13-14 July 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

FSB no-deal warning reinforces Tory irresponsibility

Responding to the warning this morning on Sky from the Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for small businesses in the UK, Liberal Democrat Business and Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna MP said:

The uncertainty of Brexit hangs over all businesses in the UK. Small businesses spent millions preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU on the 29th March this year, but they do not have the resources to do so again.

The Conservatives have failed to put the interests of the country ahead of the

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Vince Cable: Why I changed my mind on assisted dying

In the final of our three MPs’ speeches in favour of assisted dying, Vince Cable explains what prompted him to change his mind on the issue.

I thank the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), my right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) and others for giving us the opportunity to debate this subject. Members have spoken movingly and from experience about their views.​

I am someone whose views have radically changed. Until recently I was a vehement opponent of assisted dying, but I have changed my views and think I should explain why. That change is partly based on an understanding of why I was previously opposed to it, which was due to my own personal experiences. Two of those experiences were relevant, and I think they will resonate with many Members of the House.

One experience concerned my elderly mother who descended, as many do, into confusion and dementia, compounded by mental illness and depression. One week she would say, “Please, please end my life. I am a burden. I want to go”, but a few weeks later she would be enjoying the simple pleasures of life. I could see all too clearly that under a permissive system of assisted dying, people like my late mother would be extremely vulnerable.

My conviction at that time that assisted dying was the wrong route was compounded by my experience with my late wife, who contracted breast cancer and had a very long illness. She eventually died at home with good palliative care, surrounded by a loving family. She was vehemently opposed to assisted dying and wanted to live her life to the full. I guess that I took the view that that was her choice but should also be everybody’s choice.

I came to realise, however, that there are very different situations we need to understand. One thing on my conscience is that in my 20 years as an MP, two constituents came to see me to request help and political support for a campaign in the High Court to be allowed to die through assisted dying and, although I expressed sympathy, as one would expect, I declined to support their campaign. I was very wrong to do so. Both suffered from motor neurone disease, and I think many of us know of such cases. One has surfaced today: a man called Richard Selley in Perth, in Scotland, who is fighting for the right to assisted dying. I think we all know the nature of this condition. Although some people live with it, Professor Hawking being a famous example, in most cases it involves the physical degeneration of all bodily functions combined with absolute clarity of mind and very great suffering. It seems to me that we should consider the position of those living with it and similar conditions.

The argument that is deployed against doing so is that hard cases make bad law. That was quite well summarised by Lord Sumption, who gave the Reith lectures a few years ago, when he said assisted dying should be criminalised but that the criminal law should be broken. That is a somewhat strange way of putting it, but essentially what I think he was saying was that we should keep the law but turn a blind eye to exceptions and treat them compassionately.

I have thought about that argument, but it seems to me that the evidence is very strongly against it for a variety of reasons. However sensitive the Director of Public Prosecutions or the police might be—I am sure they are; the 2015 guidance is very humane—the sheer process of going through a criminal investigation and a caution is deeply traumatic, and probably the most difficult period of any person’s life. It is probably also difficult for the police who have to implement it.

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Beatrice Wishart will fight Shetland by-election for the Scottish Lib Dems


The Scottish Liberal Democrats have today announced Cllr Beatrice Wishart has been selected as the parliamentary candidate for Shetland.

I am absolutely delighted at this news. As Alistair Carmichael’s caseworker and as a local councillor, Beatrice knows exactly what she needs to do to improve people’s lives in Shetland. I’ve known her for the better part of 20 years and think she would be a fantastic MSP.

Beatrice is the Depute Convener of Shetland Islands Council,  a trustee of Women’s Aid in Shetland and an active campaigner for the State Pension rights of women born in the 1950s.

Beatrice said:

I am thrilled to be standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Shetland. I’ve lived and worked in Shetland most of my life and I’m keenly aware of the issues that need to be addressed.

Islanders want to see fair funding for our ferries, more NHS services provided at home in Shetland, swift improvements to broadband coverage and all nurseries being given the resources and support they need to increase the amount of childcare available in our communities.

I will be a tireless champion for Shetland. It’s an honour to be given the opportunity to stand to represent my home.

She was endorsed by outgoing MSP Tavish Scott:

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Observations of an ex pat: The special relationship

One of my barometers for the health of the Special Relationship is a weekly broadcast I do for American talk stations. The host is Trumptonian Lockwood Phillips who also happens to be an old schoolmate. I am referred to as the Looney London Liberal by the vast majority of my 500,000 listeners who are staunch Trump supporters. They are just the sort of people I want to reach.

The purpose of the hour-long show is to provide a European assessment of American politics and to analyse events in Europe that should be of interest to American audiences. Normally the discussion between Lockwood and myself is reasonably civilised, although it occasionally slips into the gutter. Not so this week. It went straight to the gutter and stayed there. We were both shouting: “you’re wrong” or “you don’t know what you are talking about”several times, possibly more by me than Lockwood.

The cause of this plunge in civility was Ambassador Kim Darroch’s leaked confidential emails in which he described the Trump Administration as “inept” and “dysfunctional”. Actually the real cause of my anger was President Trump’s reaction in branding Ambassador Darroch as “pompous” and “widely disliked” and said that the White House would refuse to work with him during the six months before the ambassador’s retirement.

I know Kim Darroch. He is not pompous and he is widely liked and respected. So chalk that part of the tweet up as another presidential lie. But more importantly, why can’t the president keep his mouth shut? Why does he feel obligated to respond to every criticism? What drives him to escalate every political conflict into a personal attack?  Why can’t he perform the statesman’s role of taking it on the chin and uttering the words: “No comment?” Or at least avoid personal insults.

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Brecon and Radnorshire – a real test for the Liberal Democrats

I didn’t know when I joined the Liberal Democrats aged 15, that it would change my life dramatically. I’ve lived in Brecon and Radnorshire my whole life, which means I am incredibly lucky to have had at least one Liberal Democrat representative for my life so far. 

However that day in 2015, when we lost Roger Williams as the Member of Parliament was one of the worst days. It was not what he deserved for being a devoted MP for fourteen years. However Liberal-voting to its core, I knew then that Brecon and Radnorshire would be orange once again.

I don’t know about anybody else but, I am certainly so grateful to have been given this opportunity – the opportunity to have another Liberal voice in the House of Commons, fighting to remain in the European Union. This could not have been done without the recall petition and the 10,000+ people in Brecon and Radnorshire that supported it. We’re also very lucky to have a candidate like Jane Dodds, she is unapologetically a Welsh Liberal and will make an excellent MP for the area, something we are desperately in need of.

To top it off, the Liberal Democrats are currently polling at their highest percentage in a long time and the whole country is watching us. The results will be hugely important in showing that the Liberal Democrats are back, a legitimate political force again. A win at this by-election will prove that the fightback is real.

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Biscuits in Brecon….

This weekend, Liberal Democrats have been flocking to help Jane Dodds win Brecon and Radnorshire for the Liberal Democrats.

This time next week, I’ll be there. I am so excited because I have never been out of Cardiff before and I’m so looking forward to seeing more of Wales.

Here are just some of the people who have been helping.

Cambridge PPC Rod Cantrill said:

Great to be back again in Brecon with two car loads of activists from Cambridge door knocking for Jane Dodds on the Brecon Ro(a)d trip!

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s wife Gill may well be annoyed that they decided a long time ago to go to Wales for their Summer holiday. Alex made his second trip today and found two more Lib Dem parliamentarians to play with:

And he revealed that he has some family history in the area.

Amid reports of copious supplies of cake, Lib Dem Friends of Biscuits hit back in style:

And Dominic Buxton gives us a glimpse of how gorgeous it is there:

I don’t see any canvassing going on here…

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Response to Nick Harvey “inside leg” comment shows Party has made some progress

Last Sunday morning, I almost choked on my tea when I read something Nick Harvey had written in an article remembering Paddy Ashdown in the party’s Ad Lib members’ magazine. Nick had included an anecdote that was undeniably sexist. Nobody needed to know about his inside leg measurement at all, let alone who had measured ti. The rest of the article had some lovely memories of the Paddy we all know and love, but this was beyond the pale.

So I wrote Nick an email that, when I read it back later, was much ruder than I intended.

I was not the only one who sent him similar messages.

Even three or four years ago, anyone complaining about that sort of thing would have been basically told that they should grow a sense of humour.

What actually happened is that Nick emailed back a few minutes later very sincerely acknowledging his mistake. The offending anecdote was pretty quickly removed from the online edition of Ad Lib and an apology from Nick put in its place.

This story has now made its way into today’s Times (£).

It is also really encouraging that both leadership candidates gave quotes to the Times which were unequivocal in saying that this shouldn’t have been published and committing to making a more inclusive party.

Jo said:

These comments are totally unacceptable and it is right that Nick has apologised for them. We need to build an inclusive culture in the party to show that we can represent modern Britain, and comments like this make it harder to show we are a welcoming party.

And Ed said that the remarks were inappropriate:

Sir Ed Davey, the other candidate in the race to be party leader, said that the remarks were highly inappropriate. Sexism was a scourge on society that too many women still faced daily, he said, and those in leadership positions had to be held to the “highest standards”.

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Grey areas: Norman Lamb describes the nightmare ordeal of a family over Mum’s death

This weekend we are publishing the speeches of Lib Dem MPs in the recent debate on assisted dying.

Norman Lamb described at length the nightmare a family went through as doctors and police reacted to their terminally ill mother’s attempt at suicide.

It brings home the reality of the issues people face.

Should we really be putting grieving relatives through police interrogations? As Norman says, this family’s experience shows the need for a change in the law.

It was a pleasure to join the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) in applying for this debate. I want to use my time to tell the stories of two constituents. The first is Vonnie Daykin, who has come to Parliament today to hear the debate. She has talked about how she witnessed her uncle and her father die of Parkinson’s and her mother die of motor neurone disease. She says that her mother went through living hell, but ultimately had no choice and was forced to suffer “until the bitter end”.

I also want to spend a little time quoting my constituent, Zoe Marley. Her words deserve to be heard in Parliament, so if I may, I will quote from an email that she sent me. She says:

“In January 2018 my mum Judith Marley was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer…She had nursed her own mother with cancer and had seen numerous ‘bad’ deaths. From the outset, she announced that she would not let the cancer do its worst, but would formulate a plan to escape the terror. No matter how marvellous the palliative care, she didn’t want it.”

That is her right, incidentally.

“She was a very private person; her death should have been a private affair instead of the circus that it became. On a warm July afternoon in 2018, she took a framed picture of her mum, a bottle of Drambuie and approximately 70 sleeping pills into the garden and in this most cherished place, she proceeded to attempt to take her life.”

After some considerable time, her daughter found her there; she had not died and then started to come round. Zoe was then placed into an impossibly invidious position, not knowing whether to call an ambulance. Her mother had already given her lasting power of attorney and did not want resuscitation—her legal right. Ultimately, however, because of the impossible situation that her daughter was in, she had to call an ambulance. Zoe says:

“Her wishes to stay at home and not be admitted to hospital were my priority as her LPA. But was I technically assisting her suicide? My lack of action could be considered supporting a suicide. I was terrified of the consequences of my inactivity. We waited but no change, the day was cooling down and I wanted her to be comfortable.”

In the end, an ambulance was called, and a doctor also attended.

Zoe writes:

“The doctor was unsympathetic. He said he had spoken to an on-call psychiatrist and that he was within his rights to call the police so they could take her to hospital. He was threatening and arrogant, telling me if Mum died there would be a police investigation and she would have a full autopsy. It all made me sick to my stomach. All this time my beautiful Mum laid outside while my ​daughter held her hand. I had somehow found myself embroiled with a medical team that had no understanding of how to interpret the law. The doctor called the police and three officers arrived. I have never had the police come to my door. It was demeaning and frightening. Once again I showed them my Mum’s paperwork and begged them to bring her inside. They seemed unsure of what to do, the expression ‘grey area’ was used a lot.”

To answer the point of the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), grey areas cause enormous distress, as in this case. Zoe continues:

“After much confusion they insisted they take Mum to hospital. I was now indignant and focused on what Mum wanted. I made it very clear I would obstruct them. I felt everyone was ‘trying to cover their backs’ which meant disregarding my Mum’s wishes.

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12 July 2019 – today’s press release

Pro-Trump PM could damage relations with Iran

Commenting on the escalating situation in the Gulf, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone MP said:

We must not allow the next Prime Minister to blindly follow Trump into a volatile anti-Iranian coalition.

It has become increasingly clear that Boris Johnson’s plans for a “global Britain” are just for the UK to be the lapdog of the US.

The EU have been principled and clear in standing firm on the Iranian nuclear deal, which Trump so petulantly tore up. Liberal Democrats will continue to urge the Conservative government, regardless of who the next PM is,

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Ed and Jo talk to the Electoral Reform Society

The Electoral Reform Society has been talking to both our leadership candidates about their plans for constitutional and political reform.

We are delighted to publish their interviews with their permission.

Here’s Ed’s

The transcript is available here. 

And Jo’s

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Christine Jardine: MPs have a free vote on assisted dying. We should not deny choice to those who deserve it

Last week the Commons debated assisted dying. In a moving debate, MPs outlined some heartbreaking situations. Three of our MPs, Norman Lamb, Christine Jardine and Vince Cable, spoke. We’ll be publishing their speeches this weekend.

Christine Jardine outlined one particular irony: MPs have a choice that they don’t extend to those who are in the situation where they need it.

This is undoubtedly a hugely emotive and controversial subject, but I thank the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and my right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) for giving us the opportunity to discuss it. I am convinced that I have not just a right, but a duty to work for changes in the law that will make it possible for people to have the individual right to choose their own time and manner of death. I am talking about people who, otherwise, will face a situation that will soon be very painful and that will also cause a great deal of stress to their family members. I have been lucky: I have not had to go through the sort of experience that we have heard about from other Members of the House.

Two years ago, I had a conversation with my husband about a friend who, we had just heard, had been given a terminal diagnosis. It was January. We said, “This year will be difficult. Christmas will be difficult. We will have to think about how to deal with it, but it will not be easy for him or for his family.” The irony of that conversation has never left me, because neither my husband nor the friend actually lived until Christmas, but the difference was that my husband died very suddenly. Our friend went through a long, painful, lingering death. If there had been a way that he could have been spared that, I would have wanted him to be offered that choice. There is also an irony in the fact that had I had the choice for my husband, I would have chosen the death that he had, rather than the one that our friend had.

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Reprise: Managing staff – a chance to show liberalism in action

Editor’s Note: Two reports published this week highlight bullying and harassment of staff in both Houses of Parliament. There are some horrific stories. Gemma White QC described the situation in the Commons. Naomi Ellenbogen QC did the same for the Lords. . There are some serious issues with the culture in Parliament.

This seems like a good moment to rerun an article written by Edinburgh Lib Dem member Stephen Harte who makes some suggestions about how we as a party can make sure we live our values in the way that we treat our staff. 

There has been much in the news about MPs and, in Scotland, MSPs behaving inappropriately towards staff – whether this be bullying or inappropriate sexualised behaviour. Many of the current examples relate to other parties but most of us will be aware that we too have had our problems and can be no more complacent than any other party. For example, I can think of one former Parliamentarian (who, to this day, I greatly admire) who, when stressed, could shout at staff in ways that fell far short of good HR practice. There are many other stories within our party of much worse behaviour from other Lib Dems towards staff and volunteers. This is simply not good enough.

This all makes me wonder if every Lib Dem who employs or engages with staff (whether at a party level, directly as their own staff or as staff of the body on which they serve) or manages volunteers should undertake a training course on how to manage staff in accordance with the law, good HR practice and, importantly, our liberal values.

The late, great Maya Angelou told us “When people show you who they are, believe them.” What we do is a showcase for what we believe liberalism looks like in practice. While no one is perfect and we all have times when we fail to live up to our ideals, how we behave shows people what we truly believe.

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Amazing Lib Dem GAIN in Bridlington

News to make you smile a lot! Incredible Lib Dem gain in Bridlington North tonight.

Lib Dem Mike Heslop-Mullens 1308

Cons 815

Yorkshire Party 349

Ind 259

UKIP 196

Lab 135

 

Change from 2 May

Lib Dem +43%

Cons -44%

Lab -25%

This is an incredible result in an area that voted very strongly to leave the EU.

Hearty congratulations to Mike and the East Riding team.

There was a bit of a Lib Dem surge in the only other council by-election, too.

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11 July 2019 – today’s press release

Lib Dems: Appoint more female and BAME judges

The Liberal Democrats have called for clear “targets with teeth” for improving judicial diversity, as new figures show that just 7% of court judges are BAME and 32% are women.

The statistics, published today by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Senior President of Tribunals, show that:

Of the 39 Court of Appeal judges, only 9 (23%) are women and just 2 (6%) are BAME.
Of the 97 High Court judges, only 26 (27%) are women and just 3 (3%) are BAME.
Of all 3,210 court judges, only 1,013 (32%) are …

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Our #BollocksToHate campaign is for everyone

One question we have to address as a party, locally and nationally, is how to allow grassroots energy to contribute to coherent and effective campaigns.

Energised by the EU election result, the Islington LibDems are in top form. We did extremely well last May and there is a palpable sense of optimism and determination in the borough. Local activists led by chair Pierre Delarue and deputy chair Katherine Pollard have been holding lots of events, drinks, brainstorms and sessions to discuss next steps. How do we harness this power and start to get on a general election footing?

One of their first ideas was to do something about a series of pernicious stickers that had started to pop up around the borough, North and South, promoting racism and Hate. We spotted them and decided to print up some stickers to stick over them, with the simple message Bollocks to Hate. To be honest they looked very strong…and they covered over the vicious messages others had put there.

It sparked an idea. Why don’t we do an Islington values campaign on Hate…and Pride 2019 would be a perfect place to launch it.

We felt we needed buy-in from HQ, and we got Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter on board. They loved the idea and got very enthused over tea at the House of Lords. We showed them some sample graphics and they said go for it. Then we met with LibDem Creatives Charles Brand who advised us on the right imprint for the materials and crucially that we should ask everyone who appeared in the photos to sign consent release forms, giving us permission to use their photos in our campaign online. Lib Dem deputy CEO Emma Cherniavsky gave us her blessing and advised we focus it as an Islington campaign, and if it worked, HQ would consider taking it wider. She agreed this is a values campaign.

As this was Pride weekend in London, we decided in the first instance to focus on LGBTQ+ rights even though Hate and hate crimes are much wider than this. More of that later.

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Lord Roberts is fighting to protect child asylum seekers

On Tuesday, the Lord Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, asked the following question in the House of Lords:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Project 17’s report Not Seen, Not Heard: Children’s experiences of the hostile environment.

Liberal Democrat Lord Roger Roberts responded with a speech fully in support of protecting children seeking asylum in this country, extracts of which are here:

I want a world fit for children to live in, a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in all parts. We talk of so many people who, because of various circumstances, do not receive this care. This could be because of famine, disease, conflict, poverty and so much else. I think the UN’s latest figure was that about 66 million people are in some sort of statelessness. There are nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe alone. I would love to say that we can resolve all these problems and help every child, but we do not have a magic wand. However, we do have the ability to remove many obstacles and transform the world of thousands of children.

On a worldwide scale, in the last two months, the conflict in Syria has led to 544 deaths, 100 of which were children. In the same area, unregistered migrants in Turkey have been rounded up and many have been returned to areas where death is a great possibility. On the other side of the Atlantic, on the Mexico-United States border, we have pictures of a little girl drowning in her father’s arms and we read of the President’s intention to round up unregistered immigrants.

But would the UK treat its asylum seekers any better? If we distance ourselves from Europe and co-operation with European countries, will things be better? If we give up our co-operation with countries such as Italy, Greece and France, will conditions improve? Will the kids have a better life? How will Brexit improve the condition of unaccompanied children in Europe? How will Brexit affect the work of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, and their pan-European activity to help refugees? There are many other organisations which deserve the most wonderful praise for all the work they are doing. They know no borders, but the UK is now guilty, with the whole attitude of the hostile environment, of digging ditches instead of building bridges. We are doing something that in itself will cause children to suffer.

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The unstoppable Rise and Fall of “Tony” or “Pony” Johnson

Will the Dutch Mark Rutte stay on being the only European Prime Minister who, sitting alongside President Trump during an official White House visit, dared to loudly and unambiguously contradict The Infallible Donald, and on US-EU trade relations no less? The Women’s Football World Championship showed that resisting (longer than others) an American onslaught is a Dutch speciality, but we would like some allies.

The British political reactions to the affair of the ambassadors leaked email comments about the Trump White House showed outsider Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt standing up for the ambassador sending his candid “long telegrams” just as George Kennan did in 1946, while Boris Johnson continued appeasing Trumps tender ego, the ITV debate being the clearest demonstration (see the Guardian and the BBC). Boris even almost-supported Trump disqualifying a British prime minister. Hopefully the discrete Mr. Johnson will do the same when he is PM; Trump spares no ally whatsoever when doing his early morning twitter fusillades.

If that doesn’t remind the British electorate of Tony Blair playing the “Iraq poodle” to president Bush junior (with foreign minister John Bolton pushing the WMD myth), the fact that Boris & Raab like Charles I and Buckingham still see proroguing Parliament as a normal way to push through European policies, should reinforce that analogy. In his Guardian interview about creating an “Boothroyd parallel parliament”, Rory “Realist Tory” Stewart reminds us that when Blair wanted to evade a vote on starting the disastrous Iraq War by prorogation, MP’s threatened to reconvene in Church House to demonstrate their opinion that a “War Powers vote” (my term) was obligatory.

The only difference between the Blair-Bush and Johnson-Trump relationship is that Boris, in his liberal mayorial affectation in 2015/6, was more forceful in disqualifying presidential candidate Trump, than Blair ever was about Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Boris will absolutely hate being identified as a second Blair (wanting to put the UK “at the heart of Europe”, after defending the 1983 eurosceptic Labour platform); all the more reason to start calling him “Tony Johnson”.

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Government under increasing pressure to fund social care

This blog is a week late – but I’ve been busy! I wanted to highlight the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee report published July 4th. This cross-party group of Peers calls for an immediate investment of £8 billion pounds into our care services “to restore social care to acceptable standards”.

North Devon, as many areas of the country, has an ageing population. Many move here to retire, and then as they enter their twilight years increasingly rely on stretched care services. I have been meeting with care providers and care users – there is a lot that needs improving in North Devon and it comes down to funding. £8 billion more for our care services nationally would make a real difference in North Devon.

In England, over a million vulnerable older people do not have proper care support. However, in Scotland, where health and social services are a devolved matter, care is free for the over 65s.

Many family and friends in England have caring responsibilities as their loved one does not meet the criteria for social care. This is wrong. The report highlights that most unpaid carers are women. 63% of women who care are aged between 50-64 and care for at least 50 hours a week. Our society is being propped up by the unpaid work of millions of carers.

I welcome another recommendation of the report, notably that a further £7 billion a year should be spent to extend free personal care to all by 2025. This would include help with cooking, washing and dressing. We need an integrated health and care system, with care paid for out of taxes. Any of us could need care at any time – this should not be a lottery where some get good care and others not.

Key findings are here, and include that the lack of funding means “local authorities are paying care providers a far lower rate for local authority-funded care recipients than self-funded care recipients, and those care providers with a high proportion of local authority-funded care recipients are struggling to survive.” North Devon in a nutshell.

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10 July 2019 – today’s press releases

Tories must follow Welsh govt in gender neutral school uniforms move

Welcoming the decision by the Welsh government to make school uniforms accessible and gender neutral, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

It is great news that children in Wales will be able to wear affordable, gender neutral school uniforms. I am proud of the role my colleague Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams has played in securing this progressive change.

The Conservative government must now take this step into the twenty-first century. Dictating what children wear because of their gender is outdated and harmful.

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Making a difference – the first Mental Health First Aid Impact Report

I blogged several years ago about my experience of training as a Mental Health First Aider. Since then, I’ve lobbied and worked to bring equal parity of esteem to mental and physical first aid.

So I was keen to read the first Impact Report from Mental Health First Aid England: does MHFA really work?

The statistics which open the report remain shocking. An average of fifteen people per day took their own life in 2017. The approximate cost per year of mental ill-health in England is £105 billion. And that does not include the personal cost of lives changed and relationships altered forever.

Over 140,000 people were trained in Mental Health First Aid in 2018/19. That is from the beginnings of training 9,000 in 2009. To date, over 400,000 people have had mental health first aid training. This includes the full course as well as the bespoke Armed Forces course; the course for those working in Higher Education; and the course for those working with young people.

Many employers now use Mental Health First Aid in training line-managers and promoting well-being in the workplace. The evidence shows that 72 million working days are lost each year due to mental ill-health. Several testimonials in the Impact Report give strength to the argument that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Alan Millbrow of Three UK says,

Mental Health First Aid is an essential part of our well-being strategy…..It has had an immediate positive impact on our people….We are keen to continue to break down barriers.

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Autumn Conference FCC Report

It’s that time of year again, when school children eagerly await the summer holidays, co-workers complain about hayfever… and Federal Conference Committee meets to select the topics for debate at Autumn Conference. (What, you’ve not registered yet?! Head over to the conference page to register now and join us in Bournemouth!)

As well as setting out the agenda for this Autumn, we also discussed future venues for Spring 2020 and beyond. We know many of you are eager to book travel and accommodation as soon as possible but this is the one area where the committee observes strict secrecy until an official announcement can be made – when it has leaked out before we have found commercial companies block-booking accommodation in advance, putting the prices up for ordinary members. Staff are in the process of finalising arrangements to ensure favourable rates and the venues will be announced as soon as this is completed.

Returning to this Autumn, regular readers will be familiar with the process by now. In the first round, FCC considers the timeliness, accuracy, quality of drafting, overlap with other motions and so on to decide which motions can be debated. In the second and any subsequent rounds, timings are allocated to motions and motions culled in order to fit into the limited debating time available. Over the last couple of years, we have had more pressure on debating time as the 2017 General Election disrupted the Federal Policy Committee’s schedule for policy papers. We are now roughly back on track, which has left a little more time for member and local party motions. The selection process is name-blind, which means that the detail below on who submitted a motion was not available to committee members until after sections have been completed.

The full text of motions will be available once the agenda has been typeset for publication. If you are thinking of submitting an amendment or emergency motion to autumn conference, the deadline is 1pm on the 2nd of September – but please do consider making use of the drafting advice service, as many motions and amendments fall purely to to problems with how they are structured. The deadline for that is the 20th August.

Business and the Economy

Brexit Bonus (Bexhill and Battle) – not selected
Bringing Prosperity to the Regions (North West Region) – not selected
Business Tax Reform: Fair for business and fair for society (12 Party Members) – selected for debate
Corporate tax avoidance (Oldham) – received after deadline
More Sustainable and Responsible Business (13 Party Members) – not selected
Well Being First (30 Party Members) – not selected

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 29 Comments

Radical doesn’t have to be big

I am of the firm belief that we as a party must be radical– this is because we have to fight twice as hard, to get half as much press as the Conservatives and Labour. A great example of this was Layla Moran’s pledge to scrap SATs and OFSTED in 2018 which received very little press compared to Labour’s pledge to scrap SATs over a year later in 2019.

But radical doesn’t necessarily mean big, expensive and time-consuming: little policies can have a huge impact. Obviously, there are some major radical policies that we should explore and implement when the Lib Dems are back in power – regional government, electoral reform, overhauling the public sector – but these are not the only radical policies we should pursue. Quite often wonderful, efficient and successful radical proposals can be found at the local level.

A great example of these sorts of policies is municipal Wi-Fi networks in city and town centres, as they can give ailing high streets a new lease of life. There is a reason why many shops offer free Wi-Fi to shoppers, to attract and bring them in; and, in theory, the principal could be translated to town centres. The more time people spend on the high street, typically the more that they end up spending, helping the local economy. These networks can be integrated into existing infrastructure, and working in partnership with companies and organisations, can make these projects cost-neutral or even profitable. These networks have already been set up in 13 UK cities, such as Edinburgh and Bristol, and there is no reason why these couldn’t be rolled out further as part of a local – or even a national – initiative to get Britain connected and breathe life into our high streets and town centres.

Posted in News | 11 Comments

10 July 2019 – the overnight press releases

Lib Dems: Govt squandering progress on climate change

Responding to the Climate Change Committee’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament – detailing how the UK Government is “lagging far behind, what is needed” to meet the old climate change targets, let alone the new net-zero emissions target for 2050 – Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This report shows that this Conservative Government is all talk and no action when it comes to climate change. They’re off-track, but instead of reversing their most damaging decisions such as effectively banning on-shore wind, slashing subsidies to solar power and scrapping the zero-carbon

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9 July 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Labour are still a party of Brexit
  • Prisons inspector reveals Tory neglect
  • Northern Ireland votes mark historic step towards equality
  • Cable: We must continue the fight to stop no deal

Labour are still a party of Brexit

Responding to the reports that Jeremy Corbyn has finally agreed that the next PM must put their Brexit deal or a no deal exit to a People’s Vote, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Labour are still a party of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn can pretend all he likes that the Labour Party are finally moving towards backing the Liberal Democrat policy of a People’s Vote, but it is clear

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Ed Davey goes to Brecon to campaign for Jane Dodds

It was Ed Davey’s turn to head for Brecon and Radnorshire today.

He met Jane Dodds in what looks like a gorgeous town, Crickhowell.

And he visited a zero waste shop:

And encouraged us all to do the same:

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What I’d change about the coalition

Since 2010, I’ve been very loyal to the Liberal Democrats.

There were many things I disliked during the Coalition, but I kept silent for fear of feeding the ridiculous exaggerated attacks on our party. Deficit reduction was hard, but in the lifetime of the Coalition, the amount cut was similar to Labour’s 2010 plans.

After the Coalition, my party was in a dire state, so for the same reason, I kept quiet about my concerns.

Only now the party is surging in the opinion polls do I feel free to say what I wish we’d done in Coalition. This article is to encourage those who are thinking about joining the party but are worried about what happened between 2010 and 2015, that they will have friends in the party. I also want to reassure new members that it’s okay to disagree with party policy, as long as you agree with the broad principles laid out in the preamble of the party’s constitution.

Below are three of my concerns about the Coalition.

(1) The decision to raise the income tax threshold. It was expensive; for the low paid, much of the benefit was clawed back with reduced benefits; and without it, we could have cut a little less severely. The suggestion of the IFS, to increase the amount the low paid could earn without losing their means-tested benefits, would have been far better targeted at helping low-income families.

(2) The bedroom tax. On paper, it sounded sensible. The idea of reallocating large family houses from those who didn’t need them to those who did wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. But local councils weren’t required to provide suitable alternative accommodation. I’m glad that, in 2014, we changed our position.

(3) Local government cuts. These were far too deep. It’s a natural instinct for a central government that wants to cut expenditure to foist a disproportionate burden onto local government. I wish we had vetoed this.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that I have any sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn when he rails against the Coalition. We held the Tories back on some truly savage cuts. Cuts which were quickly introduced when the Tories won a majority in 2015.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 129 Comments

Being “tolerated’ is not enough

So, this past weekend I was reminded that there are still spaces where you’re vulnerable as an LGBT+ person and there are still people who believe that to be a gay man as I am, indeed to be any member of the Queer community, makes you somehow ‘wrong,’ somehow ‘broken,’ somehow not ‘normal.’This past weekend I was on a panel debating people who, because of their interpretation of their religion’s code, cannot ever accept, affirm and celebrate me for who I am and who I love.

I got told that I was to be ‘tolerated.’

I don’t wish to be ‘tolerated.’

‘Tolerated’ means that you’re not accepted or wanted, but people will put up with you if they have to.

I challenged these views robustly. ..and other tropes which I won’t repeat here, because of how offensive they are…but it reminded me that being publicly LGBT+, especially as an activist, can leave you in a very vulnerable position.

Now, other people at the event couldn’t have been more supportive, more gracious, more accepting.

I’m not sorry I took part.

Because if there’s no one there to challenge prejudiced views, how are they ever overcome?

But, I did come home and have a bit of a weep.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

9 July 2019 – the overnight press releases

Teachers agree – it’s time to scrap SATs

Responding to today’s indicative ballot by the National Education Union, revealing that 97% of primary school teachers want to replace Key Stage 2 SATs, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

Today’s ballot shows that teachers have had enough with SATs. They want to deliver a high-quality education, rather than be put under the unnecessary pressure of a high-stakes testing regime that offers no benefit for their class.

The pressure on headteachers and teachers to perform well cascades down the school to pupils. Teachers put on revision classes, booster sessions

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8 July 2019 – at the end of the day, it’s the end of the day…

Well, thank you for your company today, and for your comments. Also, thanks to my colleagues, Paul and Caron, for filling some of the gaps.

The noble Lord Greaves has noted that, whilst not much has been happening, we did miss an interesting debate in the Lords on 27 June, proposed by Barbara Janke, on the impact of recent benefit changes on vulnerable people. We (and by that, I mean “I”) have rather lost the habit of reporting on the Lords. Perhaps I need to get back into the swing of that, as nobody else seems to be keen on doing …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

8 July 2019 – today’s press releases

Two today, with two more embargoed until after midnight (we’ll publish them in the morning)…

Labour heads towards another Brexit fudge

Responding to the latest potential shift in Labour Brexit policy, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

The unions seem to have moved to a position to support Liberal Democrat policy to stop a Tory Brexit. However, a Labour Brexit would be no better. Labour must rule out their Brexit-supporting leader negotiating their own Brexit deal.

Liberal Democrats have been clear for three years on our policy for Brexit. We will keep fighting to stop Brexit.

Even now, after millions of remainers have deserted

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Martin 22nd Jul - 5:15pm
    @ Joe B, Anyone saving their money will end up saving it with Govt in one way or another. I could buy some shares but...
  • User Avatarfrankie 22nd Jul - 4:58pm
    The major policy that will help poverty is building affordable social housing. It would drive down rents and housing costs. The problem is it faces...
  • User AvatarRussell L Simpson 22nd Jul - 4:58pm
    Brilliant speech. Congrats Jo. And thanks Ed
  • User Avatartheakes 22nd Jul - 4:55pm
    Brilliant, what a speech. Who wrote it , credit where credit is due. Now for Gloucester on Thursday & Brecon next week. I noticed last...
  • User Avatarfrankie 22nd Jul - 4:48pm
    Enjoy the day, the hard work starts tomorrow. O remember nice seldom wins and it won't win against this set of delusionists.
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 22nd Jul - 4:48pm
    Stunning acceptance speech - simply stunning. Listen in full if you haven't had the chance to hear it live.
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