems give much more potential for a more diverse Parliament. An article on the Electoral Reform Society’s blog this week shows how our First Past the Post system is a barrier to gender equality. Basically, the safest seats are mostly held by men.

When each constituency has just one seat, only one MP can be elected to represent that area. This in itself quells diversity and competition.

Secondly, the majority of seats rarely change hands between different parties. So once an MP is elected to represent a ‘safe seat’ there is little chance of them losing a subsequent election.

Combined with the fact that incumbent MPs are very rarely deselected, it means ‘safe seat’ MPs have unrivalled job security. And, as the new research shows, the longer an MP has held their seat, the more likely they are to be men.

This represents a constant drag on women’s representation – unless there are real structural changes.

proportional voting system with multi-member seats would end seat blocking by adding much-needed competition: constituencies would be represented by multiple MPs, meaning no one could secure a monopoly on local representation

Sal talks about how, at current rates of progress, her baby granddaughters, two this Summer, will be in their ninth decade before gender equality is achieved.

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Beyond the European Union: Inequality in British society is the biggest Issue that we face

I am a solid “Remainer,” believing that the United Kingdom is better off inside the European Union, particularly in terms of the economy but also because of the standards which the EU upholds in terms of consumer protection, human rights, commitment to protecting the environment and assuring our security.

In fact, I would like to push towards a more equal society in Britain – an idea which seems to escape the majority of the right wing and, unbelievably, some of the extreme left wing as well.

Although I am not an economist, it appears fairly obvious to me that the increasing gap …

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