Lib Dems vs Brexit: Roger Roberts says young people must have a say

Last year, Roger was on the front page of the Daily Mail for upsetting the Brexiteers.

Now, the octogenarian Liberal Democrat had two of the most prominent Tory Brexiteers in the Lords intervene on him in his speech.

My Lords, those who argue for this deal say that the people have voted and that we must honour that. The people voted two and a half years ago, when they were a different constituency. Many of them have now departed and millions more are now eligible to vote. Therefore, we are disregarding the views and the future of many of these young people. Not only that but we are withdrawing from the European Union, which means that we are withdrawing their European citizenship. These young people were born into European citizenship.

Lord Lilley (Con)

Does the noble Lord intend to have a referendum every two and a half years?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

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When will Commons drag itself into this century?

It’s horrifying to think that an MP has been forced to delay her caesarean section in order to vote on the Brexit deal tomorrow.

Hampstead and Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq told The Standard

If my son enters the world even one day later than the doctors advised, but it’s a world with a better chance of a strong relationship between Britain and Europe, then that’s worth fighting for.”

The Royal Free has been very clear on their legal and health duties. This is a high risk pregnancy and I am doing this against doctor’s advice.

Any idea that a pairing arrangement would be honoured was blown apart by Brandon Lewis’s failure to honour the agreement with Jo Swinson when her baby Gabriel was just weeks old last Summer.

People were also horrified to see Labour MP Naz Shah, who was sick and in pain, wheeled through the voting lobby.

There is a much more humane way of doing this – allowing MPs who are incapacitated in some way to cast their votes by proxy. Nobody should have to be taken to their place of work by ambulance to perform part of their duties.

Jo Swinson made it clear how she felt about the situation:

You have to wonder if they’d have been swifter to act if any of the babies due had been pm their side.

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14 January 2019 – today’s press releases

As we start another week, is there an emerging consensus on where we go next? Tomorrow sees the meaningful vote in the Commons, whilst tonight saw a somewhat less meaningful one in the Lords, although it perhaps offers a portent of what is to come…

  • Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote
  • Cable: Research shows UK companies hit hard by ‘Leave’ vote
  • Lib Dems: EU letter changes nothing
  • Lords defeat ’embarrassing setback’ for Theresa May

Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote

A cross-party group of MPs has today (January 14th) published legislation to bring about a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum on the Government’s Brexit deal in …

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“Those who seek to divide us will never win. We know Britain is better than this”

Clear, can-do, liberal.

You know how I’ve been banging on for ages that we need to tug on people’s heartstrings?

Well, finally, we produce a compelling video that tells people who we are and what we are for.

From the happy, optimistic days of 2012 to the xenophobic post Brexit hate, our decline is shown, complete with Farage, Rees-Mogg and Johnson.

Then there is a strong statement of solidarity with our EU national friends, family, work colleagues. 

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In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties …

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Chris Fox The vulnerable and less well off are most at risk from Brexit

We continue our look at how Lib Dem parliamentarians are arguing against the Brexit deal and for a People’s Vote.

In this instalment, Chris Fox debunks Tory clams that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t cost jobs and highlights that the poorest will suffer most.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and I look forward to working with him when we move into Committee on the Trade Bill.

When the Minister was looking in our direction, he spoke about the need for clarity. I understand that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defra is organising a new unit in his department with the express remit of “seeing through the fog” of Brexit. I also understand that the department is finding difficulty in recruiting people to take on this task. Meanwhile, the Government are stress-testing their own ability to create fog. We have already heard the lighter side of Project Grayling today but actually it is not funny; it is quite sad and rather pathetic that a government department led by a Minister is going out and trying to prove how serious the Government are about a no-deal exit, and doing it completely incompetently. I do not know who does due diligence in the Department for Transport but the big question is: who did due diligence on Chris Grayling?

Elsewhere, Iain Duncan Smith has been vocal about the benefits of a no-deal exit. He does not,

“believe that a single job will be lost”,

in a hard Brexit. It is not for me to challenge his belief system—I will leave that to the Lords spiritual—but I am able to refute what is clearly a false claim. Take, for example, a small engineering firm on an industrial estate just outside Hereford employing 30 people. It is very successful. Unlike some firms, the owner has looked long and hard at his situation and has talked in detail with his largely continental European customer base. He has prepared for no deal and the imposition of borders, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. In that situation, his plan is clear: he will make 10 of his staff redundant.

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Time for a Progressive Alliance?

There is a lot of noise on social media at the moment with Labour members having to confront the awful reality that Jeremy Corbyn really does support Brexit, and if he succeeds in passing a motion of no confidence in the government then that will be the general election policy of the Labour party too. Many are giving up on Labour and are looking for a progressive alternative. So how about the Lib Dems?

There is the question of the ownership of the word progressive. There was an odd debate at conference in 2016 which rejected the “Progressive Alliance” because it …

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Dick Newby The World is looking at us with pity and amazement

The Lords have also been debating the Brexit Deal and, as in the Commons, Lib Dems have been arguing for a People’s Vote. This is Dick Newby’s contribution:

My Lords, it is somewhat odd to be debating an identical government Motion with a month’s gap, during which time, in the Brexit negotiations themselves and despite the announcements the Government have made today, there have been no significant developments whatsoever—a reality reflected in the Commons simply continuing its adjourned debate on the topic rather than having a new Motion or amendments.

There was therefore a temptation to simply repeat the speech I made on 5 December. I was attracted to this option by the true example of a vicar friend of my wife’s who, having preached a sermon on a Sunday morning, found that his colleague who was due to ​preach at evensong was taken ill during the day. Stepping into the breach and having no time to prepare a second sermon, he simply repeated the one he had given in the morning. He was therefore rather disturbed to see in the congregation one of the churchwardens, who normally only attended in the morning but who had had visitors for lunch who wanted to see the church. At the end of the service, the vicar greeted the churchwarden with some trepidation. The churchwarden approached the vicar beaming. “Another corker, vicar”, he said. It was clear that he had not listened to at least one, and possibly both, of the sermons. But I suspect that your Lordships’ House is somewhat more attentive than the average churchwarden, so I shall repeat neither the speech nor the exact arguments I made a month ago.

The challenge in fashioning another speech, however, is that, as far as the withdrawal agreement and political declaration are concerned, nothing of substance has changed. I am unaware of a single MP who threatened to rebel last time but has pledged to support the Government this time around.

Although nothing has changed in the agreement itself or the views of MPs, this does not mean that nothing has changed beyond Parliament. The first thing that has changed is that the Government have stepped up spending for a no-deal Brexit. Given that the Commons will never vote for a no-deal outcome, as evidenced by yesterday’s vote, the spending of billions of pounds against an outcome that is simply not going to happen was always going to be a colossal waste of public money. But the way in which the Government have chosen to do this has turned mere profligacy into farce.

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12-13 January 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

There haven’t been that many days of such high drama in Parliament to compare to the next few. How badly will Theresa May lose in the Commons? Will it be enough to force a change of policy? Can the Conservative Party cling together?

We’ll see soon enough but, in the meantime, here are the weekend’s press releases…

  • Grayling has lost the plot
  • Short-term sentences of 12 months or less must be scrapped now
  • Corbyn has failed the test of leadership
  • Cable: No-deal is a choice and the Govt can stop it

Grayling has lost the plot

Responding to claims from Chris Grayling that blocking Brexit could lead …

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #539

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 539th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (6-12 January, 2019), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Lib Dems vs Brexit – Ed Davey on what Paddy would have thought

Sir Ed Davey, in his speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, looked at it through Paddy’s eyes.

He also spoke about his experience of European co-operation when he was Climate Change Secretary when Putin was overstepping the mark in the Ukraine.

My friend, Lord Ashdown—Paddy—is being buried today in Somerset, so I hope that the House will allow me to speak about this deal as I think Paddy would have done. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) might not have known about the burial service, but my friend Paddy would have been able to apply his critical faculties to the deal and judge it on the basis of what was good for this country. That is what he would have done. I worked for him for nearly 30 years, beginning as his economics adviser, and when he talked about Europe, he talked about the way in which countries needed to co-operate and work together. Internationalism was in his liberalism. He talked about how, working with other countries, this country could regain sovereignty and regain control over global capitalism, and the multinationals that sought to undermine the interests of individual countries, people and corporations. His view was that we were stronger and had more control. That was his approach to the European Union.

However, things went much deeper than that. Paddy was a soldier and a diplomat, and he brought that experience and those beliefs to the European question. It was his commitment to peace and to patriotism—he loved his country—that made him such a strong pro-European. We see that in his books and his speeches when he talks about the dangers of rising nationalism and protectionism around the world. He worried about Trump, Bolsonaro and Brexit, and he thought that Britain being in the EU was one of the best ways of combatting those rises in nationalism and protectionism. In his work in Bosnia, he talked about how the EU’s institutions were bringing peace not just within that country, but within the Balkans. Indeed, if we look at what is happening, the EU is one of the magnets that is ending the hostility between those countries, and it can play a key role. It is an engine for peace, as it has been across Europe.

Of course, as man who was born in Northern Ireland, Paddy would look at the threat to the Good Friday agreement with serious concern. Nearly 3,600 of our countrymen and women died in the troubles, but few have died since the Good Friday peace agreement. People inside and outside this House should think carefully about anything that puts that at risk. Paddy certainly did, believing that the EU was a way of gluing people together and moving away from past hostilities.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Vince Cable takes on the WTO Rules argument

We always like to record Lib Dem contributions to significant parliamentary debates when we can. There is no more significant debate than that going on over the future course of Brexit – or otherwise.

Vince spoke on the first day of the debate and he tackled the Brexiteers’ assertions that the WTO Rules are just fine if we have a no deal Brexit.And he should know, because he’s actually done trade negotiations. He totally demolishes the idea that WTO Rules a) mean much b) can be enforced and c) allow smaller countries to trade freely without being bullied by more powerful ones:

One problem of having extended debate and resumption of debate is that we are getting a lot of repetition and recycling of arguments that we have heard many times before. For that reason, I want to focus on one specific issue, which is the idea of World Trade Organisation rules and exactly what they mean. The term “WTO rules” is used casually in every pub, and in every radio interview I encounter, but I suspect that many of the people who use it are not at all clear what it means.

Before getting into the detail of that, I will make one general point about no deal, which was brought out rather brilliantly by the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who got to the heart of this very well. He exposed the fact that no deal is actually a choice. It is not just something that happens; it is the conscious choice of a Government who could choose to revoke article 50, as the Father of the House keeps reminding us. That may be a difficult ​decision and a very unpopular one, but article 50 could be revoked, and by choosing not to revoke it, the Government will be choosing to have no deal, with all its catastrophic—or so they tell us—consequences.

Let me narrow down to the specific issue of what the WTO rules would be if we found ourselves in a no-deal world. The basis on which I speak is that many years ago, long before I came into the House, I was part of a small community of international trade specialists and got involved in negotiating the so-called Uruguay round and then the Doha round as part of the World Trade Organisation—or, as it was then called, the general agreement on tariffs and trade. I saw at first hand the way in which the WTO system operates. I realise that there is no longer just a small community of anoraks, which is what we were. A large number of people now consider themselves experts on trade policy, but the glibness with which the term “WTO rules” is applied leads me to believe that there are probably not too many anoraks, because there are some very real difficulties in applying WTO rules.

The World Trade Organisation is to trade what the United Nations is to peace. It has some admirable principles, but I think most Members, and certainly those on the Government Benches, would consider it seriously negligent of us to make our national defence dependent solely on the rules of the United Nations. Rules have to be enforced, and they have to be effective.

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Lib Dems want a People’s Vote to stop Brexit. Corbyn can’t say what Labour would do

The Sunday morning political programmes can be summarised as follows: Tory psychodrama (Sophy Ridge had three rounds of it), Labour obfuscation and Lib Dem consistency and clarity.

Just imagine that you were the Leader of the Opposition. You’re supposed to be showing leadership on the most important issue of most of our lifetimes. You talk about how you want a General Election, though you haven’t actually bothered to do anything to make one happen.

Then you’re asked what your policy in that General Election would be on the said major issue. Surely to goodness you would have something to tell people. You wouldn’t go on about how it still had to be decided by some party meeting. Surely you would have done that preparatory work already.  I mean, you’ve been going on about this General Election for months.

At least, if you wanted to show that you had even basic competence to run the country, you would be able to say where your party stood. If your policy was coming from principle and value, it would be instinctive.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine any of this. It’s actually happening. The two paragraphs above is pretty much what Corbyn said on Marr this morning. And it’s pretty much what Rebecca Long-Bailey said on Sophy Ridge.

Corbyn did say, though, that if there was no General Election, he’d prefer a Brexit deal to a People’s Vote. He thinks he can go back to the EU and get what are essentially terms of full membership without being members. He said he wanted a customs union that enabled us to have a say in trade deals. And a unicorn that poos glittery rainbows. He didn’t say that last bit, but he might as well have done.

No wonder that Tom Brake tweeted:

Compare and contrast with a brilliant interview from Vince. He was incredibly clear and consistent.

  • Lib Dems want a People’s Vote because we oppose Brexit
  • Lib Dems oppose a Norway style compromise because we’d have all the expenses of EU membership but none of the say on policy
  • Cross-party working is happening and essential not just now but after this is all over to bring country together
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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Layla Moran: I want an open Britain, not one that closes itself off

In full, below, Layla Moran’s speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

It will come as no surprise to anyone, I am sure, to hear that I will not support the deal. I am determined to do everything I can to secure a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU and exit from Brexit. After all, that is what I was elected to do when I overturned a Tory majority of nearly 10,000 with the help of a progressive alliance of voters from across the entire political spectrum. I am still regularly stopped in the streets by constituents who just want an end to this mess. One lady said to me the other day, “I didn’t vote for this Brexit. Please make it stop!” Is not that the refrain we are hearing from everyone—“Make it stop”?

That is my issue with the deal. The Prime Minister’s deal has only 26 pages about what comes next. It will take years to get that right. Meanwhile, the fact that the air has been sucked out of this Government and the economy will continue to suffocate society. The very causes of Brexit—inequality, injustice, the incomprehension of parents that their children’s future will not be as bright as theirs—will continue to be ignored until this is over. We have to be honest with people: Brexit will not solve any of those issues.

There is only one way to make this stop, and that is a democratic exit from Brexit. Support for that, as much as many in this House are trying to ignore it, is growing. Poll after poll shows that the will of the people has changed since 2016. Add to that Russian interference, Cambridge Analytica, the leave campaign being fined for breaking electoral law and dodgy DUP donations, and is it any wonder that people are dismayed? Does that surprise us at all? In a democracy, as has been said, people should be able to change their mind. If they want to vote for this deal, let them, but if they want an exit from it and to keep the deal we already have, let them have that.

One group that Brexit affects more than anyone else is EU citizens in the UK. These people are our friends. They have built relationships and careers in this country. They deserve so much better than this shambles. Is it not shameful that they are being asked to pay £65 to continue to live in their own homes and stay in their jobs? Although I welcome the announcements of Oxford University and my local NHS trusts that they will pay the fee for their staff, it beggars belief that they even have to offer. How much public taxpayer money has been offered to overcome the charge? That suggests to me that the Government should scrap it now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Jo Swinson “Even my five year old knows that unicorns aren’t real”

This week the House of Commons has been debating Theresa May’s deal. Liberal Democrats have been explaining why Brexit is a bad thing and why we need a People’s Vote.

Here’s Jo Swinson making one of her five contributions in the Chamber on her first week back from parental leave.

Two and a half years ago the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised to tackle society’s burning injustices. I for one was glad to hear that speech, and I hoped that it would mark a real change in direction from this Government.

We could debate endlessly the reasons why people voted to leave the European Union, and of course they were varied. For many, however, there was a feeling that the system is broken, that working hard is no guarantee of getting on, and a fear that their children will end up worse off than they are, earning less, finding it harder to secure a decent home. People, rightly and understandably, feel angry about that. However, instead of the radical changes needed to our economy and society, the energy and attention of our Government have been sucked into the black hole of Brexit. Nothing has changed for those the Prime Minister vowed to help. Those injustices still fuel discontent. We have an underfunded universal credit system bringing misery to thousands. We are in the midst of a housing crisis in which many children are living in heartbreaking conditions and vulnerable people are sleeping on our streets—and dying on them, too. None of that will be resolved by leaving the EU. None of that will be resolved by the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

The leave campaign said we would take back control, but to many of my constituents—to the mother of two who contacted me because she was worried about her family’s security after the Prime Minister called her husband a “queue jumper”; to the scientist concerned about jobs in Glasgow once the life sciences industry loses vital European funding; and to the businesses that do not even know on what terms they will be able to sell to our biggest trading partner in three months’ time—it feels like we are doing the very opposite.

Five years ago, I fought passionately to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Together, we are stronger. Our economy is more successful and our influence is greater. We can pool risks. Our businesses benefit from selling to a larger market, without barriers. We share values. We share our history. We share a desire for our loved ones in different parts of the country to be able to live, work and travel where they want with ease. I am certain that Scotland’s best future is in the United Kingdom, and for the same reasons I believe the United Kingdom’s interests are best served within the European Union.

In 2017, the people of East Dunbartonshire elected me to fight for Scotland’s position in the UK and for the United Kingdom’s position in the EU. That is the manifesto I stood on. The Liberal Democrats have led the fight for a people’s vote so we keep the benefits of our EU membership and remain a leading and influential member of the world’s most successful economic and political bloc. I am delighted that so many MPs from all parties are coming together and working beyond party lines for the public to have the final say on a deal, with the option of keeping our EU membership.

She was challenged by an SNP MP about independence at this point and continued

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Could you head up the new Lib Dem Racial Diversity Campaign?

The Party is finally starting to get its act together on racial diversity. Last week the Federal Board decided to properly set up the new Racial Diversity Campaign which aims to improve Lib Dem BAME representation in our various Parliaments.

So, the party has advertised for a Chair and two Vice Chairs of the RDC. Applications must be submitted quite quickly, by a week tomorrow and the Federal Board will meet the candidates on 28th January and make their choices shortly thereafter.

Here’s some more detail:

The Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) will be the vehicle within the party which finds, trains and supports BaME candidates through to their selection and beyond to successful election.

Its principal aims are to increase the number of ethnic minority MPs, MSPs, MEPs, Assembly Members, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners and. It would also work alongside ALDC to increase the number of ethnic minority Councillors and Council Leaders.

The Chair and Vice-Chairs of the RDC will be experienced in training and mentoring and have a deep knowledge of the party’s processes for candidates, from assessment through to fighting a campaign.

The successful candidates will be elected to serve until 31 December 2019 on a ‘casual vacancy’ basis. Fresh elections (for a number of posts including these) for a full three-year term will be held after the new Federal Board meets early in 2020.

Applicants for the roles of Chair or Vice Chair must be nominated by two members of the Federal Board, membership of which can be found here: www.libdems.org.uk/federal_board. You should send your nomination to the Party Governance Officer [email protected]

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In pictures: Lib Dems campaigning to stop this Brexit carry on

It’s kind of lucky that this weekend is a national weekend of Lib Dem action. Coming just 72 hours before Parliament makes the most momentous decision of our lifetimes – or not, we hope – it’s great to see that Lib Dems have been out on the streets making the case to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote.

Here’s some pictures from all over the country.

Remember how heavily Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk constituency voted to leave? Have a look at this.

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Could you be the Lib Dems’ Vice President BAME?

As part of the implementation of the Alderdice Report which aims to remove the barriers to participation in the party by members of BAME communities, the Party is looking to appoint a Vice President BAME.

They’ve advertised the role and the details of what it entails and how to apply are below:

The Vice President BaME will be a party ambassador and senior Board officer. They will work with various Federal and State bodies responsible for delivering diverse representation both internally and externally. These include Candidates Committees, the Candidates & Diversity Office and the Diversity Committee of the Federal People Development Committee.

The VP-BaME would also support the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) and Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality (LDCRE) in their work to promote more BaME representation both in internal party structures and externally in local, regional and parliamentary elections.

The VP-BaME will work closely with the Party’s Equalities Spokesperson to ensure that different BaME communities’ interests are represented, to highlight issues, engage ethnic minority voters and campaign for a better deal for them.

They will work with LDCRE to reach out to BaME communities, to enthuse them about the Lib Dems and attract them to become members and activists.  They will champion inclusion, and work with these recruits to help them empower each other and gain the knowledge and skills they need to be meaningfully involved.

The VP-BaME will listen to BaME communities’ views and work to ensure that they are reflected in Liberal Democrat policy making.

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Save the Date: Monday 14th January, 7pm

On Monday night at 7pm, the party will release a new video. It promises to be something that grabs us in the gut and will make a powerful case for a People’s Vote. The trailer looks good.

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Liz Barker’s tribute to Paddy Ashdown

In a House of Lords debate on the Western Balkans this week, Baroness Liz Barker paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for this debate, which, sadly, is timely and appropriate. I thank her for giving me the opportunity to tell your Lordships’ House about an event that took place in Sarajevo on 27 December. Joseph Ingram wrote a report of it and he said this. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a spontaneous commemorative service in the “iconic, reconstructed city hall”. The hall was,

“filled to capacity, and despite being nationally televised, had people lined up outside trying to be part of it. The ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, a group that represents survivors of the most horrific massacre of innocent civilians on European soil since World War Two, had announced that they too intend to honour the work of this extraordinary human being”.

The event was dedicated to one man. He was born in India. He grew up as a lad in Northern Ireland. He left school, joined the marines and became a captain, a diplomat and spy. Then he gave up everything and, after a period on the dole, went on to become a youth worker and eventually the gallant MP for Yeovil. In this House, we knew him as Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, but he was always Paddy.

He had a wide range of interests. He had forgotten more languages than most of us have ever learned. He could quote the poetry of John Donne at will. He was an informed and passionate supporter of activists for democracy in Hong Kong, when nobody else took any notice, and he packed more achievements into a lifetime than most of us could imagine, but he was always first to admit that the source of his great strength was Jane. In public she was a quiet figure, but to those of us who know her she is a charming, funny and formidable woman.

I will give you one vignette which sums up both of them. Like all good leaders, Paddy used to invite people in to advise him, talk to him and argue with him. In 1992 I was one of the small group. Early one morning, he posed us the question: should I go to Bosnia? We went round the room and we all said no. We gave him all sorts of reasons why it was a really bad idea, and I left the meeting certain of only one thing. He was going to go. We all saw the TV pictures recently, but what we did not know until we read his autobiography was that he had come under fire, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, told us. But he went because he saw a group of people being treated unjustly, and he thought that he could and should do something.

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Don’t leave it to someone else

At the end of last year, the local party in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk chose Jenny Marr to fight the seat at the next General Election.

She’s written about the importance of getting involved in the political process by voting and beyond for the Scot Women Stand website.

It’s another thing to add to the to do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there’s the appeal of Love Island or similar which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.

But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right – some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know.

My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.

He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.

And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

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A Land Value Capture approach to Social Housing Provision

Shelter has published the final report of its cross-party commission on  Social Housing setting out the need for 3.1m new social homes over the next 20 years.

The report makes the case that council houses and social housing should be available to more than just the people in greatest need and those saving to buy. As well as the 1.3 million people it estimates are in greatest need because of hazardous homes, overcrowding, homelessness and disabilities, the new homes should be accessible to a further 1.2 million young people and 700,000 older people trapped in private rent. The commission puts the provision of housing on a par with health and education.

The plans have been costed at up to £225bn. But savings to the £21bn annual housing benefit bill and the economic boost created by the programme means it would pay for itself inside 40 years, according to fiscal modelling for the commission by Capital Economics

The analysis suggests that that two-thirds of the annual investment cost of £10.7bn a year would be clawed back through housing benefit savings and extra tax revenue and the programme would pay for itself in full after 39 years.

Delivering 3m+ social homes by 2040 will require half of the 300,000 annual house building target to come from the public sector.

Key to this objective is the cost of Land. Build costs of new developments have increased by more than 40% since the financial crisis almost entirely due to the cost of land.

Posted in News | 12 Comments

11 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Time to take a deep breath, and work out who the Government is. Is it the centre-right modernists, led by Amber Rudd? Is it the opportunistic wannabes, led by Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt? Or, is Theresa May in office but not in power? Hard to tell from the outside.

But there are still other things ticking over, and there are issues way beyond Brexit, as today’s press releases show…

  • Causes of mental ill-health in schools must be tackled
  • Lib Dems: Penny has dropped with Hunt
  • Lib Dems: UC needs investment, not just reform
  • Lib Dems: Pigs more likely to fly than Brexit legislation to

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Jo Swinson on Question Time: Brexit is a national embarrassment and we can stop it

It’s Jo Swinson’s first week back from parental leave and already she’s done more than most of us letter mortals do in a month.

We’ll have more of that first week over the weekend but for now I want to concentrate on her appearance on Question Time last night.

She was brilliant – clear and passionate, describing Brexit as a national embarrassment and showing how a People’s Vote could get us out of the mess we’re in. The programme came from Islington, her fellow panellist Emily Thornberry’s patch but Jo got way more applause than the Labour shadow foreign secretary did.

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Christine Jardine presents bill to allow asylum seekers to work

Yesterday, Christine Jardine presented a Bill which would allow asylum seekers to work after 3 months.

From The Guardian

Jardine’s asylum seekers (permission to work) bill, if passed into law, would allow asylum seekers to work after three months of lodging their claim.

It has the backing of the Lift the Ban coalition, which has published research showing asylum seekers blocked from working in the UK could make a net contribution of £42m to the economy if restrictive rules were lifted.

Jardine said: “Right now, banning the vast majority of asylum seekers from seeking employment costs the taxpayer millions in housing and support payments. It also forces people who have risked everything to come here to live on the very periphery of society.

“Being denied the right to work, and to put food on the table for you and your family, is cruel and undignified.

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LibLink: Ming Campbell Tribute to Paddy Ashdown

As Paddy’s funeral took place in his home village of Somerset, Politics Home published a fantastic tribute to our former leader by another former leader of the party, Ming Campbell. He described him as “unwaveringly loyal and generous” and said that they never feel out even when they disagreed:

The first serious political test of his leadership was the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in August 1990. Given his military experience, this was the perfect opportunity for him to display his leadership. There were party members in the Commons and Lords and in the country who were nervous about him giving support to the United Nations’ authorised effort to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait. But he brought together a small group of senior military figures and diplomats to advise himself and others speaking for the party. At the next Liberal Democrat conference, he got almost total support from his party

Paddy Ashdown’s close relationship with Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 General Election has been well documented and had Blair not won that election so comprehensively it might have produced the realignment of the left in British politics longed for by Jo Grimond, David Steel and the Gang of Four. He pursued the possibility of realignment with the same determination as in all things. When it did not come to pass, Paddy, who had by then been leader of the Liberal Democrats for 11 years, began to think of other things to do. When he stepped down he left a Parliamentary party of more than 40 MPs with a well-established and effective third-party role in parliament.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Fact Checking

Donald Trump takes a reverse scientific approach to issues. He searches for the voters greatest fears; enunciates them in the most dramatic and divisive language possible; and then twists and invents facts and re-invents history to support his claims.

Some might say, so what? Isn’t that what every politician does?  Yes, but the President of the United States has taken the practice to an entirely new level, and in doing so has undermined a political class which was already standing on crumbling foundations.  The Washington Post, which keeps a tally of presidential lies, reported in his first 601 days of his presidency, Donald Trump lied or made misleading statements 5,000 times.

You would have thought that the Donald could have temporarily broken himself of this nasty habit when addressing the nation from behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.  Wrong.  Instead, his televised speech justifying the government shutdown and a demand for a southern border wall was possibly the best example yet of Donald Trump’s inability to speak the truth.

First off, there was no justification to use the tool of a televised address to the nation. There is no crisis. America is not being invaded. Terrorists are not flooding across US-Mexico border. These fears were manufactured by Donald Trump to insure his election to the White House and they are now being exaggerated to keep him there.

Trump is using the oldest political trick in the world. When in trouble create a crisis. Create an enemy. Offer a solution, the more expensive and grander the better. Trump’s crisis is the “invasion” from the south. The enemies are the Democrats, Hispanics and anyone who has a wish to live and work in the United States. The solution is a visible wall which Trump can point to and say: “See, look, there it is, the wall, I did something that no other president would.”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

10 January 2019 – today’s press releases

I’m posting on the fly today, as I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by other things. So, if this posting changes before your very eyes, don’t be surprised… It’s a bit like Brexit in many ways, a kaleidoscope of images, none of which you can ever recreate again…

  • Lib Dems in bid to change asylum seeker employment rules
  • Cable: Moment of reckoning for our economy
  • Cable: No confidence in Govt or Corbyn
  • Lib Dems: We will use “any means possible” to secure proper Brexit debate
  • Lib Dems call for Venezuelan President to step down
  • Blackwood appointment shows Tories ignoring demands for House of Lords reform

Lib Dems

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Can’t afford to go to Conference?

Embed from Getty Images

Did you know about the Access Fund which supports members who want to go to Conference? I expect you think that it provides resources for people with disabilities – and that is indeed true, because, amongst other things, it funds the BSL signers.

But it also offers grants to individual members who can’t afford the full cost of Conference. It can cover childcare costs and also accommodation and travel.

The deadline for applications to the Access Fund for Spring Conference was a couple of days ago, but not many applications had been received by that date so they are happy to receive late submissions this year. Full details are to be found on the Conference Access Fund page.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Desperate Brexiteers try to pick and choose

According to The Independent, during the second instalment of the Brexit ‘Meaningful vote’ debate, Downing Street has agreed to let the Commons pick and choose around the crucial Backstop articles in the agreement Theresa May and Brussels reached. The agreement is legally binding, an official agreement or treaty between London and the EU.

On the Institute of Government website last December, former IoG expert Simon Hogarth said such an option could mean Downing Street violating its international obligations it freely entered into. That’s what the Hugo Swire Amendment is proposing.

If the Brexiteers in Downing Street or the Commons think this is going to wash in international politics, they are completely bonkers and political ignoramuses.

The Dutch know from bitter experience how swift, tough and compelling the international reaction will be if any country, Great Britain or small Netherlands, tries to opportunistically tinker with such a legally binding international agreement.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments
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