Bath & North East Somerset adopts net zero housing policy

Liberal Democrat controlled Bath and North East Somerset Council has become the first council in England to adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy as part of its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

The new housing development policy will ensure the energy use of any proposed development is measured and meets a specified target — setting a limit on the total energy use and demand for space heating. It will also require sufficient on-site renewable energy generation to match the total energy consumption of the buildings — ensuring the development is 100% self-sufficient.

New policies will also address building emissions such as a policy to limit carbon emissions resulting from the materials used in the construction of large-scale developments. These ‘upfront’ embodied carbon emissions will be limited to 900kg CO2 e/m2.

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The Real Problem with Constitutional Reform

Despite being a Labour MP, House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is opposed to Labour’s plan to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber. His view is that it would undermine the authority of the House of Commons. This has always been the problem with attempts to reform the Upper House. Change it into something democratic and accountable, and you are bound to ask why it doesn’t have more power. Leave it as a Ruritanian collection of robed elders, and you can defend putting limits on what it can do. For Hoyle it has a part in ‘tidying up bills.’ Like the cleaners, it plays a useful role that should not be criticised.

This will not do, but Labour’s plans for reform (so far lacking detail) may not do either. The trouble is their view of devolution, which has been focused on giving power away rather than sharing it. Yes, giving power away may be necessary to avoid too much centralisation. But often the most important thing is to allow authorities outside Westminster to participate in joint decision-making.

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25 January 2023 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Zahawi: Raab must bring in law to stop baseless legal threats
  • Sunak holding “Hideaway Day” at Chequers with scandal-hit Cabinet
  • New sewage target passed in Parliament which allows 15 more years of harmful waste in rivers
  • Conservative MPs vote to cover up the truth about golden visas

Zahawi: Raab must bring in law to stop baseless legal threats

The Liberal Democrats have written to Dominic Raab, calling on him to “urgently” bring in a new law to stop journalists and campaigners being silenced through legal threats.

It comes following numerous reports that Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi used the threat of legal action against campaigners and journalists who raised questions about his tax affairs.

The government has previously promised new legislation to tackle the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). Last year in response to a consultation on the issue, Dominic Raab warned these sorts of legal threats can have a “chilling effect” and “stifle legitimate reporting and debate,” with “media and others intimidated into abandoning critical stories in the face of crippling legal costs.”

Raab also previously said that “it is wrong that unscrupulous individuals and corporations are able to exploit our laws and our courts in this jurisdiction with claims designed to muzzle respected journalists, academics and campaigners.”

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to bring in new anti-SLAPP laws as quickly as possible, and to clarify if they would prevent Cabinet Ministers such as Nadhim Zahawi from behaving in the way which has been alleged.

The party is also calling for the current investigation by the ethics adviser to look into the use of legal threats by Nadhim Zahawi.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said:

Dominic Raab has rightly warned about the chilling effect that the threat of legal action can have on media scrutiny and exposing corruption. It’s now time to put his money where his mouth is by finally bringing forward tough new laws to tackle these baseless legal threats.

It is particularly worrying that Nadhim Zahawi reportedly used the threat of legal action against those raising questions about his tax affairs. We need to know whether the new rules the government is proposing in this area will tackle such behaviour by Cabinet Ministers in future.

The current inquiry into Zahawi by the ethics adviser must also look into this issue, and whether legal threats were used in an attempt to cover up the truth. It can’t be one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else.

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25 January 2023 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • Zahawi: What more will it take for Sunak to do the right thing
  • Govt lags behind key 20,000 police officer pledge by over 3,400
  • Powys Patients Waits in English Hospitals Raised in the Senedd
  • Wagner Group: Rishi Sunak must order an immediate inquiry

Zahawi: What more will it take for Sunak to do the right thing

Responding to the growing calls for Rishi Sunak to suspend Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party Chairman, including among his own party, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said:

Every day that Nadhim Zahawi clings on does more damage to Rishi Sunak’s credibility.

The Conservative Party is stuck in an endless cycle of sleaze and chaos, while the country suffers from a cost of living and NHS crisis.

What more will it take for Sunak to finally do the right thing and sack Zahawi, or at least suspend him for the duration of this investigation?

He promised his government would have integrity and accountability, but instead once again it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else.

Govt lags behind key 20,000 police officer pledge by over 3,400

New Police uplift statistics from the Home Office have revealed that the Government would need to double its police recruitment efforts in the next three months to meet its 20,000 targets as it lags behind by 3,427.

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservatives for being on track to break their key 2019 manifesto promise to recruit 20,000 new police officers by the end of March 2023.

The Government’s flagship crime policy lags behind the total by 3,427 – with only 3 months left to go.

Analysis from the Liberal Democrats shows to meet the target of 20,000 by March 2023, the Government would have to hire 130% more officers each month, up from 494 extra officers a month over the last six months to 1,142.

The most recent statistics reveal that 17 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales have failed to recruit a single new officer in the last 2 months.

Responding, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

The Conservatives are too busy dealing with sleaze and scandal to properly tackle crime festering in our communities. They are letting down people across the country with their failure to recruit police officers and tackle crime.

Victims right across the country will be left without confidence in this Government and it’s all because of these broken promises and failures.

Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing where people feel safer in their areas and the Government is focused on cutting crime instead of squabbling in Downing Street.

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The other crisis: Civil and human rights under attack

Canvassing in South London, I am often asked by residents what Liberal Democrats stand for today. After all, they say, Brexit is no longer a battlefield (although for many it still is), and most of today’s pressing issues are claimed by other opposition parties. Who are we and what do we want to do that is not just anti-Tory? What is our offer, our ‘USP’ to voters that no other political party will prioritise? And why is our message relevant, perhaps more relevant than ever, in today’s world?

Maybe the answer can be found in the history of liberalism: from the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights – defending (religious) freedom against state transgression – to more contemporary ideas – claiming freedom to be and do whatever doesn’t harm others. So here is what I say on the doorstep:

We stand up for your rights.

The right to speak up if things go wrong. The right to breathe clean air. The right to claim asylum if you flee persecution or conflict. The right to be consulted about things that affect you. The right to access information and education. The right to have a decent home regardless of your income. The right to be judged on merit alone. The right to be who you want to be, live how you want to live and love whom you want to love, and the duty to respect others’ rights to do the same.

Have you tried saying this on the doorstep? It is pretty much guaranteed to raise questions about the current state of these rights.

This is exactly the debate we need and Liberal Democrats need to lead.

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24 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Borrowing Figures: The Govt have no economic competence left
  • Stockport becomes first council to launch a sewage inquiry amid public outrage
  • Mark Drakeford Challenged on Abysmal Ambulance Waiting Times

Borrowing Figures: The Govt have no economic competence left

Responding to the latest borrowing figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

A toxic combination of Conservative incompetence and reckless decision making at the top of Government have blown a hole in the country’s finances, and now ministers are making British families pay for it.

A long-list of Conservative Chancellors have hiked taxes, added hundreds of pounds a month to mortgages and left the country with unnecessarily high borrowing costs. The British public will never trust the Conservative party again with the economy. This Conservative Government doesn’t have a shred of economic competence left after months of chaos.

Stockport becomes first council to launch a sewage inquiry amid public outrage

  • Water company hauled in front of public meeting to defend thousands of hours worth of sewage discharges into rivers
  • The Environment Agency confirms in written evidence that water quality is “poor” and the Water Industry “is responsible”
  • Chair of the new inquiry Cllr Smart slams “a national scandal which pollutes our rivers and puts animals lives at risk”

Liberal Democrat run Stockport Council has become the first council in the country to launch an official Sewage Inquiry.

There is widespread outrage across Stockport after United Utilities dumped sewage into the river Mersey a staggering 977 times last year, lasting 3,271 hours. Across Stockport, the water firm discharged 13,372 hours of sewage discharges into local rivers.

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Tributes paid to Paul Hannon, former LibDem leader of Newbury District Council

Over on newburytoday.co.uk, there is a fine obituary of Paul Hannon, former LibDem leader of Newbury District Council.

The piece includes this tribute to Paul from Lord Benyon, former MP for Newbury:

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Do you want to work for the Liberal Democrats?

Photo by Jon Ball Photo by Jon BallThere’s a special page on the party website which lists “all of the open work and volunteering opportunities with the Liberal Democrats”.

Current opportunities are include the role of Federal HR adviser (part time), a host of paid opportunities with constituency parties such as Campaign Officer with Twickenham and Richmond, to help re-elect Sarah Olney MP.

There are a swathe of volunteer roles that need filling including for Disciplinary sub-group members, volunteers to phone local party officers and Campaign for Gender Balance chairs and vice-chairs.

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Forgotten Liberal Heroes: Sir Edward Grey and Richard Haldane

The Liberal governments of Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H.H. Asquith, from 1905 to 1916, included many ‘big beasts’. Sir Edward Grey served as Foreign Secretary 1905–16 and remains the longest-serving holder of the office. He maintained good relations with France and Russia at a time of great instability in Europe. When his efforts to avert conflict failed, in 1914, Grey persuaded a divided cabinet to support Britain’s entry to the First World War.

Richard Haldane was Secretary for War 1905–12 and created the Territorial Army and the British Expeditionary Force. As Lord Chancellor after 1912 he pursued a series of judicial reforms. He was also a co-founder of the UK university system.

Both have a credible case for being regarded as Liberal heroes. But Grey’s record has been strongly criticised in recent years and Haldane is largely forgotten.

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Borrowing figures: The Government have no economic competence left


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The Office for National Statistics has announced that “Public sector borrowing in December 2022 was £27.4 billion, the highest December figure since monthly records began in January 1993”.

Responding to the new, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

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Lib Dem analysis shows 350,000 patients waiting over 12 hours for a hospital bed in 2022


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A record 350,000 patients, equivalent to the population of Leicester, waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E in 2022.

The figures were uncovered in new analysis by the Liberal Democrats showing a staggering rise in 12 hour delays at A&E since 2015.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has set out an NHS rescue plan to reduce the shocking A&E delays which he warned are “needlessly costing lives”. This includes recruiting 8,000 more GPs, giving pharmacists more powers to prescribe medicines and boosting funding to get eligible patients out of hospital and into social care. The proposals would mean fewer desperate people turning to A&E after struggling to get a GP appointment.

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23 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Strip Boris of ex-PM £115k allowance until he comes clean
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats Respond to Building Safety Announcement

Boris Johnson should be stripped of the ex-PM allowance of up to £115,000 a year until he answers questions about his financial arrangements while he was Prime Minister, the Lib Dems have said.

This comes further to successive reports regarding ‘credit facilities’ which Johnson secured while he was in Downing Street, reportedly facilitated by Richard Sharp who was subsequently appointed as BBC Chair.

The Lib Dems have warned that until Johnson comes clean about these facilities, whether there was any conflict of interest with the …

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20-22 January 2023 – the weekend’s press releases (part 2)

  • Zahawi: There must be an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this
  • Cleverly: Dog ate my homework type excuses simply won’t wash with the public
  • Boris loan: He must come to Parliament to explain his murky finances
  • Jane Dodds Responds to Cancelation of Young People’s Village at the Royal Welsh Show

Zahawi: There must be an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this

Responding to the latest statement from Nadhim Zahawi on his tax affairs, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said:

Zahawi and his Conservative Cabinet colleagues are arrogantly trying to brush this under the carpet.

There are facts that still

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20-22 January 2023 – the weekend’s press releases (part 1)

  • Sunak fine: From partygate to seatbelt gate, Conservative politicians are taking British people for fools
  • Research reveals squeezed middle facing biggest income tax hit in a decade
  • Alarm as Number of Homeless Children in Wales Rises by 59%

Sunak fine: From partygate to seatbelt gate, Conservative politicians are taking British people for fools

Responding to the news that Rishi Sunak has been given a Fixed Penalty Notice for not wearing his seatbelt during a Lancashire visit, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

Rishi Sunak has shown the same disregard for the rules as Boris Johnson, and now becomes the second ever Prime Minister to be fined by the police.

From partygate to seatbelt gate, these Conservative politicians are just taking the British people for fools.

Whilst they continue to behave as though it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else, this fine is a reminder that the Conservatives eventually get their comeuppance.

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Tanks to Ukraine

Like many living in Germany, the Federal Government’s hesitancy in supplying weapons to Ukraine is not only puzzling to me, but frankly massively embarrassing. German profited massively from the Peace Dividend at the end of the cold war – and so reduced its spending on defence that the Bundeswehr is a shadow of its former self. Despite the clear threats to European stability, particularly after the Crimean annexation, previous governments, led by the Christian Democrats, had given little attention to active threats.

The “traffic light” coalition government is itself divided on the provision of tanks to Ukraine. Ministers from the …

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Record 350,000 patients waited over 12 hours at A&E last year

  • Figures reveal 1,000 patients left waiting 12 hours or more in A&E every day in 2022
  • Analysis shows shocking rise in long A&E delays since 2015, when just 1,300 people waited 12 hours or more
  • Lib Dems set out plan to tackle NHS crisis including recruiting more GPs and allowing pharmacists to prescribe more medicines

A record 350,000 patients, equivalent to the population of Leicester, waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E in 2022.

The figures were uncovered in new analysis by the Liberal Democrats showing a staggering rise in 12 hour delays at A&E since 2015.

Liberal …

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Welcome to my day: 23 January 2023 – clinging desperately to the wreckage…

I’ve been away, which has come as something of a relief, it must be said. Admittedly, not much has changed since I went away – the people running our country still appear to have a restricted grasp of ethics and morality, the Opposition are still desperately attempting to avoid taking any firm position on very much, the lack of ideas for dealing with the huge challenges our country faces is still troubling.

And I’m weary. Weary of trying to serve a nation where those in charge barely pay lip service to the idea …

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Britain can never rejoin the EU, it might join it.

I have passionately supported European integration since I first became aware of the European Economic Community around 1962. I am as die-hard a Remainer as you can find. Despite that, I consider calls within our Party asking our leaders to campaign for re-join to be naïve.

To re-join something means basically to restore what existed before. If I fail to pay my subscription to the Chartered Institute of Taxation, I will be expelled. If I pay the missing subscription in a reasonable timescale, I can re-join and do not need to take any membership examinations; examinations that must be taken by new members seeking to join.

To put it very simply, the UK has left the EU. If it wishes to become a member, it needs to apply for membership. The EU has a detailed process for dealing with membership applications, and of course every single EU member state has a veto.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

Ukraine is tank country. It is part of the flat and fertile North European plain which stretches from the Urals to the North Sea. That very same corridor has throughout history doubled as a military highway for invading armies head East or West.

This geopolitical fact is why Russia started the Ukraine War with a massive arsenal of 10,000 tanks and Ukraine had 2,500.  Since the fighting started nearly a year ago, the Russians have lost about 1,500 of their tanks. But relatively speaking to the initial size of their forces, the Ukrainians have fared worse with a loss of about a quarter of their tanks.

The Ukrainian losses on the tank battlefield, coupled with the importance of armour in the flat terrain, is the reason why Vlodomyr Zelensky is pleading with NATO for more armour.

The three countries that have tanks to spare are the US, Germany and Poland. The UK and France decided ten years ago that another North European war was unlikely and ran down their tank forces. France has only 200 main battle tanks and the UK about 220.

The US is well short of the Russians at 6,612 tanks, but if you add Germany’s 2,761 Leopard tanks and Poland’s fast-growing arsenal, the Ukrainians could match Russia tank for tank.

The problem is that the Germans are reluctant to be seen to escalate the conflict and the Biden Administration needs a strong European (which in this case means German) commitment to justify sending state of the art M1 Abrams tanks.

This leaves Poland, with some help from Finland and the Baltic states, to fill the yawning gap in Ukrainian armoured battalions. In the meantime, Ukraine is preparing for Russia’s inevitable tank-led spring offensive.

New Zealand

Jacinda Adern, has voluntarily, out of the blue, resigned. The prime minister of tiny New Zealand is one of the most respected international figures. She successfully introduced strict gun laws after the Christchurch mosque shooting left 51 dead; led her Labour Party to an historic landslide victory and organised one of the few successful containments of the covid virus. But Ms Adern has decided her work is done and is stepping down.

Now compare the New Zealand leader to other Western politicians who are prepared to lie, cheat and twist the law to cling to power. Britain’s Boris Johnson and America’s Donald Trump immediately spring to mind. Trump with his unfounded claim that he won the 2020 presidential election and Boris with who claimed ignorance of Downing Street parties during the covid lockdown. Ms Adern led by example when she was in office and she is doing same with her departure and is being praised for doing so. Politicians who are concerned about their legacies should take note.

USA

The moral high ground is where every politician wants to be. Donald Trump has never managed more than a foot or two up the mountain and his failure to climb higher was a factor in his 2020 electoral defeat at the hands of “relatively honest” Joe Biden. Now, Biden has suffered a major downhill slide: classified documents have been found where they should not be – in his office and even his garage.  Their discovery has inevitably been compared to the discovery of classified material in Trump’s Mar-a-lago home and led to another special counsel investigation of another president.

However, document-gate does not appear to have adversely impacted on Biden’s popularity. His approval ratings have actually gone up this month from 38 to 44 percent.  Pundits believe that the voters are inured to moral shortcomings but have been impressed that the US is enjoying record unemployment, lower inflation and impressed by the Democrats’ performance in the mid-term elections.

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Lib Dem Mathew Hulbert says Church of England giving in to its conservatives on same sex marriage

Lib Dem Councillor Mathew Hulbert has been taking to the airwaves to criticise the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury for giving into the Conservative side of the Anglican Communion. Yesterday, the Church announced that, while it would not allow same sex marriages in Church, they would allow blessings. However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that he personally would not conduct them. He said:

But because of my pastoral care and responsibility of being a focus of unity for the whole communion I will – while being extremely joyfully celebratory of these new resources – I will not personally use them in order to compromise that pastoral care

The Church is also apologising for not being inclusive to LGBT+ people in the past.

Yesterday, Mathew tweeted:

This led to a few requests for interviews.

Here’s a brief clip from his Talk TV appearance.

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How you can join Operation Social Equality

I am pleased to tell you about a new Affiliated Organisation we are starting called Operation Social Equality. It is open to all members of the Liberal Democrats but has a specific focus to support members from low-socio economic backgrounds.

Studies tell us that those from low socio-economic backgrounds are amongst the most under-represented in politics and also the least engaged. So three years ago the journey started to look at what can be done to help the Liberal Democrats become more inclusive and to encourage more people from low socio-economic backgrounds to engage with the party.

I heard from many people who shared experiences just like those that I had experienced myself. I heard stories of some who had walked away from the party.  Some found doors to be closed or opportunities held just too far away to grab. It was from these conversations that Operation Social Equality was born.

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Observations of an expat: Shrinking China

China is shrinking. India is growing. Sometime this year the sub-continental nation will usurp China as the most populous country on earth.

This and a number of other ineluctable facts will have a profound impact on China, India, Asia and the rest of the world.

Every economy needs workers to produce goods and services.  The more workers – especially relatively cheap ones – the faster a country’s GDP grows.

There are other factors at play. China’s pensioner population is rapidly growing. The proportion of retirees has expanded from 37.12 percent in 2010 to 44.14 percent in 2020 which means fewer workers and .greater social care costs. India, by comparison has an average age of 29.

Then there is covid. Xi Jinping’s decision to end his zero covid policy has let loose the deadly virus at the same time as hundreds of millions are travelling for Chinese New Year. To make matters worse most of the travellers are young people going from covid-infected cities to visit vulnerable elderly relatives in the less affected rural areas.

According to the University of Beijing, 900 million Chinese have been infected with the covid virus. The exact fatality figure is a government-protected secret. But it is known that healthcare services have been stretched beyond breaking point.

The pandemic has forced the closure of many Chinese production facilities and this year growth is expected to be only 3.2 percent. This is higher than the US, EU and the world average, but China starts from a lower base and the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power is built on ever-improving living standards. The World Bank is predicting 6.9 percent economic growth in rival India.

Beijing’s mounting domestic problems – short and long-term – will force the Chinese Communist Party to focus its attention on internal issues. These means fewer foreign adventures and an effort to stabilise relations with the US, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. A recent visit by German Chancellor Olof Scholz was seen as a big win for the EU and other visits are planned by French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

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Survation: Majority of Conservative councillors dissatisfied with own party’s performance

This week Survation reported the results of a survey undertaken in the last month. They polled 710 councillors of all parties across the UK. The results are interesting, if painfully predictable for the Tories.

Survation asked the councillors to assess the local performance of their party in 2022. Liberal Democrats came out with a net satisfaction rating of +92% (which is remarkably high); Labour councillors had a net satisfaction of +73%, but the Conservatives came in with a miserable +21%. Note that this is their assessment of their local performance for which they were responsible.

If you think that last figure is low, it gets far worse when councillors were asked about their party’s national performance. On that, the Conservative councillors net satisfaction is a staggering -53% (note the negative). In fact 72% of Tory councillors said they were somewhat or extremely dissatisfied with the performance of the Conservatives nationally, compared with only 19% who were somewhat or extremely satisfied.

Labour and Liberal Democrats managed net satisfaction ratings of their party’s national performance of +65% and +56% respectively.

The survey also explored the favourability rating of the various party leaders. You can read more detail in the report, but it is worth mentioning how the main party leaders were viewed by Lib Dem councillors: Not surprisingly Ed Davey had a net favourability of +80%, while Keir Starmer achieved +5%, and Rishi Sunak was on -76%.

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AI is being used by students to produce essays and projects

A story has been appearing in the regional press about a cross-bench peer, John Pakington (Baron Hampton) who is, unusually, also a working teacher. He is concerned that students are using Artificial Intelligence systems to produce essays, technical designs and even works of art and then passing them off as their own. He says:

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, at the moment, that suggests that students are using AI for everything from essays and poetry to university applications and, rather more surprisingly, in the visual arts subjects. Just before Christmas, one of my product design A-level students came up to me and showed me some designs he’d done.

He’d taken a cardboard model, photographed it, put it into a free piece of software, put in three different parameters and had received, within minutes, 20 high-resolution designs, all original, that were degree level – they weren’t A-level, they were degree level. At the moment, it’s about plagiarism and it’s about fighting the software – I would like to ask when the Government is planning to meet with education professionals and the exam boards to actually work out (how) to design a new curriculum that embraces the new opportunity rather than fighting it.

Tim Clement-Jones is our Digital spokesperson in the House of Lords and he agreed with his fellow peer:

This question clearly concerns a very powerful new generative probabilistic type of artificial intelligence that we ought to encourage in terms of creativity, but not in terms of cheating or deception.

Some 30 years ago I was studying AI as part of my Masters degree. Many of the same tropes were circulating then as now: “AI will make people lazy”, “Many jobs will be lost to machines” – similar sentiments have been expressed whenever there is a substantial shift in technology, from Jacquard looms to automated car production. But this time there is the added fear that AI will “take over” and we will become the redundant playthings of super machines. In practice, many of the techniques that I was looking at then are now embedded in our technologies; they improve productively and are hugely beneficial to society. They support and amplify our activities rather than replace them, although, as this evidence suggests, they can also present new challenges.

Andy Boddington had some fun with the latest AI chatbot, ChatGPT, and generated a passable short essay and some rather dubious poetry. When I say “passable” I mean that it is almost impossible to tell that it has been generated by software and not by a real person.  It is also possible that ChatGPT could pass the Turing Test and win the Loebner Prize.

Of course, the issue of plagiarism has dogged educational assessment for many years. Academics routinely use plagiarism detection systems for essays, and I have a couple of examples from my own professional experience.

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19 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Record ambulance delays reveal NHS “horror show”
  • Latest NHS figures on delayed discharges reveal “living nightmare”
  • Levelling up: Rural and coastal communities taken for granted

Record ambulance delays reveal NHS “horror show”

Ambulance response times in Wales have fallen to a record low in December with a staggering 60.5% of red calls (those deemed most life-threatening) being above the official target times. This figure is the highest on record and beats previous numbers in December 2021 and 2020, the latter of which was at the height of the pandemic.

Figures have also shown that a shocking 78% of amber calls, which include heart attacks and …

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Ardern: A graceful resignation from an inspiring leader

It came as a surprise. People in the UK and elsewhere woke up to the news that Jacinda Ardern, the admired prime minister of New Zealand is to step down next month. She announced the news in an emotional speech at the Labour annual caucus meeting on Thursday.

I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.

In resigning, Ardern is once again a role model for the world. History is littered with despots and politicians who have clung to power for too long. Hung on when, even if they are not exhausted, citizens are exhausted of them. In this country, Blair, Johnson and Thatcher come to mind and worldwide, too many despots to mention.

Ardern has always been different. Caring not cruel. Dedicated more than ambitious and avaricious. She had earned a reputation as a compassionate and credible prime minister, admired internationally, perhaps more so than she currently is at home. She steered her country through the pandemic, the Christchurch terrorist killings and the deadly Whakaari volcanic eruption.

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18 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Inflation pushing families to the brink and economy to breaking point
  • Hunt video: Mr Bean-esque from the same clueless party that crashed the economy
  • Retained EU Law Bill a “shameless power-grab”

Inflation pushing families to the brink and economy to breaking point

Responding to the news that inflation remains in double digits at 10.5%, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

For months and months Inflation has soared pushing families to the brink, bills out of control and the economy to breaking point.

People across the country work hard and just want a fair deal but under this Conservative Government, double-digit inflation is just business as usual.

Struggling families and pensioners deserve more support but the Government’s track record on the cost of living crisis has been nothing short of a failure, hurting millions.

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Mark Pack’s monthly report: January 2023

The year ahead

It’s possible, just possible, that British politics may return to a relative normality in 2023. We might have a year without any change of Prime Minister, without a general election and without a pandemic. We will certainly have a year with a failing Conservative government, vital public services under strain and an important opportunity to continue our recovery with the May local elections.

Rishi Sunak has already demonstrated he brings neither competency nor moderation to replace the incompetent extremism of his predecessors. He didn’t use his political honeymoon to make difficult decisions for the long-term. He’s treating promises to take an issue personally as a substitute for action, and kicked so many decisions into the long grass. Whether it’s reforming social care or building onshore wind farms, time and again his response is to dither rather than to act.

Looming over all those issues is the continued failure of Brexit. As Daisy Cooper put it to Times Radio, “This Conservative Brexit deal isn’t working for Britain”. Instead, she set out the Liberal Democrat alternative four-step plan to improve our trade relations with Europe.  (Take a listen here.) That’s the way both to make an immediate difference to people’s lives and to help prepare the way for the longer-term battle over Britain’s future with the EU.

To succeed, we need to continue to rebuild our grassroots campaigning strength, to build our membership and supporter base, to raise our game on diversity and inclusion, and to invest in the best data and technology.

Watch out for more news on all of those through the year – and I’d really encourage everyone planning campaign work through to May to include talking to supporters, getting them to help and join, as part of that. Local parties can secure cash bonuses for members recruited or renewed; details here.

York conference – in person!

I’m looking forward to meeting members in person again at a federal conference, with our first in-person one for so long coming up in York on 15-17 March. It will include keynote speeches, policy debates, training, fringe meetings and more.  You can find out more and register here.

How Lib Dems are tackling homelessness

The BBC reported over Christmas a great example of the difference we can make to people’s lives:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

17 January 2023 – today’s press releases

  • ONS pay figures: Chancellors have fanned the flames of this cost of living crisis
  • Billions in taxes lost as HMRC moves staff to Brexit and Covid fraud

ONS pay figures: Chancellors have fanned the flames of this cost of living crisis

Responding to this morning’s latest ONS earnings and unemployment figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

Successive Conservative Chancellors have fanned the flames of this cost of living crisis. Their deeply shameful tax hikes and failure to grow the economy has lead to Britain’s pay being squeezed despite unbearably high bills. It has been an economic clown show from this Conservative

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

Jardine challenges Scottish Secretary over Gender Reform

Women and Equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine challenged Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to come up with a single clause in Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which undermined the provisions of the Equality Act. Spoiler, he couldn’t. She accused him of playing fast and loose by the Union by attempting to block the Bill.  Watch her comments here.

Later he issued a flimsy Statement of Reasons for issuing the Section 35 Order. In a later speech, Christine said that to call it weak would be to flatter it. There certainly is much in the way of conjecture within it and absolutely zero evidence to back that up.

At this point it is worth remembering that, not only was a Labour amendment stating the primacy of the Equality Act on the face of the Bill, but even before that every major feminist organisation in Scotland supported it. I can’t see how they would have done if they had thought for a second that it would harm women’s rights. They have certainly not held back in criticising government legislation before. This is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation ever, with several consultations, a draft Bill and, finally, the Bill that has been passed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 1 Comment
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