How Lib Dems have made the news this week – Gosport, upskirting, trains and cannabis oil

It’s worth noting that Lib Dem MPs have featured in some of the top headlines this week.

What does that tell us about the kind of things we do and the people we are?

Well, Norman Lamb spoke about how he ordered the review into the deaths of elderly people at Gosport War Memorial Hospital after the NHS closed ranks.

Lamb told BBC Newsnight: “I just think it’s horrific and there has been a real systemic failure here, a closing of ranks in my view and a sense that ordinary people just weren’t being listened to at all, and an unwillingness by the NHS to face up to some really serious allegations about what happened in that hospital.”

The former minister recalled his reaction when he was advised by department of health officials in 2013, in an email sent to him on holiday in France, that a public enquiry should not be held. He said: “I was incandescent about this so I immediately sensed that there might have been a conspiracy to cover this up whilst I was out of the country. To this day I dont know whether it was cock up or cover up but I was very clear in my mind that there must on no account be that statement made the next day.”

Lamb said he persuaded ministerial colleagues to launch the enquiry.

Norman’s work on this has, as always, been tenacious and forensic. It’s so good that he never gave up and didn’t take things he wasn’t comfortable with from officials.  He was an excellent minister and one of the things I dreaded in 2015 in the run-up to the general election is that he wouldn’t be there any more, making sure that mental health care was improved. We shouldn’t underestimate how hard he had to push for that.

He was also a model minister as far as I am concerned in that he never came out with “but everything’s fine” when it wasn’t. No and of times I heard him say that mental health services or care services weren’t good enough but he was trying to fix it.

Norman’s first introduction to what had happened at Gosport came from Stephen Lloyd, before he was even MP for Eastbourne. Stephen wrote about this in the Independent this week, describing how his constituent had raised the issue with him:

When she came to see me a decade later, to be honest I struggled to comprehend what she was telling me, which was that her mother and numerous other people had died before their time within the War Memorial Hospital and that their deaths were effectively aided and abetted by staff.

This was a shocking and startling allegation, so I asked her to give me the comprehensive papers she’d collected over the years for me to read. I had probably got through no more than 20 per cent of what Gillian had prepared for me when I became profoundly concerned at what I was reading. I knew straight away that the whole dreadful issue needed proper, independent investigation.

At that time I wasn’t yet a member of parliament, but my colleague Norman Lamb was, and I knew that he may well share my fears of what might have taken place in Gosport all those years ago. Consequently, I arranged a meeting between myself, Gillian and a group of other affected families with Norman in parliament. He quickly became convinced there had, potentially, been something utterly wicked going on.

The party has shown before that it is willing to fight against cover-ups – Nick Clegg’s insistence on the Government releasing papers related to Hillsborough, for example. And there was also the way that Nick Clegg fought for the Leveson Enquiry, against Tory opposition and made an unprecedented statement on it. 

Then there was Wera Hobhouse’s fight to make upskirting a criminal offence. Even as a new MP, she quickly found out how to work with the Government on her Bill, get support for it, and when it was objected to, she worked with the Government to find another way to make it happen.

That says a lot about how we will stand up for people who are victims of crime but can’t get justice because the law doesn’t recognise the offence – and it also shows how we work with others to get stuff done.

And Christine Jardine was featured in the press over medicinal Cannabis. She’s been fighting for a five year old constituent to be prescribed it to help his severe Epilepsy.

But as I have campaigned for Murray Gray, and children like him, to have access to medicinal cannabis I have reminded myself daily, that as parents, this could be any one of us. It is something the home secretary himself alluded to in the chamber.

I have witnessed the pain and admired the courage of Karen Gray, the Dingleys and the Caldwells.

There can surely be nothing as all-consuming as the fear that lines your stomach like lead when your child is suffering.

All of us who have witnessed that pain and courage, or simply heard the stories of these families this week, should welcome the government’s actions.

But we must also ensure that those who have blocked progress in the past are not allowed to somehow steal this hope from the many thousands who stand to gain.

So this week’s headlines show that, although our MPs are few in number, they can have a big impact, fighting for justice, for law changes and for their constituents.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, I knew there was something else I should be putting in and couldn’t remember what it was. Once a Lib Dem told me off in the comments for not putting it in, too – Tim Farron’s success in sorting the trains out in his constituency. The Northern fiasco left Oxenholme without trains for two weeks, but Tim has managed to help the local community to find a short term solution.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • OnceALibDem 24th Jun '18 - 3:56pm

    OMG – I can’t believe this doesn’t have a mention of Tim Farron who has actually made a new train service in his constituency. Given how unusual that is and how it is all over his twitter account I find it impossible to believe this isn’t a deliberate omission.

    https://liberalengland.blogspot.com/2018/06/why-tim-farron-is-more-efficient-than.html
    http://railwaymaniac.com/2018/06/train-services-return-to-the-lake-district-thanks-to-tim-farron-and-west-coast-railways/
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/18/lake-district-line-northern-rail-windermere-oxenholme

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jun '18 - 5:58pm

    No, it wasn’t deliberate. I had thought about it but when I wrote the article forgot about it. I actually knew I had forgotten something but couldn’t remember what it was. A senior moment.

    I will add it in now to the main post.

  • Nigel Jones 25th Jun '18 - 2:39pm

    Maybe this is too late to say, but regarding all the items mentioned, the articles I have read in a newpaper and items heard on radio 4 did not mention Liberal Democrats.
    For example, that the upskirting was put forward as a private members’ bill; it did not say who. An article about the lakes rail service said pressure had been put on to persuade Network Rail to allow the West Coast Railway to run the service, but made no mention of Tim. Not once did I hear Norman Lamb mentioned about Gosport hospital. Regarding the youngsters needing medicinal cannabis, there was reference to politicians trying to help, but again no mention as to who these were.
    The general population are NOT hearing our involvement in these matters.

  • True about the media coverage. Wera Hobhouse was acknowledged quite well with regards to the upskirting bill, but the other two, outside of Lib Dem circles, I’m not sure we got any credit.

    What’s more concerning though, is the lack of coverage we seem to have gotten with regards to the Heathrow expansion debate, when it’s something we’ve been consistently opposed to – even within the Lib Dems from what I can tell. Yes, the media are happy to ignore us, but we seem to have been pretty quiet about it publically.

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