Liberals, save us Irish from ourselves

Arguably Anglo-Irish relations have reached their lowest point in many years. Of all the issues that could have set back relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, it is not likely many would have suggested a divide would open over asylum seekers.

How this has come about is comments from the Irish political establishment regarding the United Kingdom governments Rwanda Plan, a plan to send asylum seekers to the third country of Rwanda while their asylum claim is processed. Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael Martin said, ““So, they’re leaving the UK and they are taking opportunities to come to Ireland, crossing the border to get sanctuary here and within the European Union as opposed to the potential of being deported to Rwanda.”

In response the Irish government, facing an influx of asylum seekers into the Republic of Ireland, through the soft border of Northern Ireland plans to return asylum seekers to the United Kingdom by designating the UK as a safe country. To date Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has dismissed the idea of accepting refugees by disputing the UK has any ‘’legal obligation’’ to do so. Even so the Irish government has a “legitimate expectation” that an existing November 2020 agreement on the return of asylum seekers between the two countries would be upheld.

While the spat between both the UK and Irish government continues the context for support of a Rwanda Scheme in the Republic is around 40%, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks poll. Where do the Liberal Democrats come into this?,  it is plausible the Irish government will have to drop it’s objection to joining the UK government offer to join the Rwanda Scheme. Joining would signal Ireland’s move away from humane liberal values.

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Ed Davey tabling no confidence motion today

The House returns today after the Bank Holiday weekend, and Ed Davey is ready for it with a no confidence motion. If it passes it will force a General Election next month.

The actual wording is: “That this House has no confidence in His Majesty’s Government.”

Ed says:

These local elections showed the country has had enough of Rishi Sunak and his out-of-touch Conservative Government.

The Conservatives were pushed into third place for the first time in a generation as Liberal Democrats swept the board in former true blue heartlands.

Yet Sunak continues to desperately cling on to power, holed up in Downing Street until the bitter end.

Conservative MPs need to wake up and smell the coffee, and back giving the country the election it so desperately wants and needs. The longer this appalling government stumbles on, the worse it is for the NHS, people’s living standards and our environment.

So what are the chances of the motion passing? The last time a Government lost a no confidence vote was in 1979, when Jim Callaghan was Labour Prime Minister. It was brought by the Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, who formed the subsequent Government. It is worth noting that Callaghan was leading a minority Government, and he lost the motion by one vote. It is very rare for a vote of no confidence to succeed when a party has a solid majority.

Since then there have been 9 unsuccessful motions of no confidence, all targeted at Conservative Governments. One of these was brought in the House of Lords.

The convention is that a motion of no confidence takes precedence over anything else timetabled for the day. Today’s will give opposition parties an opportunity to note the Conservatives’ very poor performance in last week’s local elections and to raise the demand for an early General Election.

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Entering adulthood

Stress, anxiety, a bit of nervousness; there are a wide range of emotions in May, when our children are about to start their exams. Some of these feelings are amplified by the fact that it is also a very important time to choose their next career path. University? Work? Gap year? Maybe an apprenticeship?

Our eldest daughter is about to embark on this crucial period, which in many ways, might determine her future. For those of us, who are blessed to be parents, it is also quite a delicate moment in terms of supporting our children in relation to their next “big move”. Some kids are quite good at listening to parents advice, others are quite independent thinkers and they want to be “in charge” of making these decisions.

As a Polish national, who has been living in the UK for the last 19 years, I am also learning quite a lot about the Higher Educational system in Britain, which has significantly changed since we came over.

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Welcome to my day: 6 May 2024 – there’s always someone worse off than you are…

The advantage, or disadvantage if you like, of having been a Liberal Democrat for so long is that you’ve seen triumph and disaster over the years. The pain of seeing friends and acquaintances lose seats not because they’d performed badly as individuals but because of a national swing against the Party, especially during the Coalition years, will never be forgotten. And so, whilst the past week has been extremely enjoyable, I’m trying not to get carried away.

The one emotion that dominated our travails between 2010 and 2016 was sadness. We expected a kicking but accepted it as a penance for …

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The Scottish Parliament Election – 25 years on

Election night 1997. The tv room at the count in Chesterfield. Two people in the room – me and Tony Benn who was eating a white chocolate magnum and ignoring me. He might have been ignoring me because I was blubbing a bit because I was so happy that we were finally, after years of campaigning, going to have a Scottish Parliament.

The cross-party co-operation that had built the case for that Parliament across political and civil society was a great model. The Conservatives opposed the idea but even the SNP were eventually persuaded to come on board.

Fast forward two years to 6 May 1999 when the first elections to the new Parliament took place, with a nice shiny new proportional electoral system. 129 MSPs, 73 representing constituencies and 56 on regional lists were elected. The campaign had seen Alex Salmond and the SNP get into disfavour for not backing the NATO airstrikes on Kosovo aimed at stopping the humanitarian disaster and ethnic cleaning.  Paddy Ashdown and the Lib Dems were strongly in favour of this action.

Our big issue was tuition fees – we opposed Labour’s plans to introduce them and were very clear about our position on that. And we honoured that.

I couldn’t vote in this election because I lived in England. In fact, on election day, I was, at 37 weeks pregnant,  running a committee room in Chesterfield whee we boosted our Councillor numbers from 9 to 19.  Those were very happy times.

However, I was very invested in what was happening back home. I was up at the crack of dawn watching the final results come in the next day.

The Scottish people had elected 56 Labour MSPs, 35 SNP, 18 Conservative, 17 Liberal Democrats, 2 Greens and a Socialist. The whole system was meant to encourage co-operation and no party was meant to have a majority.

The coalition that eventually emerged after a few twists and turns between us and Labour did some amazing things in its 8 years – abolition of tuition fees, free personal care, free eye and dental checks, land reform, STV for local Government among them. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a functional partnership that was prepared to wring the neck of the powers we had to get stuff done. Our Jim Wallace was Deputy First Minister and Ross Finnie became Rural Affairs Minister.

Alex Cole-Hamilton reflected on the anniversary:

I am proud of the part Scottish Liberal Democrats played in delivering a Scottish Parliament and in the successes we have delivered through it.

In government, the Scottish Liberal Democrats delivered pioneering legislation like the abolition of upfront tuition fees, the introduction of free personal care and the smoking ban. We also legislated for the building of the Borders Railway, gave communities the right to buy land, made dental and eye tests free, introduced free bus passes, and opened up the business of government to proper scrutiny through Freedom of Information law.

These are Lib Dem successes delivered because of devolution, and without which we would never have achieved them.

So what do I want to see our powerful Parliament do next?

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Lib Dems gain a seat in Salford Quays – and most Council seats in past 5 years

The final results of the 2024 local elections are in and we had a fantastic result on ALDC’s doorstep in Salford. Cllr Jonathan Moore took a seat in Salford Quays. The result was:

Jonathan Moore: 39.2% (+13.1)

Lab: 37.4% (-9.8)

Green: 15.4% (-3.1)

Conservative: 8.0% (-0.3)

We finally have a brilliant piece of media coverage that I suspect we will be sharing far and wide between  now and the General Election. Someone at HQ has crunched a lot of numbers and discovered that we have gained more Councillors than anyone else over the past five years. From the Guardian:

The Lib Dems have added more council seats than any other party over the last parliament, gaining more than 750 in the last five years, largely in the south-west and south of England.

As Ed Davey’s party won more seats than the Conservatives in the local elections last week, the Lib Dems said Tories would be “looking over their shoulder terrified” as the general election approached.

Data analysis by the party shows that the Lib Dems have gained 768 seats, Labour 545 and the Greens 480, while the Conservatives have lost 1,783.

That is pretty impressive given that Labour and the Conservatives are much better resourced than we are.

Whitehall Editor Rowena Mason writes:

The party’s strong gains in local elections suggests its strategy of focusing on building up votes in key strongholds could help deliver seats at the election

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You wouldn’t think the Lib Dems had come second from the media coverage

It took Laura Kuenssberg 52 minutes to get round to talking about the Lib Dem success on her show this morning. And the fact that we got more councillors than the Conservatives for the first time in 28 years got the most perfunctory of mentions.

To add insult to injury, there were 3 Conservatives and 2 Labour people in the studio and nothing at all from us.

And it wasn’t from lack of effort on our part, given that Tim Farron was, rightly, complaining on Twitter:

Errrr…

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Germany

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party has problem in Thuringia. The East German Lander is an AfD stronghold, but their main candidate, MEP Maximilian Krah, has become a non-person.

The reason for his disappearance from the campaign for the European Parliament is the arrest of his aide Jian Guo on charges of spying for China. Krah himself, may not be above suspicion. He is known as one of the Asian giant’s biggest backers in the European Parliament.

The case of Jian Guo is only one of several scandals affecting AfD candidates for June’s European parliament elections. There have also been allegations that another AfD politician, Petr Byrstron, was paid $21,300 by a Russian disinformation network.

The ensuing political disgrace appears to be having effect on the electorate. In December, opinion polls showed the AfD with 23 percent of the national German vote. Another poll at the end of April showed them with the support of only 16 percent of the electorate.

In the meantime, Herr Krah’s name remains on the ballot in Thuringia. It has to. Once the parties submit their list of candidates then their names cannot be removed. Krah’s name is right at the top. But he is at the bottom of the list for speaking opportunities.

Gaza

Compromise appears to be in the air in the Hamas-Israel talks in Egypt. Israel is talking to negotiators about a six-week truce – possibly longer. Hamas is saying that it is looking at the latest proposals in a “positive light”.

So, what are the proposals? Specifics are a diplomatic secret. But what can be gleaned so far indicates that international pressure on Israel and Israeli pressure on Hamas is wringing concessions out of both sides.

A long truce will almost certainly mean the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge of total victory and the destruction of Hamas. But in return he wants to release of about 100 hostages which means that Hamas will have to relinquish their only bargaining chip.

The proposal currently on the table would call for a phased deal which American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators hope will lead to a permanent ceasefire.

The first phase would be the release of all female hostages in exchange for an undetermined number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Once the initial exchange is completed Israeli troops would withdraw from the coastal road in Gaza. This would facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and allow displaced Palestinians to return to their homes in northern Gaza. Once northern Gaza is re-opened the remaining hostages would be released along with the remains of hostages who have died in captivity. Israel would also release another batch of Palestinian prisoners.

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And, finally – we have 2 Lib Dem London Assembly members

In this last round-up of the day, we bring news of the final London result, the 11 list Assembly Members who work alongside the 14 constituency members.

We have always had list members because until our Gareth Roberts won South West London this afternoon nobody other than a Conservative or Labour had won a constituency.

Once the list votes had been counted, the absolutely brilliant news is that Hina Bokhari has been re-elected. The rotten news is that Rob Blackie, our fantastic mayoral candidate who has run such a good campaign and took us to third place in that contest,  missed out on a place. It would have been so good if all three of them had got in. It’s the tough aspect of these list systems. If Gareth hadn’t won the constituency, I’d have been as sad for him as he would not have got in on the list as he was in 4th place. Huge thanks to Rob for putting together such a good campaign with significantly less resource than the other parties.

The new Assembly comprises 11 Labour, 8 Conservatives, 3 Greens, 2 Lib Dems and 1 Reform.

There is still much number crunching to do, but it is way too late at night to start wrestling with spreadsheets.

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Great achievement in SW London

The BBC has shamefully ignored the London Assembly during this election. Nearly 9 million people live in Greater London – more than the populations of Scotland and Wales combined.  And London does not have a Metro Mayor who is accountable to the local authorities that make up the Metro area. Instead it has a full blown Assembly with 25 Assembly Members.  So it is inexcusable that the BBC is not reporting on it in its election coverage.

Rant over, because we do have some very good news to report. We have won our first constituency member ever for the Assembly for the SW London seat (which cover 5 Westminster constituencies). Gareth Roberts won decisively with 66,675 votes against Labour with 50,656 and Conservative with 49,981. This has been a Tory seat from the start.

Congratulations all round!

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London Mayor

Sadiq Khan has comfortably won the Mayor of London contest although it hasn’t yet been officially announced. We can be sure of the result because the votes have been counted across the fourteen super-constituencies and their totals have been announced, so it’s a simple matter of arithmetic to work out the final result.

This contest was always a two horse race between Labour and Conservative, and voting reverted to FPTP this time around. We know that many of our voters voted tactically to keep the Tory out. Under those circumstances it is very pleasing that the Lib Dem candidate, Rob Blackie, came in third, albeit by a narrow margin of 70 votes.

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Saturday afternoon round-up: Lib Dems win more Council seats than Tories for first time in 28 years

With just one Council left to declare, the Lib Dems will end the local election second to Labour in terms of Councillors, with 105 gains and 2 more Councils. The last time this happened was in 1996. Second place and a 25% gain is not a bad result for us at all.

The Tories have lost more than half of the seats they were defending and are languishing in 3rd place. The only consolation for them so far is that Ben Houchen held on as Tees Valley Mayor. Even if Andy Street clings on in the West Midlands, it looks as though the result will be pretty close.

 

Ed Davey had this to say about our success:

Up and down the country Conservative MPs will be looking over their shoulder terrified of the Liberal Democrats who have won more seats than them in this election.

This was the final test before the General Election and it’s clear Conservative MPs are on notice.

We’ve moved forward in blue wall battlegrounds and we’ve seen a real collapse in support for Rishi Sunak and his out of touch Government.

The choice for millions of people at the General Election is clear – they can get a fair deal with the Liberal Democrats or have 4 more years of Conservative chaos.

Just for the hell of it, we need to see those dinosaurs from yesterday again:

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LibLink: Mark Pack’s round-up of local elections results so far

Party President Mark Pack has been recording results and commentary throughout the counts. You can read today’s post here: How are the local elections going for the Lib Dems?

Here are some takeaways:

As of Saturday morning, the results look pretty good.

Before getting into that, it’s important to recognise that’s not the same as universally good. There are, for example, two wards I campaigned in this time around which we lost out on by very small margins. Defeats like those, or losing your seat while others are gaining those on the same council, are in some ways made all the worse by most other people around you celebrating. I hope though that our overall progress means those nursing disappointment this weekend can also take some consolation from the fact that our continued progress means, if they decide to stand again, better times are coming in their ward too.

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Observations of an Expat: Campus Powder Keg

America has for years been a polarised powder keg waiting for the spark to ignite the fuse. It has come in the form of student protests against American support for Israel.

Protesters, counter-protesters and rent-a-mob have violently coalesced around the conflicting fates of Palestinians and the State of Israel.

As of Friday demonstrations have broken out on 140 college campuses in 45 states. More than 2,000 students have been arrested by police storming barricaded encampments and university buildings with riot gear.

President Joe Biden is trying to thread his way through the oft conflicting principles of freedom of speech and the rule of law. “There’s the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos,” he said. At the same time he is standing firm on his support for Israel while privately bemoaning the fact that he is not being given sufficient credit for pressuring the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The political result could be a November victory for Donald Trump as young people continue their Gaza protest by boycotting the polls and the older generation vote for the strong man politics of Trump.

But what do the protesters want? It varies. Some what the total destruction of Israel. Others are focused on a ceasefire and the two-state solution. Still others have been drawn to the barricades by the issue of free speech. Counter-protesters fear that Israel and Jews in general are facing the problems of the 1930s. Rent-a-mob just sees an advantage in chaos.

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London waits

It’s going to be a long day in London. The counting process began yesterday in fourteen venues across the region, one based in each of the Assembly super-constituencies.  Votes on the three differently coloured ballot papers were being verified yesterday and then counted today.

To understand the scale of the process you have to remember that the population of Greater London is more than those of Scotland and Wales taken together.

Results will be announced this afternoon in this order: Mayor of London, London Assembly constituency members, London-wide Assembly members (from the top up lists).  We already know that turnout was 40.5%. Previous turnouts have varied from 34% to 46%, so there is nothing particularly surprising in that figure.

Lib Dem interest is focussed on the SW London Constituency (Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow) which we are hoping to win. If we do then it will be the first ever constituency win for us.

The best place to follow the election results is on London Elects.

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The stragglers

Catching up on a couple of councils that I was watching…

Gloucester has certainly seen an upheaval from a clear Conservative majority to a slightly awkward NOC. The good news is that the Lib Dems are the largest party with 17 (an increase of 7), compared with Conservatives on 11, Labour 7 and Others 4. Let’s hope our Council Group can find 3 others they can work with to make a working majority.

I have now moved the news about Elmbridge here. Our team in Elmbridge increased their seats but were just two short of the number needed for an overall majority. They will continue to run a minority administration, no doubt with the support of some of the Residents Associations, which has been working well for the past year.

And then we left Woking at the point where we knew they had won, but before all the results were in. And a great outcome – Lib Dems hold 24 out of 30 seats on the Council – and that included defeating Michael Gove’s election agent. No Conservatives left at all, in fact.

As we wrap up for the night there appear to be five councils that are nowhere near a result, or may not have actually started counting yet. None of them carry much interest for the Lib Dems.

In terms of control of Councils, Lib Dems have held 10, gained 2 and lost none.

And finally, here is the score line for the number of council seats won so far.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

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And we’ve gained Dorset!

Brilliant result! We have an overall majority of 2. Lib Dems 42, Con 30, Others 10. A magnificent gain from the Conservatives. Congratulations!

 

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Lib Dems gain Tunbridge Wells

Excellent news coming out of Tunbridge Wells – probably the archetypal Blue Wall area. We have taken control of the Council winning 22 out of 39 seats.

Congratulations to the team!

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Early evening results

Since my last post we have held on to 3 further councils, making ten in all.

All three will be celebrating increased majorities.  In Cheltenham we now have 36 out of 40 seats! And Mole Valley is not far behind with 31 out of 39. Woking’s results are equally pleasing – a win announced while there are still 7 more seats to declare.

Things were looking very hopeful in Wokingham, but the final result has us holding exactly half the seats, so it is officially No Overall Control.

Our eyes are still on Elmbridge and also Tunbridge Wells where we are doing well. I will update this as news comes in.

Over the last few hours we have been running neck and neck with the Tories in terms of the number of seats we have won in local elections this time. As I write both parties are on 433. Mind you, they have lost 416 and we have gained 80.

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Ed Davey and the dinosaurs

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Afternoon results

As I write we have made a net increase of 44 councillors. The Tories have lost 272 and these have been transferred across the parties with a sizable chunk going to Independents. We have retained control of 6 councils, adding Three Rivers, Watford and Gosport to Winchester, Eastleigh and Hull reported earlier.

I have been watching West Oxfordshire, Brentwood and Wokingham. In West Oxfordshire we are now the largest party but without overall control. In Brentwood, where all the council seats were up for election, Lib Dems increased theirs by 1 while the Tories lost 2, but that wasn’t quite enough to overtake the Tories – however it has gone into NOC. We are still awaiting results in Wokingham.

Again – do add further news in the comments.

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Overnight results

The results overnight were much as expected. Lib Dems held onto control in three local councils – Winchester, Eastleigh and Hull – and have made a net gain of 18 councillors. In Portsmouth we gained one councillor, which leaves us still running a minority Council.

This afternoon we can expect to hear from West Oxfordshire, Brentwood and Wokingham where we are hoping to increase our councillors and possibly take control.

Later this evening watch out for Elmbridge and Gloucester.

Please add any updates to the comments below.

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2 May 2024 – today’s press releases

  • OECD report: This Conservative government is economically illiterate
  • Polls close: Voters want an end to this appalling Conservative government
  • Cole-Hamilton responds to SNP leadership news
  • “End this nonsense and give the money back”- Welsh Lib Dems urge First Minister to return dodgy donations

OECD report: This Conservative government is economically illiterate

Responding to the OECD report which says that the UK will have the slowest growth of the largest developed nations next year, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP said:

This Conservative government is economically illiterate. Their no-growth policies have left the public enduring sky-high mortgage rates, the price of a weekly shop going through the roof, and stealth taxes hammering both pensioners and working people.

The only way through this quagmire of economic stagnation that the Conservative party has led us into is a general election. This Conservative government is out of touch, out of ideas and should be kicked out of office.

Polls close: Voters want an end to this appalling Conservative government

Responding to polls closing for this year’s local elections, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

The message across the country today was loud and clear. Voters want an end to this appalling Conservative government.

People are sick of the Conservative party’s endless infighting, unaffordable mortgages, an NHS in freefall and filthy sewage being pumped into their rivers and seas.

They want change and they want to see the end of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party in office. That is why, up and down the country, so many lifelong Conservative voters backed the Liberal Democrats today, because they know Liberal Democrat councillors will never take them for granted and fight for the issues they care about.

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It’s Polling Day

I don’t need to remind our readers to vote today. But I thought you might like to know when the results are likely to be declared.

It is a rag bag of an election with 10 Metro mayors (including the Mayor of London) on the ballot paper along with Police and Crime Commissioners, London Assembly members and local councillors where they are elected by thirds. On top of that there is a Westminster by-election in Blackpool South.

Most of the counts are taking place on Friday – and Saturday as well in the case of London, amongst others.

Overnight we can expect results from a number of local councils. We should keep an eye out for Portsmouth, where we run a minority administration, which should be declaring at around 2.30pm. The Blackpool South by-election result is also expected in the early hours.

Then tomorrow Lib Dems should be watching West Oxfordshire, Brentwood, Wokingham, Tunbridge Wells, Elmbridge and Gloucester.

Do tell us in the comments if you have any useful local knowledge.

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1 May 2024 – yesterday’s other press releases

  • Sadiq Khan’s record of failure exposed
  • Fiefdoms of filth: Scottish Lib Dems unveil new sewage league table
  • Lib Dems on verge of historic breakthrough in London
  • “Bringing truth back into politics”- Welsh Lib Dems back anti-deception proposal
  • Rennie speaks in motion of no confidence in Scottish Government

Sadiq Khan’s record of failure exposed

Sadiq Khan has once again failed to deliver on key manifesto promises, says Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie.

On the eve of the elections he listed 2021 manifesto pledges that the London Mayor failed to implement:

  • Deliver a ferry at Hammersmith Bridge
  • End rough sleeping
  • Pilot a new City Hall housing developer to directly build

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1 May 2024 – yesterday’s Federal press releases

  • Waters containing shellfish suffer from 200,000 hours worth of sewage
  • Conservatives “legalising car theft” as over three in four cases go unsolved
  • Up to 1 million pensioners in Tory seats to be dragged into paying income tax
  • Davey: Time for Sunak to face the music

Waters containing shellfish suffer from 200,000 hours worth of sewage

  • Amount of sewage spilled into shellfish water jumps by a fifth
  • South West Water and Southern Water sewage discharges into shellfish water doubles
  • Liberal Democrats call for urgent action and increased testing

This year saw a large jump in the number of hours sewage was discharged into waters containing shellfish, Liberal Democrat analysis of Environment Agency data shows.

Last year, high levels of E.coli were discovered in oysters and mussels In Cornwall, leading to the closure of 11 shellfish fishing waters, with the Environment Agency blaming sewage discharges.

Now, it has been revealed that water firms in England discharged 192,248 hours worth of sewage into shellfish areas, up 21% from the year before (158,797 hours).

The worst offender was South West Water, which doubled the hours of sewage dumped into shellfish water from 49,863 in 2022, to 98,149 last year. Their total sewage spills into these designated areas also rose to a staggering 12,927.

Southern Water also doubled the hours of sewage discharged into these areas, to 72,943 hours this year.

Since 2020, there have been 108,360 sewage spills into shellfish designated waters.

Some of the country’s best known fishing areas have been hit by these dumps. The longest spills recorded were:

  • Chichester Harbour: A total of 6542 hours of sewage discharged over 286 spills
  • Exe: A total of 4089 hours of sewage discharged over 214 spills
  • Morecambe Bay: A total of 3927 hours of sewage discharged over 223 spills

The Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent investigation into water quality in shellfish habitats, as well as a clampdown of sewage being discharged into waters used by the fishing industry.

Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson, Tim Farron MP said:

This environmental scandal is putting wildlife at risk of unimaginable levels of pollution. The food we eat, and the British fisheries industry, must be protected from raw sewage.

The public will be rightly furious that England’s precious shellfish, including lobsters and crabs, are also being subjected to filthy sewage dumping.

We need the Environment Agency to carry out an emergency investigation into the water quality of shellfish habitat. Ministers need to clampdown on water firms polluting fishing waters. It is a national scandal that this Conservative government is letting water firms destroy shellfish habitat. It is getting worse on their watch and there will be real concerns for the fishing industry if this trend continues.

Conservatives “legalising car theft” as over three in four cases go unsolved

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservative Government of “legalising car theft” as new figures reveal that in 2023, three in four car theft cases went unsolved and police took up to 24 hours to respond to calls.

The Home Office’s own latest figures show that in 2023, a whopping 108,934 cases of car theft went unsolved – equivalent to 298 cases a day. This accounted for a staggering 77% of all car thefts recorded. Meanwhile, just 3% of cases resulted in a suspect being charged or summonsed.

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30 April 2024 – yesterday’s (other) press releases

  • Suspected drug deaths up by 11%
  • Welsh Lib Dems criticise Tata’s “heavy handed” approach to steel workers concerns
  • Cole-Hamilton speaks in abortion safe access zones debate
  • UK Governments Rwanda plans are “cold and callous”- Welsh Lib Dems
  • Blackie: scrap business rates, boost our high streets

Suspected drug deaths up by 11%

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today warned that the country’s drugs crisis continues to “end lives and blight communities”, as new quarterly statistics revealed that suspected drug deaths have increased by 11%.

Figures published today show that between December 2023 and February 2024, the total number of suspected drug deaths was 278, which is 11% higher than the previous quarter in which 267 suspected drug deaths were recorded.

Public Health Scotland also confirmed that: “Based on the latest post-mortem toxicology testing, nitazenes were detected in 38 deaths (from the first detection in June 2022 to 31 December 2023).”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

Scotland’s drug deaths emergency continues to end lives and blight communities.

We are also seeing increasing evidence of nitazenes, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, contributing significantly to that crisis.

I have joined with campaigners in warning that these substances represent a growing part of the drugs death crisis, highlighting that their presence in Scotland will require an immediate response. That’s why I asked Humza Yousaf about nitazenes during First Minister’s Questions in early January.

Despite these emerging threats, the Scottish Government have delivered a brutal real-terms cut to drug services.

Well-meaning words and promises just won’t cut it. As well as delivering radical and transformational action to help all those suffering, I want ministers to protect and strengthen the drug and alcohol budget so that everyone can access care when they need it.

Welsh Lib Dems criticise Tata’s “heavy handed” approach to steel workers concerns

Today in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called out Tata Steel for threatening to withdraw redundancy packages from workers at their Port Talbot site if they decide to go on strike over potential job losses.

The company also rejected plans submitted by the unions which would have kept at least one of the blast furnaces running at the site.

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30 April 2024 – yesterday’s (Federal) press releases

  • Uber Ambulance: Thousands in need of urgent care making their own way to A&E
  • Homelessness figures: Ban no fault evictions before more families made homeless
  • Ed Davey says voters are fed up with “out of touch Conservatives” on visit to Tunbridge Wells
  • First Rwanda flight is “cynical nonsense”

Uber Ambulance: Thousands in need of urgent care making their own way to A&E

  • Patients in need of “very urgent emergency care” making their own way to A&E increased by nearly 40% since 2019
  • The number of elderly patients in need of emergency care going to A&E not in an ambulance has shot up by more than 20%
  • The Liberal Democrats warn Conservative government is creating an “Uber ambulance crisis”

There has been a near 40% increase in the number of patients in need of “very urgent emergency care” making their own way to A&E over the past five years, Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

NHS Trusts were asked for the number of patients who arrived at their A&E departments not in an ambulance, broken down by the urgency and severity of their condition.

504,276 patients classed as Code 2, meaning they were deemed to be in need of “very urgent emergency care”, arrived at A&E not in an ambulance in 2023. This was up 11,500 (2.4%) compared to the previous year, and up 141,000 (38.9%) compared to 2019.

The Liberal Democrats warned the Conservative government is creating an “Uber ambulance crisis” and called on ministers to urgently invest in ambulance services, staffed hospital beds and social care to reduce delays.

The figures also show there has been a particularly sharp rise in elderly patients making their own way to A&E despite needing urgent care. 96,000 patients aged over 65 in need of “very urgent emergency care” made their own way to A&E last year, up 45.4% since 2019.

53 of 140 NHS Trusts responded with complete data meaning the true numbers of patients needing urgent care making their own way to A&E is likely to be far higher.

Some Trusts saw staggering rises in the number of patients arriving in A&E not in an ambulance with very urgent emergency care needs. In York and Scarborough there was a more than eight-fold rise in Code 2 patients coming to A&E not in an ambulance with the figure last year reaching 7,669, up from just 808 in 2019.

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FPTP is worse than you realised

As we approach another election, it’s worth noting just how flawed First Past the Post (FPTP) voting is as a system for electing candidates in single-winner elections. David Cameron saw his career destroyed by not supporting Alternative Vote (AV), and now it appears Rishi Sunak will witness the rise of The Reform Party, potentially increasing the Tories’ losses at the election.

The biggest issue with FPTP isn’t merely that it encourages dishonest voting or that the concept of ‘most votes wins’ seems intuitive. Rather, its main flaw is that it can result in the election of the least popular candidate.

I have previously pointed out that first-past-the-post voting can indeed lead to the election of the least popular candidate. While discussing this in a forum with supporters of electoral reform, I was told, ‘That’s not true.’ It wasn’t that they insisted on this misconception; they simply assumed it couldn’t be the case until it was explained how. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a mathematically provable fact.

Unfortunately, some people, despite favouring other forms of single-winner elections, still view FPTP voting as at least an acceptable method for conducting elections.

In an election, our aim is to identify the most popular candidate, right? There’s an assumption that the FPTP winner is the most popular, while an AV winner might be more of a compromise. This narrative was propagated by the NoToAV campaign in 2011, with insufficient opposition from the Yes campaign.

In reality, the winner under AV is much more likely to be the most popular candidate. While FPTP often does elect the most popular candidate, it can also fail to do so. Although less common, AV can also fall short in this regard; however, it cannot elect the least popular candidate.

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Lib Dem MPs contribute to Commons debate on assisted dying

On Monday, MPs debated a petition, supported by Esther Rantzen, aimed at changing the law to allow assisted dying. Several Lib Dem MPs contributed to the debate, all making points in favour of changing the law.

Here are their contributions in full:

Christine Jardine

I was thinking today about all those evenings when I was allowed to sit with my parents and watch “That’s Life!”, and how I could never have envisaged this moment. With all the successful campaigns in which Dame Esther Rantzen has been involved in her astonishing career, there can surely be none that has touched a nerve with the British public in so widespread a way as this one. Her involvement with this petition, which 555 people signed in my constituency alone, shows me that there is a momentum among the British public: a desire to see a national debate on the subject and for their Parliament to reflect their view, which we see in so many opinion polls nowadays. It is not a party political issue, but for the record my party, which believes in the freedom, dignity and wellbeing of individuals, has long supported the idea of a free vote in Parliament and would welcome a free vote in the next Parliament for us all to make the choice.

I find myself in the strange position where my colleague Liam McArthur is currently steering a private Member’s Bill on this issue through the Scottish Parliament. If he is successful, I would hypothetically have a choice denied to so many other people in this room—a significant choice. Another Bill that is about to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament by a Conservative MSP is about improving palliative care. Liam and Miles Briggs are working together, because the two are not mutually exclusive. We should see it as a choice between assisted dying or palliative care not for us, but for the individuals affected. They should have the choice.

The time has come when we need to recognise that there is momentum; other parts of the UK will make decisions on this shortly. I must be honest with Members and say that I do not know what decision I would make. I saw my parents die very different deaths: my father suddenly from a heart attack when very young, and my mother very slowly of a horrible asbestos-related disease. I do not know what they would have wanted. I do not know what I would want, but I do know that I want everybody to have the choice that they want. The time has come when we should recognise this petition and what it asks us to do, and look at a very narrow form of agreement to assisted dying when someone has a terminal diagnosis and has made that decision at a time when they were mentally capable of doing it, and when a medical intervention is involved. Ultimately, they get to make the last, perhaps most important and most personal decision that they could make.

Sarah Dyke

It is an honour to serve with you in the Chair, Mrs Latham. I thank the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for bringing forward this important debate. I also thank the petitioners, including 645 in Somerton and Frome, and everyone who reached out to me ahead of the debate. Your experiences have touched me deeply, as have the experiences of hon. Members here.

One constituent wrote to me about her son, Jonathan, who died in a hospice at the age of 46. His family told me that the tragedy of his death was made so much worse by the lack of provision for assisted dying. Jonathan’s mother, Denise, gave me a quote that I think sums up today’s debate very well:

“It’s not about ending life, it’s about shortening death”.

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