How Conference made me feel so proud of our party

I am a first time writer for Lib Dem Voice. I attended the Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, also for the first time. If you are struggling financially (and I know many people are) please apply to the Conference Access Fund. I did, and it’s been a fantastic process. 

The vibe and the atmosphere at Conference is one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life. From the security guards, to other party members to those exhibiting and especially the awesome stewards and the conference team.

Having said that (before we get onto other parts of the conference such as the Lib Dem Disco, Fringe Events or Glee Club), the policies that we passed make me so proud of who we are as a party. 

Ending period poverty, tackling the Housing Crisis (as amended by Young Liberals), stopping sewage being dumped into our rivers, protecting the ECHR, our health policy, Proportional Representation and so many more policies that were passed at conference show who we are. 

Amendment one on housing, proposed by Young Liberals to keep our ambitious 380,000 new homes target was a fantastic amendment and shows how democratic we are and how we genuinely listen to voices and allow members to disagree with leadership and challenge leadership. This is fantastic and is unique, only to us as a party. 

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Debunking the “gender critical” myth

“Sex is binary and immutable” is the great myth that underpins “gender critical” ideology.

At first glance, it might appear to be plausible, but anything beyond a cursory inspection shows it to be shallow and incorrect.

Biology is a complex system, and although broad classifications like sex can be useful for a lay understanding, it falls apart at edge cases and under scrutiny. Intersex people exist, other differences of sexual development do happen, and of course there are also transgender people.

Medical science is wonderful and has helped us overcome constraints of biology. Vaccinations help us develop immunity, LASIK corrects poor eyesight, and trans health care helps transgender people transition their biological sex into that which best aligns with their gender identity.

Every morning I wake up and take 5mg of estradiol valerate, and every night before I go to bed, I take 200mg of progesterone. As a result, more of my body is female than male, and this is monitored every 6 months through blood tests at my GP.

Not everyone who is trans undertakes medical intervention that alters their sex, but using hormones to bring about these changes has been done for more than a century. To deny that it exists and is effective is to deny the reality of medical care.

This is not a controversial view. The most recent legal precedent on this was the employment tribunal “Forstater vs CGD” appeal which confirmed that “there is significant scientific evidence that wrong” and called them “profoundly offensive and even distressing”. It is the duty of us as liberals to challenge and call out these beliefs for the lie that it is, especially when they become expressed as justification for transphobia. “Gender critical” beliefs are not protected from challenge, and can not be used as a justification for discrimination or harassment.

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Tom Arms’ World Review


Nagorno-Karabakh is no more. The centuries-old Christian enclave has finally been absorbed into Muslim and Turkish-dominated Azerbaijan. Tens of thousands of residents have fled to refuge in Armenia and many more face the possibility of persecution.

The fate of Nagorno-Karabakh has been in dispute since the Persian Empire hived off a considerable slice of the Armenian Kingdom in the seventh century. Since the end of the Cold War it has been the cause of two wars and innumerable skirmishes between Azerbaijan backed Turkey and Armenia backed by Russia.

The end of Nagorno-Karabakh has signalled a major shift in the geopolitical forces in the southern Caucasus. Russia and Vladimir Putin have suffered a major blow. They are the historic protectors of Armenian interests in the region and the main reason that landlocked Nagorno-Karabakh existed as an autonomous political entity for as long as it did.

But the Ukraine War has siphoned off Russian military resources, including some of the 1,000 Russian peacekeepers who were keeping the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis at bay. As a result, the Armenians lost faith in the protective abilities of Russian sponsors and allowed themselves to be seduced by American blandishments. They even went so far as to sign up to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court which has issued a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin.

The problem is that geography, history and cultural links meant that Russia was always the Armenians best bet.


France is undergoing its own version of climate change-wrought water wars.

Soaring temperatures have dried up groundwater resources and reduced the water available from snow and glacial melt in the Alps and Pyrenees. To compensate the government is forced to rely increasingly on reservoirs. These are being partly filled with rainwater and partly by diminishing groundwater resources.

More than 100 plastic-lined mega reservoirs have been built or earmarked for construction. Their capacity is equivalent to 1,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

All this sounds like the government is responding to the shortage. But the problem is how the water is shared. French farmers are a big lobby and agriculture is being given priority for irrigation purposes as opposed to domestic and industrial users.

But even among the farming community there are disagreements. Because of the cost of pumping stations, the farms nearest to the reservoirs are the ones that benefit. That is only about 15 percent of the farms. The result is that farmers are fighting farmers, domestic users are fighting farmers and industrial users. Industrial users are fighting farmers and domestic users and everybody is fighting the government. A series of demonstrations has so far led to about 500 injuries.

Climate change

There have been two significant developments on climate change law this week.

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Caroline Pidgeon’s farewell speech to Conference

Caroline Pidgeon will bring 16 years of service as a Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member to an end when she stands down in May.

In her farewell speech to Conference this week, she reflected on her time at City Hall.



The text is below.

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Why I spoke for 30 seconds at Conference

Party members at Autumn Conference may have noticed my slightly breathless, short interjection towards the end of the debate on the pre-manifesto paper “For a Fair Deal”. I spoke briefly on House of Lords reform after it had been mentioned by earlier speakers. I submitted a Speaker’s Card barely 30 minutes before the end of the debate, saying “I will speak for only thirty seconds”. I had done similar five years ago, speaking for one minute precisely when the Chair at the time, Zoe O’Connell, knew me well enough to gauge that I’d do as promised. It gave me an equally warm feeling to be trusted by Nicholas de Costa, squeezing me in to make my “elevator pitch” as he called it, even though the conference session was overrunning.

There are two facets of this I thought worthy of a write-up, so this is the first of two articles. The second will expand on my surprise that almost all members choose to fill (or overrun!) their allotted three minutes simply because they are given three minutes, and my feeling that our debates, especially the shorter ones, are therefore limited to too few speeches and possibly a lack of variety of opinions. I think we should introduce a more flexible system in all our debates, regardless of length. More on that later.

Firstly, though, please indulge me in my policy geekery. Political reform is of course only a small part of “For a Fair Deal”, and members who are aware of my involvement in “England within a Federal United Kingdom” as passed at Autumn Conference 2021 will know that I immensely pleased with the outcome. So why did I interject for thirty seconds? In a nutshell, when speakers at the podium say “Lib Dem policy is for an elected House of Lords” as happened the other day, this statement is both true and false. Is this some sort of quantum policy? Well, yes it is. We want the House of Lords in our current unitary state to be replaced by a representative body. It is standing party policy. Simultaneously our more recent policy is for a federal United Kingdom; this implies some form of senate as the upper house.

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Observations of an Expat: Not So Evergrande

Uncertainty – political and economic – is the buzzword doing the rounds as the world faces the imminent collapse of Chinese property giant Evergrande.

And the market – in fact everyone – hates uncertainty.

No one knows how the secretive Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will react. Will he take the view that Evergrande is too big to fail or too big to save?

What will be the reaction of the millions of Chinese who are set to lose the money they gave to Evergrande and Country Garden (the other Chinese property company on the brink of collapse) for unfinished homes?

Will the problem of Chinese homelessness, high youth unemployment (currently running at 21.3 percent) and slow recovery from Covid create social unrest? And if it does, past performance indicates that Xi would respond with increased repression.

Can the ruling Chinese Communist Party escape the political consequences of its high-growth policies by shifting blame onto the shoulders of the companies’ management?

Evergrande’s debts total $300 billion. Country Garden’s liabilities are estimated at another $100 billion. Between them they directly employ more than 250,000 workers. Indirectly, millions of jobs will be impacted in industries servicing the property market.

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29 September 2023 – today’s press releases

  • IFS comment: People are sick and tired of this unfair, irresponsible government
  • Sunak scrapping winter fuel allowance a “slap in the face” for pensioners

IFS comment: People are sick and tired of this unfair, irresponsible government

Responding to the IFS’s comments that this will be the biggest tax-raising Parliament on record, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP said:

This Conservative government crashed the economy and is making the public pay the price. This is the same party which promised not to raise people’s taxes and is now taxing families through the nose.

Despite this, Ministers have given tax cuts to the big banks, failed

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ALDC by-election report: 28th September

There were 5 principal council by-elections this Thursday. We stood candidates in all 5 and had some excellent results. Holding two wards in South Norfolk and coming very close in North Yorkshire and the Scottish Highlands.

Starting on South Norfolk District Council where two vacancies were being contested in South Wymondham ward and Mulbarton & Holy Cross ward. Both were Liberal Democrat defences and we held both in the face of strong challenges from parties and independent candidates who had not stood previously.

Congratulations to Cllr Carmina McConnell (South Wymondham) and Cllr Robert McClenning (Mulbarton & Holy Cross) and the team in South Norfolk on your hard-fought wins.

South Norfolk DC, South Wymondham
Liberal Democrats (Carmina McConnell): 286 (35%, -12.4%)
Conservative: 268 (32.8, +4.9%)
Labour: 173 (21.2%, -3.5%)
Green Party: 89 (10.9%, new)

South Norfolk DC, Mulbarton & Holy Cross
Liberal Democrats (Robert McClenning): 667 (37.1%, -11.4%)
Conservatives: 434 (24.2%, -10.8%)
No Description: 404 (22.5%, new)
Labour: 164 (9.1%, -7.4%)
Green Party: 128 (7.1%, new)

On Highlands Council in Scotland we sadly just missed out on retaining Tain & Easter Ross ward. Thank you to Charles Stephen for standing and for increasing the Lib Dem share of the vote (while the SNP share of the vote plummeted). Despite the Lib Dems moving forwards in the seat a new independent candidate won in the 6th round of the STV count.

Highlands Council, Tain & Easter Ross (first preferences)
Independent: 1022 (41.5%, new)
Liberal Democrats (Charles Stephen): 603 (24.5%, +3%)
SNP: 464 (18.8%, -11.8%)
Conservative: 207 (8.4%, -2.2%)
Labour: 88 (3.6%, new)
Green Party: 56 (2.3%, new)
Scottish Libertarian Party: 23 (0.9%, new)

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A taxing question

The UK needs to spend a lot of money in order to deal with its collapsing public sector. There are daily reports of crumbling schools, poor transport infrastructure, shortages of staff and beds in the NHS and so on. Any new government is going to face the problem of where the money to restore public services will come from.

The question of how to pay for better public services is a much more acute one today than it was a generation ago when Tony Blair came to power. Partly because of this, the present Labour Party sounds almost fatalistic in its lack of ambition. The Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, talks of funding additional expenditure out of economic growth – but what growth is she talking about? She may well not inherit any growth at all if and when Labour comes to power. So Labour ministers avoid talking about any new spending commitments at all. ‘Wait and see till we’re in government’ tends to be their approach. Is that why we’re meant to vote for them? So we can wait and see what happens if we do?

In fact, it is difficult to see how a future Labour government, whatever the extra money brought in by measures like going for the non-doms, can afford to do very much. It is already giving up ending the two-child benefit cap, watering down its plans for a green revolution and refusing to say that it will spend more on education. But to be fair to Labour, what choice does it have? Isn’t the question of where money for new spending is going come from a real one?

Should the Lib Dems revisit a policy which they were the only party to advocate in 2001 (and which arguably did no harm to their electoral chances at the time), namely a small increase in the basic rate of taxation? As the recent Lib Dem conference recognised, there is a problem here. In 2001, when people were doing relatively well, promising to raise taxes a little was acceptable to a lot of people. In 2023, when there is arguably a more urgent need to spend more and public services are in a state of collapse, it is easy to understand why people might see an extra tax burden as the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Haven’t they just had to deal with inflation and rising mortgage rates? Is the government really going to take away even more of their money? It’s when a tax rise is most needed that it’s least acceptable.

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Artificial Intelligence means we need a Universal Basic Income

There continues to be severe pressure on various UK public services, such as health, criminal justice, and social care. Reform of these services is badly needed, to improve outcomes for service users, patients, and victims, as well as providing value to the public purse.

However, the UK’s poor economic outlook makes reform challenging. The UK’s productivity is lower than France and Germany, the number of long-term sick has risen by 500,000 since Covid, and the annual cost of servicing Government debt is £83 billion in interest payments alone.

Artificial Intelligence

Yet there is a potential solution – Artificial Intelligence (AI) – which consultancy PwC says could grow the UK economy by 10% (£232 billion) by 2030. The predicted gains are from boosting innovation and increasing productivity, which can then make public services more effective.

Examples of how AI can reform public services, include: smart transportation, fraud detection, energy management, remote monitoring and more.

For example, AI could be used in healthcare to anticipate when someone may need preventative support, while internet-of-things devices could be used to help support the elderly. Predictive analytics could be used to identify businesses best-placed to receive grants and loans.

The introduction AI is already happening, and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has proposed a range of recommendations to improve the UK’s readiness and abilities in this area.

The potential knock-on effects of AI – such as on the protection of personal data and the jobs market – do need careful oversight and solutions.

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Let’s embrace being the party of the NHS

Following another year’s Federal Autumn Conference, it is important to reflect on the position of the party. This is especially the case given that we may be only 12 months away from a general election campaign. We may finally have an opportunity to help to get rid of this dreadful Conservative government, and in the process, get many new Liberal Democrat MPs elected.

Britain cannot withstand five more years of the Conservatives. Nowhere is this clearer than with our National Health Service. The NHS is in turmoil. Years of Tory mismanagement and underfunding have led to our precious NHS struggling to cope. The morale of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff is at a severe low. While the number of vacancies in the NHS is at a “staggering” high. This is a time when the NHS funding gap continues to be wide and NHS dentistry has become dysfunctional, with people having to pull out their own teeth.

The NHS is of immense importance to us Liberal Democrats, not just because it is a vital public service in helping to advance individual freedom and social justice, but because we had a hand in its creation. The great Liberal social reformer, William Beveridge invented the idea of the NHS in his report into social services in 1942. The Beveridge Report became the blueprint for the post-war welfare state. A blueprint that was largely enacted by the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee. While it was a socialist, Labour’s radical Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan who introduced an established the NHS in 1948, the original idea was that of a Liberal.

The NHS, health and social care have become of central importance for Liberal Democrats once again. It was incredibly moving to listen to Ed Davey, during his leader’s speech on Tuesday, talk about how he had to care for his mother while she was dying of cancer. Health and social care have become a hallmark of Ed Davey’s leadership, inspired by his personal experience of being a carer himself. Earlier in the Conference, our Deputy Leader and Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper spoke passionately about the need to address the crisis in mental health provision.

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Is Britain being rebranded – is it time for an English Government?

At the time that Boris Johnson was talking up post BREXIT Global Britain and assuring the Democratic Unionist Party that there would be no border in the Irish Sea (despite one being included in his “oven ready agreement” which Teresa May had said no British Prime Minister could sign) the Government was requesting that the stickers on cars travelling abroad be changed from GB to UK.

The move was only revealed by the United Nations which said it had received “a notification stating that the United Kingdom is changing the distinguishing sign that it had previously selected for display in international traffic on vehicles registered in the United Kingdom, from ‘GB’ to ‘UK'”.

The rules changed in September 2021 and yet it has not proved possible to find any reference to a debate in, or approval by, Parliament on such a potentially significant change in identity.

The Department for Transport said that it was part of a wider move across Government. One reason was GB – Great Britain – only formally included England, Wales and Scotland, whereas the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is inclusive of Northern Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales, it said.

It is true that Great Britain is the official collective name of England, Scotland and Wales and their associated islands and does not include Northern Ireland.

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We should ban disposable single use vapes

As the LGA Liberal Democrat Group’s spokesperson on health issues, I am very pleased that we may be seeing a successful outcome to the call by LGA and councils to ban disposable single use vapes. The government have just announced that they are looking at bringing in legislation to ban single use vapes.

In consultation with our Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP I have successfully called for the Local Government Association to back a ban, especially given the plethora of alternative vapes available for smokers to use as an aid to quit. Evidence shows that there is an alarming increase in the number of children vaping and of the detrimental impact of disposable vaping products upon the environment.

I am not anti-vaping as I recognise for some it can help people cut down on smoking but single use vapes blight our streets as litter, are a hazard in council’s bin lorries, are expensive and difficult to deal with in our recycling centres in addition to the health hazards. Their colours, flavours and advertising are appealing to children and are a risk to the health of young people.

As Liberals we try to avoid banning things – but in this case it is about preventing harm especially to children. Re-usable vapes will still be available for those wanting to quit smoking.

It is important that a ban is brought in as soon as possible. Disposable vapes are an inherently unsustainable product, meaning an outright ban will prove the most effective solution to this problem.

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Dropping the 1p tax rise has political costs too

It’s easy to forget how little even politically engaged voters see of our conferences. Some family members – middle-class voters in a rural Conservative seat, environmentally inclined and still considering who to vote for next year – saw just one headline from the past, and it was “Lib Dems drop pledge to raise income tax”.

Their verdict? “Disappointing”.

Changes to a major policy are something to be done with caution and care. Any political benefits of a change need to be weighed against the costs. Shifting positions can weaken a party’s brand, making it less clear to voters what we stand for unless we have a powerful narrative to explain why circumstances demand such a change. Shifts also need to be weighed carefully for credibility, especially when it comes to taxation policy, the shoulders on which the costs of building a liberal society need to be carried.

Dropping the 1p income tax increase, frankly, fails such an analysis. The truth is that dropping one of our longest-standing pledges weakens a party brand that, as John Curtice pointed out at conference, is already getting eaten away at by Labour and the Greens as voters don’t know where we stand. It weakens it at both ends too, reducing our ability to show ourselves as a fiscally credible progressive alternative and coming at a real cost to liberal spending priorities. Fixing the NHS, repairing our social safety net – these won’t be cheap, and voters will see past any pretence to the contrary.

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Derailing progress – the pitfalls of nationalist rhetoric for Britain’s railways.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has been campaigning for the renationalisation of Britain’s railways, citing how different services are owned or part-owned by the Dutch, German, Italian and Hong Kong governments and asking why the British government doesn’t own these. It concludes with the TUC calling for the British government to renationalise the railway services.

I take umbrage with the language used by the TUC. Framing this as “foreigners shouldn’t own our stuff” plays into the hands of nationalists, giving power to those who want to cut Britain off from the world and transform us into a regressive hellhole. With historical evidence showing us that fascists are all too happy to court working people and drive a wedge between “us and them”, weaponising these arguments opens for xenophobia and indifference to become more significant than they already are among the trade union movement.

There is no opposition from me to nationalisation, of course, provided the argument for it is sound and no alternatives pose greater returns for the British people. Social democratic scholar and former Labour MP Tony Crosland wrote in his book “The Future Of Socialism” of the left’s deifying of nationalisation. He argued how regulation might be the superior alternative, as the privately-owned organisation always has to work to prove itself to maintain the contract, while the state-owned organisation has more room for becoming apathetic regarding the quality of service as it has no competitors.

However, the organisations running our railways aren’t technically private; they’re state-owned organisations that foreign governments own. But this is the crucial point: they operate in the UK. We can regulate and hold them to a high standard. And if they can’t meet these standards, then we consider nationalisation. The case must be evidence-based and common sense rather than “we don’t want foreigners taking our industries”.

My point is all well and good, but if you have a corrupt government, then it doesn’t matter what the ownership model of the railways is; the service will never be as good as it can be.

But that isn’t the case for Britain, right?

Oh, bugger.

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Scrutiny in Federal Council – why we are not there yet

Federal Council is not yet a productive committee. In fact, given I’ve had to skip at least one canvassing session to attend it, I might go as far to say that it’s been a net negative in terms of achieving the party’s goals of getting liberals elected.

It has so much promise. In the handy visual diagram of the party’s committees provided in the conference handbook, it’s shown as equal to Federal Board, so is a committee that if effective yields important power. But so far, we have little to show for our time.

Much has been said about our power to call-in and overturn Board decisions, but for me, the call-in power should only be one of last resort—an Emergency Stop to the workings of the federal party only to be used in extreme circumstances. Our other power, that of asking the Board to respond on any issue, has barely been used. We have had Q&As with the president, but if all Federal Council can aspire to be is another forum for Q&As, indistinguishable from those asked of the Board at Conference, then we are failing in the responsibility to Conference when the Federal Council was created as the compromise for a smaller, more agile Federal Board.

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Given the Chinese spy issues, should I, a Chinese immigrant, pursue a political career in the UK?

After the release of the news last week of Conservative candidates dropped after the MI5 warned they could be Chinese spies, I paused my application to be a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC).

I was shocked and scared. If the political atmosphere is moving to the extreme right wing, I could be a victim for two reasons: my Chinese-immigrant background, and the definition of a spy – the line between influencing British Chinese policy and freedom of speech is getting blurred.

Since I have started to speak the truth about what happened in China from 2022, I have made a really hard decision – not to go back to China to visit my mother, who survived a stroke in 2018, because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is catching foreign spies (which can be defined as “any excuse”). I worried I would disappear in a Chinese airport without any charges, which is normal in China. Now I need to worry if I am safe in the UK. Is the UK still a free land?

Before the Golden Era of UK-SINO relations finished, getting involved in British politics before 2019 was taken as a positive sign for Chinese immigrants who were born and educated in China. Three were encouraged and chosen by the Tory party to stand in the general elections in 2015, 2017 or 2019. Yet now, it’s extremely hard for any Chinese immigrant, not only to become a party member, but also to stand in a local election; furthermore, to be a PPC – a legal position to stand in the general election.

As far as I know, I am the only person from China who is seeking a PPC position. There are three reasons why I am doing this:

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WATCH: Ed Davey’s speech to Conference

Here’s Ed Davey’s leader’s speech to Conference.  Enjoy.

The text is below:

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What if the Home Secretary is right?

As someone who was brought up under communism in Poland, I never dreamt that Eastern Europe could change so much in such a relatively short period of time. I never thought that I would be able to travel or work freely in another European state. I never knew what diversity is. I rarely had an opportunity to talk to people from other countries or nationalities. But I remember that I always had a strong desire to meet people of other ethnic or faith origins. I remember that as a teenager back home, I participated in various events which marked the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This was a very special experience which allowed me to learn more about other churches and see that ‘unity in diversity’ is possible. Visiting the Lutheran Church made me realise that despite some dogmatic & theological differences, we all pray to the same God. This, as well as many other experiences has shaped me as a person which I only realised when I moved to Britain.

Living in Croatia for almost 4 years was also an ‘eye-opener’. It was in Croatia where I had a chance to see a mosque. It is Croatia where I had a real opportunity not only to read about individuals from other nationalities but to live side by side with people from other cultures and religions. I really felt so ‘normal’ and beautiful. 

All these experiences prepared me for Britain which in many ways can be called the ‘laboratory of diversity’. My job in the charity sector and my role as a Councillor give me plenty of opportunities to meet many wonderful people and enable me to build bridges rather than walls. It has also helped me to break down various barriers and recognise the importance of diversity. Settling in the UK, trying to be part of the local community, encouraged me to get to know other cultures and people of other faith groups. The whole experience has broadened my horizons and it made me a more tolerant and rounded person.

Why is it so important now? I do think that the polarisation of the political systems, inability to listen or talk to each other, seeing everything in ‘black & white’ colours means that diversity as well as many other things are seen in a deformed way. This means that our communities are divided and our friends and neighbours are often ‘presented’ to us a threat, invaders or burdens. This hurts many and the healing process to rebuild trust between groups and communities may take a long time. I often wonder whether media and access to social media platforms have changed our attitude towards diversity. Do we, too often, put too much emphasis on what divides rather than unites us? 

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The other elephant in the room

We all know that one of the topics the leadership don’t want us to talk about is the EU. But there is another very important matter to voters that we say almost nothing about either, taxation.

There was a time, when I was a young Liberal and just starting out on the employment trail when we proudly supported a progressive income tax system as both fair and certain. When I started work, basic rate was 33% and the top rate was 98%. We told people, quite rightly, that the tax was necessary to pay for public services. Then along came Thatcher and Laffer with his ridiculous curve and suddenly we have joined the ‘tax is bad’ viewpoint and we have become terrified of even suggesting that our policy programmes WILL require tax rises. Sure, we talk about taxes on the banks, or windfall taxes on utilities or taxing fatcats, but we simply don’t engage in the task of reminding people that their taxes are not a dreadful burden, but actually necessary to pay for the services we (and they) want.

It’s almost as if we now share the view of a US citizen interviewed about tax, who said ‘Why should I pay tax, the government should find the money!’

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The humbling gratitude of Ukrainians

One word: humbling. That was my feeling as I listened to the remarkable conference speech by Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik on Monday morning. She is leader of Holos, the first Liberal Party to be elected to the Ukrainian Parliament.

All one’s everyday concerns were reduced to insignificance as we heard of the bravery and tenacity of Ukrainians under the most harrowing conditions. Their belief in the survival and eventual flourishing of their country, their incredible solidarity, is absolutely awesome.

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Moving on after yesterday’s high drama

Lib Dem Conference is at its absolute best when it debates a hotly contested issues.

High quality speeches on both sides of the argument for Conference to decide upon. And if the leadership’s position is looking threatened, they just roll out a big hitter like Tim Farron to deliver a barnstormer and get them out of trouble.

Or, in the case of yesterday’s debate, not.

The issue in question was whether to have a national housing target. This has been debated at two Conferences in the recent past and on both occasions, Conference voted to retain a national annual target, in this case 380,000  homes, with (whatever happened in the debate) 150,000 for social rent. A great policy that many thought would give not just hope but homes to the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have a secure home that they can afford.

With Conference having made its wishes known, it is odd that the leadership chose to pick this fight in the first place or prosecute it in the way that they did. The Federal Policy Committee was very closely balanced on this issue and, as I understand it, Ed insisted that housing targets were dropped. Inevitably, the Young Liberals put in an amendment to reinstate them.

Policy and research is one of the great strengths of the current crop of young Liberals. Chair Janey Little has already contributed huge knowledge and collaborative working skills on various policy issues, not least on violence against women and girls where she brought all the various stakeholders in and consulted them. She put those skills to good use. On her side of the argument were Council leaders like Stephen Robinson in Chelmsford, Keith House in Eastleigh and former Housing Minister Stephen Williams as well as current London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie and his predecessor Luisa Porritt.

Unfortunately, the leadership response to this was to produce a series of leaflets rubbishing the Young Liberals’ amendment in a way that was always going to annoy Conference attendees. Certainly,  I had always been likely to support that amendment, but I did so with added passion and fury simply because of the aggression shown by the opposition and the fact that Ed was talking about the issue as though it was a done deal. The manner in which this was done was also a massive hostage to fortune. You know how in the American primaries candidates kick lumps out of each other until one emerges victorious? Well, that process does the opposition research for them. That is a lesson the leadership might like to learn for the future before it puts out simplistic, aggressive literature.

The debate yesterday started well with an inclusive speech from Helen Morgan in which she acknowledged the concerns that the Young Liberals had expressed in their amendment. By the time the argument got to the floor, though, it very much looked like it would go their way. Speeches were around 2:1 in favour of housing targets.

But not to worry, they still had their Trump card, Tim Farron.

Sadly, he took his role too literally and forgot for a moment that he wasn’t Donald Trump. His deeply insulting speech, in which he said that the amendment was the most right wing thing he had seen come to the floor of Conference since we’d sent Liz Truss on her sleeper mission to the Tories drew gasps from the audience. . He accused its proposers of being Thatcherites. This was clearly nonsense, given that the amendment was supported by the Radical Association and many members of the Social Liberal Forum.

It takes a lot to shock a Lib Dem Conference. We’re not a pearl clutching bunch as a rule, but he managed it. But there was no awe to go with it. Rob Blackie stood up and simply said at the beginning of his speech “Tim Farron: That was below you. You are better than that.”

If the amendment had not won before, that speech got it over the line. The vote wasn’t even close in the end.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 32 Comments

Ed Davey speech: Time to tear down the Blue Wall and end the Conservative soap opera

Ed Davey will today (Tuesday 26 September) give his first Autumn Conference speech since becoming Liberal Democrat leader, firing the starting gun for the party’s campaign at the next General Election.

Ed Davey will put health and care at the heart of his speech, highlighting how the Liberal Democrats have led the way in proposing solutions to tackle the crises facing the NHS, on GPs, ambulances and dentists. He will accuse the Conservatives of breaking promise after promise on the NHS, from their failure to recruit more GPs to their pledge to build 40 new hospitals, adding that there should be a warning on the ballot paper that “voting Conservative is bad for your health.”

He will emphasise that getting the millions of people stuck on waiting lists or suffering from mental health illness is key to getting the economy back on track, adding that “the Conservatives broke our economy with their carelessness, Liberal Democrats will fix our economy with care.”

Ed Davey will then criticise the Conservatives for being “more like a bad soap opera than a functioning government,” pointing to “the corruption of Boris Johnson, the chaos of Liz Truss and the carelessness of Rishi Sunak.”

Finally, the Liberal Democrat Leader will issue a rallying cry to his party to bring the Blue Wall “tumbling down” at the next election. He will point to the Liberal Democrats’ record as the “strongest campaigning force in British politics,” concluding that “the British people are desperate to see the back of this appalling, out-of-touch Conservative Government, and we are the ones who can make it happen.”

Posted in Conference, News and Press releases | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Waiting list for diagnostic tests reaches 1.6 million – up 50% since 2019

  • The waiting list for diagnostic tests has risen by 525,000 since June 2019 to 1.6 million
  • NHS target: less than 1% of people should be waiting more than 6 weeks for these tests – currently 1 in 4 wait 6 weeks or longer
  • Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey calls for an expansion of community diagnostic centres and the legal right to see your GP in seven days as his party makes fixing the NHS a pillar of their conference

NHS waiting lists for basic diagnostic tests have grown by 50% since June 2019, up to 1.6 million. The research from the House of Commons Library, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, also shows that over 25% of people are waiting more than 6 weeks for one of these tests, the NHS target is less than 1%.

The 15 types of tests that make up the list provided by the Commons Library include MRIs, CT scans, Echocardiography, and DEXA scans. For MRIs the waiting list has spiked by a third up to 280,000 thousand. For CT scans, it has shot up by 40,000 to 180,000.

A separate FOI from the Liberal Democrats to NHS Trusts has revealed the longest wait time for certain standard diagnostic scans.

In Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trusts response, they said that the longest wait for an MRI which took place in the past 12 months was 914 days. At the same Trust, someone waited 367 days for a CT scan, 665 days for a non-urgent x-ray, and 693 days for an Ultrasound.

For an Echocardiogram, someone at Wye Valley Trust waited 49 weeks. For an Angiography, at Milton Keynes Trust the longest wait was 475 days.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Kira Rudik wows Conference with a powerful and personal speech


Kira Rudik is the leader of Holos, the first Liberal Party to be elected to the Ukrainian Parliament. She is also Vice President of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the political grouping that brings together like-minded political parties within Europe. She is a proud European and has campaigned for many years for Ukraine to join the EU.

She was welcomed on to the stage by Layla Moran, who was dressed in the blue and yellow of Ukraine. Kira started with some thank yous – and it was clear she knew a number of our senior members well.

She then told us about the day the invasion happened, starting at 5am. Kira and nearly two thirds of the MPs made their way to the Parliament Building – a highly dangerous act as the building was an obvious target. They were allowed 10 minutes together in the chamber during which time they hit buttons furiously so they could pass all the necessary legislation. All the political parties vowed to work together until the war was over – a pledge that has been challenging but still holds.

You can watch her speech here:

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What’s the media saying about Lib Dem Conference?

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the things that the media are saying about Lib Dem Conference:

Steve Coogan and Carol Vorderman lead rally for proportional representation. Sky

Liberal Democrats face housebuilding targets row at Liberal Democrat Conference BBC

Man pleas for assisted dying reform at Lib Dem Conference Bourmemouth Echo

Lib Dems would double shared parental leave pay and increase leave Guardian

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

25,000 operations cancelled twice or more in 2022 as backlog soars

  • Some patients have the same operation cancelled 13 times as backlog soars
  • Worst offending trusts have thousands of operations cancelled twice
  • Liberal Democrats demand urgent action to get the scandal of cancelled operations under control

The number of hospital operations cancelled twice or more surged to over 25,000 in 2022, an investigation by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

That is up 18% from the 21,477 operations cancelled twice or more the previous year.

The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests, with data provided by 78 of the 124 hospital trusts in England.

Some of the worst hit trusts include Mid and South Essex, which cancelled over 4,000 operations twice or more in 2022, and Portsmouth with over 2,500. In total, a staggering 112,000 operations have been cancelled twice or more in the past five years.

The figures also reveal that some patients have seen the same operation cancelled up to 13 times over the past five years. Portsmouth is also at the top of the cancellation list for individual cases with one patient suffering the indignity of having their operation cancelled 13 times in 2019. This was followed by Mid and South Essex with one patient whose operation was cancelled 11 times, and North Midlands with one patient having 10 cancellations for a single operation. In total, 20 trusts had one individual patient who had faced five or more cancellations since 2018.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged and | 2 Comments

It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to reclaim their place as the party of young professionals

In the ever-evolving landscape of British politics, it’s easy to forget that the Liberal Democrats were once hailed as a natural choice for young professionals. With a steadfast commitment to progressive values, environmentalism, internationalism, and leading the way on equality & diversity, the party had successfully captured the aspirations of a generation. 

Many of these commitments remain today – we remain ahead of the conversation on social care and health, we are leading the way on electoral reform, and we have never faltered in our commitment to standing up for diverse communities. We remain a party which believes in opportunity for all, and we have the policies to back that up.

We are the party of business, and of workers. The Liberal Democrats will invest in innovation and embrace the opportunities of modern technology, while making sure that economic growth is human-led and that workers are at the heart of our industrial strategy.

We are the party of internationalism, and we will embrace the academic and scientific benefit that comes with being able to work with and participate in the international community – opening new opportunities for people and society.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Keep our national housing target, tackle the housing crisis and WIN!

Tackling the housing crisis is one of the most important things Lib Dems can do. As the Leader of Chelmsford City Council I agonise about housing every day. We have over 450 homeless families in my city this week, and no houses to put them in. 

So I welcome the huge number of positive things in the conference housing motion F31 and policy paper that will allow us to do that.

But one of the other really important things I want to do as a Lib Dem council leader is to help get many more Lib Dem MPs elected.  And removing the national housing target (which we voted FOR just two years ago) will make that job harder.

We’ve already seen public criticism for the removal of targets. It doesn’t matter how much the leaders try to explain that “actually, removing the target will mean we are able to build more houses”. We should have learned long ago that when you’re explaining you’re losing.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

What do you call a 33 year old who still lives with their parents?

What do you call a 33 year-old who still lives with their parents?

No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke. Instead, this is the reality for many people, including myself.

Six years ago, I moved out of my parents’ house with my then wife and into a three-bedroom end of terrace house. I was working full-time on a salary significantly lower than the average, while she was working ad-hoc as a supply teacher.

It was tight for us financially, but we made it work, just about. How? The house we moved into was bought by my granddad in 1955 and, by the time we moved in, it was owned by my dad and my aunt. We were paying rent, obviously, but it was considerably lower than the market rate.

When my ex-wife left, I took in a lodger to make ends meet. When my dad and aunt’s circumstances changed and they sold the house in 2021, I moved back in with my parents because I could not afford a place of my own. Since then, my salary has increased by almost one-third (through job changes, not employer pay rises), but it is still significantly below the average and I still cannot afford to buy or rent a place of my own.

Today, Conference will be asked to debate and vote on a new housing policy.

There is a certain irony in the party establishment standing before a banner of “for a fair deal”, while simultaneously proposing the removal of an ambitious – yet still insufficient – national housing target.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

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