The question of monarchy

“Well, I wouldn’t start from here if I were you.”

I don’t think any of us would have invented our current constitutional setup from scratch. It is something that has evolved over hundreds of years, emerging from a bloody history that includes the execution of monarchs and civil war, as well as the Glorious Revolution. And like all evolved creatures it bears redundant remnants of its past.

However there are some very beneficial features of the system that we have inherited:

  • It has given us a stable parliamentary democracy, which is rightly envied, and copied, across the world. The formal power of the aristocracy and the wealthy are severely curtailed.
  • There is clear separation between the Head of State and Government, to the extent that the Head of State is effectively banned from taking part in any political activities. This is coupled with clear separation between Government and Judiciary.
  • The smooth transition of power from one Government to another is pretty much guaranteed.
  • The (normal) longevity of the Head of State gives them a perspective on the nation and the world that few others can emulate, and this can inform Prime Ministers (who are, of course, free to ignore it).
  • The ceremonial and historical aspects of the monarchy are hugely popular and act as a focus for community cohesion.

However there are still some problems.

  • The legacy of Empire is still problematic, marked as it was by slavery, abuse and cultural annihilation, and for many the monarchy represents all that was wrong with imperialism.
  • The House of Lords still exists in a form that has echoes of its feudal past. Its scrutiny role is essential, and the inclusion of cross benchers with real expertise is undoubtedly a good thing. The question is how to create an elected chamber which is not just a pale reflection of the Commons.
  • Members of the Royal Family (as opposed to the office of the Monarch, which is funded by income from the Crown Estates) have accumulated vast personal wealth.
  • The wealthy from all sectors of society can still wield substantial soft power over Government.
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Which public services will the Conservatives shrink further?

Liz Truss has just handed Liberal Democrat campaigners a powerful set of questions to put to Tory MPs. She insists that tax cuts are the answer to Britain’s economic problems – amounting to 1-2% of GDP, perhaps more once the full package of proposed cuts emerges. She’s pledged to raise defence spending by 1% of GDP – for which, sadly, there is a case when Russia intervention in Ukraine threatens European security. She’s promising to provide financial support for household and business energy bills, likely to amount to between 2% and 4% of GDP over the coming year, without offsetting the cost through a windfall tax on energy companies of the sort that most of our continental neighbours are levying. Other government programmes will have to be slashed to prevent public deficits spinning out of control.

So what cuts in other public services will Conservative MPs accept in order to prevent government debt spiralling and the pound sinking further on international markets? A squeeze on schools, or policing, or on the already-overstretched NHS? Holding down public service pay, while letting bankers’ bonuses soar? Slashing public investment in hospitals and transport infrastructure, and reducing local authority budgets further, thus saying goodbye to the promises of ‘Levelling Up’ that helped them to win the last general election? Or holding down benefits, leaving the poorest in our society even poorer? Ask every Conservative MP what further cuts they will support – or whether they will oppose this tax-cutting strategy.

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Jane Dodds: Cost-Of-Living, the NHS and Housing Should Be This Senedd’s Priorities

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS has today outlined her key priorities for the Senedd to address during its new term. These priorities are:

  • Addressing the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Tackling backlogs in the NHS and NHS dentistry.
  • Fixing problems in the Welsh housing sector.

Jane Dodds warned that the Welsh Labour-Plaid Cymru partnership in Cardiff Bay was failing to tackle these key issues and emphasised that strong action needed to be taken immediately.

Despite an announcement of an energy price freeze by UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, energy bills are still expected to be double that of last winter for most families and businesses in …

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21 September 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Business energy bills announcement: a temporary sticking plaster
  • IFS debt analysis: Taxpayers footing the bill for Truss’s ideological obsessions
  • Conservatives handing banks a £6 billion tax cut, new research reveals
  • Calls for an Investigation into Failed Welsh Government Insulation Schemes
  • Demands Welsh Government ‘Names and Shame’ Property Developers Failing to Act on the Building Safety Scandal
  • Dental Crisis: Only 34% of Patients in Southwark Have Been Seen by an NHS Dentist in Past Two Years

Business energy bills announcement: a temporary sticking plaster

Responding to the government announcement on bills for businesses and the public sector, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP said:

This temporary sticking plaster comes too late for the many small businesses that already closed their doors for the last time because they couldn’t afford soaring bills.

The Conservatives have sat on their hands for months while treasured pubs, cafes and high street shops went to the wall.

This delayed announcement will leave our small businesses, schools and hospitals under a cloud of damaging uncertainty. The government have no plan beyond these next six months, paralysing businesses who need to make decisions for the long term. Support for high streets and public services should be in place for at least the next year and include measures to improve energy efficiency and cut bills in the long term.

The announcement shows the Conservatives have no plan and no understanding of the pressures facing our businesses and public services.

IFS debt analysis: Taxpayers footing the bill for Truss’s ideological obsessions

Responding to IFS analysis which shows debt is being left on an unsustainable path by the government, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

Liz Truss is asking hard-pressed taxpayers to fund her ideological obsessions in the middle of the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation. This is no way to govern Britain.

The Conservatives are prioritising record oil company profits and bankers’ bonuses whilst families struggle to pay their own heating bills.

This Government has lost all sense of fiscal responsibility. Future generations will be paying off the Conservatives’ debt for years to come with no guarantee of economic growth.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Editor’s Note: This was submitted on 9th September but held back because of the death of the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II

One of my other hats is leader of the local cub scout group. As such, an important part of my job is explaining the cub scout promise to incoming cubs. The second line was, until this week, “to uphold scout values and honour the Queen.” Now it will be “honour the King.”

But regardless, of the gender of Britain’s monarch, my explanation of the importance of that line will be the same. It is that the monarch is the physical repository of a thousand years of British history, tradition and laws. Many of these laws and traditions have spread all around the world and, by and large, have influenced it for the better. I tell my cubs that they are not pledging an allegiance to a person so much as to the unwritten constitution which the monarch represents. I believe this to be true. I wouldn’t tell my cubs so if I thought otherwise.

BUT Queen Elizabeth II was different. She did more than act as a constitutional repository. She did so in a way that demonstrated a selflessness and devotion to duty which set an example for every person in the United Kingdom and for hundreds of millions in the Commonwealth and beyond. She was working up until two days before her death. Queen Elizabeth II was loved and respected around the globe because she loved. Her reign was a link between Euro-centric imperial world with only 50 members in the United Nations to one with 193. Her first Prime Minister was a hero of the Boer War. Her last was seven years old when the Falklands Task Force set sail.

Viewed from the rose-tinted perspective of 70 years of hindsight, the world seemed a secure and certain place when Elizabeth Windsor was crowned Queen. But it was only seven years after the end of World War Two. Rationing was still in force. Britain was staggering under the burden of a huge war debt and an empire it could ill afford. Today it is recovering from the cost of a pandemic and facing mounting bills brought on by the withdrawal from the EU and a war in Ukraine. Since the time of Victoria the role of the British monarch has been to stand aloof from politics. To play the role of the rock of constancy in a sea of constantly shifting tides. Queen Elizabeth II played her part magnificently and has the established the template for King Charles III.

Ukraine

Volodomyr Zelensky and his generals have fooled me. More importantly, they have fooled Vladimir Putin and his generals. Everyone knew that the Ukrainians were planning a counter-offensive, if only to prove to their Western backers that they were worth the military aid and economic sacrifices. The riverside city of Kherson in Southeast Ukraine was expected to the main target of the counter-offensive. Ukrainian forces controlled or destroyed the main bridges across the Dnieper River. Putin rushed troops to the city and built up his forces in Crimea to the immediate south. But Zelensky’s men decided instead to focus their counter-offensive in the northeastern sector of Ukraine and the city of Kharkiv. In a single day the Ukrainians managed to break through Russian lines and regain several towns and villages in the Kharkiv region and 400 square kilometres of territory.

The Russians have grudgingly admitted the Ukrainian success.  While the Ukrainians were advancing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Kyiv to announce another $2 billion in US aid. So far Washington has contributed $15.2 billion to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defence has reported that 15,000 Russian soldiers have died in Putin’s “special military operation.” That is the same as the official Moscow death toll for the Soviet Union’s ten-year war in Afghanistan (although the recognised unofficial figure is nearer 50,000).

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Mark Pack’s monthly report: September 2022

Paying tribute to the Queen

As Ed Davey said in paying tribute,

For many people, including myself, The Queen was an ever-fixed mark in our lives. As the world changed around us and politicians came and went, The Queen was our nation’s constant. The Queen represented duty and courage, as well as warmth and compassion. She was a living reminder of our collective past, of the greatest generation and their sacrifices for our freedom. My thoughts and prayers today go especially to the Royal Family. And they also go to people in every corner of the world whose lives she touched.

You can watch the tributes from other Liberal Democrats here

Cancellation of party conference

Following the death of the Queen, the Federal Board received a recommendation from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) to cancel our autumn conference. We agreed to this after a special meeting. There was widespread understanding of the many drawbacks of cancellation, and how disappointed and out of pocket many members (including committee members) would be. But it was the least worst of the options available.

FCC chair Cllr Nick Da Costa explained the reasons for the cancellation, including the range of options considered, in an email to those registered for conference and which is also online here.

(If you were registered for conference and did not receive the email, you can contact [email protected] to check the party has an up-to-date email address for you and that you’re not opted out from such messages. It’s also worth checking to see if the emails are ending up in your spam folder.)

FCC is now looking at ways of putting on extra events to help fill some of the gaps left by cancellation, such as online sessions to hold party committees (and people like me!) to account and extra online training. If you were hoping to ask the Board any questions at conference, either at our helpdesk or in the formal Board report session, you can instead email them to me and I’ll do my best to ensure they all get answered.

The Returning Officer has also decided to adjust the timings for this autumn’s internal elections as they overlapped with The Queen’s funeral. Details are on the party website.

Receiving emails from the party

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Change when we hold Autumn Conference

Like every member of the party, I was sorry that the party Conference had to be cancelled because of the Queen’s sad death.

But it was the right decision. Conference Chair Nick da Costa and the whole team, volunteers and staff, deserve our thanks for taking that decision and dealing with the massive practical consequences.

This has sparked ideas about next year. Should Spring Conference 2023 be earlier? Longer? An extra conference? These questions were discussed in an interesting special Lib Dem Podcast.

But this may be the right time to take a big step back and reconsider when we hold Autumn Conference every year.

The choice of date impacts on the success of the Conference, which is an important tool in achieving the party’s aims. 

Conference helps us elect more Liberal Democrats by networking members, building relationships and team spirit, sharing know-how through training, enriching our policy platform, interaction between Lib Dem parliamentarians and grassroots members, providing a media showcase for our Leader and key spokespeople and the forum for members to exercise democratic control of the party.

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Scottish Conference to debate a 4 day working week and nuclear power

Regional and national conferences will give Liberal Democrat members a much needed chance to get together over the next couple of months.

Last week, the preliminary agenda for Scottish Conference was published. The three day event will take place in Hamilton between 28 and 30 October.

There are going to be some controversial debates.  Proposals to reverse our long standing opposition to new nuclear power stations,  backing a 4 day working week, and a new model requiring local authorities to provide new homes for social buy sit alongside  more classical liberal fare on restricting employers rights to snoop on employees working at home and giving more powers to local government.

Conference will also debate a constitutional amendment, proposed by current leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, that future Scottish leaders should be allowed to be either an MP or MSP and future deputy leaders could be councillors as well as parliamentarians.

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Observations of an ex pat: Diagnose First

Editor’s Note: This was submitted on 9th September but held back because of the death of the Queen.

Britain’s new Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss is doomed to failure because she has failed to correctly diagnose the cause of her country’s problems.

Any doctor will tell you that before you can successfully treat a patient you must first know what you are treating. In fact, the treatment is often the easiest part of the medical business.

The same rule applies to most aspects of life, especially politics. Before you can correct social and economic ills with new policies, laws or decrees you must correctly identify the cause of the problem. If you fail to do so the problem will fester and grow in much the same way as an untreated cancer.

Problems in political diagnosis often arise when the politician insists on examining the patient through a narrow ideological lens. Medieval Europe, for example, was a socially stagnant period because all social issues were addressed through the pages of the Bible. The Soviet Union collapsed because the ruling Politburo decreed that all of society had to be organised through the prism of Marxist-Leninism.

Liz Truss is attempting to solve Britain’s mounting problems through a narrow conservative, anti-European window.

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Snooping on our WhatsApp is a step too far

We rely on private and secure messaging services to keep our personal information and correspondence safe. Privacy is essential in many situations. Whether we’re communicating with a loved one, seeking advice on a sensitive situation, or sharing pictures on the family WhatsApp group. For some people such as journalists, whistle-blowers, or the Ukrainians fighting Russia it can be a matter of life or death. The ability for people to communicate privately is a human right and a long-standing cornerstone at the foundation of Liberal Democracy and Western values.

Government ministers and the security services make no secret that they want to spy on your private messages and WhatsApp groups. Our last Home Secretary vocally opposed Meta’s intention to make Facebook messenger DMs encrypted by default.  Default end-to-end encryption is important as it means people can’t spy on your messages. Sadly this is not a new trend. Brian Paddock previously sounded the alarm when another Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd was looking to take the same draconian approach.

Being able to message someone privately and securely keeps us safe, yet it is being put at risk by a bill that incorrectly claims to promote safety. It asks companies that provide services such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram, to monitor the content of messages. It also empowers OFCOM to compel providers of user-to-user messaging services to run accredited software to scan, detect and report instances of CSEA or terrorism.

The Online Safety Bill doesn’t explain how this might technically work, most likely it would involve something called ‘client-side scanning’. This is where software is installed on every device and scans your private messages before they are sent. The Open Rights Group has stated this amounts to installing a ‘spy in the pocket’ of every mobile phone user. Any messages the software ‘thinks’ contains prohibited material could be either blocked and/or reported automatically to authorities. This sort of software will certainly lead to false accusations as happened recently when Google reported a man to the Police. 

Recently we saw an example of someone’s private messages being used against them when private messages on Facebook were handed over to the Police to assist in prosecuting a Woman in an abortion case. This highlights the risk women in the US could face if more states move to criminalise abortion. What happens if we see a similar erosion of women’s right to choose here in the UK?

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Life resumes…..

It’s been an intense 11 days  since the Queen died.

For many people, a national bereavement takes a similar pattern to any other. The adrenaline gets you through to the funeral and it’s only afterwards that you have to adjust to the loss and its consequences. However we may feel about Queen Elizabeth’s legacy or, indeed, the institution of monarchy itself, it will take some time to get used to the new normal, not least because we have a brand new monarch and a brand new Government.

Anyone under the age of about 75 will not be able to remember having any other monarch than Queen Elizabeth. It’s  astonishing that we have had two Queens, covering 134 of the last 185 years. Both reigned during periods of intense social and economic change. I was thinking about this yesterday  as I woke up and looked up exactly how long they had been on the throne. Victoria had been on the throne for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days – and Elizabeth for 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. In all the wall to wall coverage I’ve absorbed since 8th September, I hadn’t heard that mentioned. Or maybe I’m the only one that finds it worthy of note.

We haven’t in any sort of memory had a new Head of State and Prime Minister in such quick succession. Elizabeth had wartime giant Winston Churchill as her first PM. When George V died, Stanley Baldwin was on his third prime ministerial stint. The last liberal Prime Minister, Asquith, had a couple of years under his belt before Edward VII died and Viscount Melbourne was extremely experienced when the 19 year old Victoria acceded.

The new King Charles has had decades to learn his trade and he has acknowledged that he can’t be as vocal on issues close to his heart as he was as Prince of Wales. A climate change denying Government is bound to be a test.

The cost of living emergency has not gone away. It is biting the most vulnerable every single day.  Inflation may have dipped a tiny bit down to 9.9% in August but households are still finding that the basics in life are a lot more expensive than they were last year before you even think about heating your house.

The last big political announcement was Liz Truss’s plan to deal with meteoric energy price rises. She intends to limit price rise so that the average household will pay no more than £2500. It’s likely you will pay more if you live in an energy inefficient, damp house. That includes many people on low incomes in private lets and social housing.

Ed Davey called Truss’s plan a “phony freeze” saying:

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Martin Thomas reflects on Royal Deeside

When I was a student, my Summer job was as a youth hostel warden in Braemar. In July, I wandered round the gardens of Balmoral when they were open to the public. In August, if I was off on a Sunday morning, I’d take the bus to Crathie Kirk to see the Royal Family go to Church and was actually able to attend the service myself.

I was used to seeing members of the Royal Family in the village. Locals were keen to give them privacy on their much needed break.

Martin writes of his own love of Royal Deeside. He’s felt the benefit of its restorative qualities for decades, in good times and bad. I have my own reasons to be grateful to this beautiful part of the world. I met my husband there. He walked into the hostel for a night, stayed for a week and a half and left with a lot more than he had bargained for.

Anyway, back to Martin’s tribute:

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William Wallace: Social change during the Queen’s Reign

Next in our series of tributes to the Queen from Lib Dem parliamentarians is from William Wallace. He has a unique perspective. Like Mary Reid, he remembers the death of her father and as a Westminster Abbey chorister sang when his coffin arrived in Westminster Hall and at the Queen’s coronation. He talks about the social change that the Queen helped along during her reign.

My Lords, I am conscious that admitting that I can remember the monarchy before Queen Elizabeth is to admit that I am well over the average age, even in this House. My first image of the monarchy was, indeed, of the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary, who used to come to listen to sermons in Westminster Abbey whenever a particularly radical canon, Canon Marriott, was preaching the social gospel—something which would now be considered far too left-wing for any current bishop to talk about. I learned a little more when, as a junior chorister, I sang when the coffin of George VI arrived at Westminster Hall for the lying-in-state, and rather more about the symbolic importance of the monarchy when, as a more senior chorister, I sang at the Coronation.

People have talked a lot about how much the country has changed since then. When I think back to that period, it is astonishing what sort of change we have been through. As I walked past the abbey this morning, I remembered that it was black in 1952, covered in soot. Outside, a gallery had been built for people to watch from over a bomb site, which is now the Queen Elizabeth II Centre. Inside, nearly a thousand Peers were in the north transept, in their full robes and with their coronets, and nearly a thousand Peeresses were in the south transept. In a few months’ time, when the ballot for perhaps 100 of us who wish to attend the next Coronation arrives, we should remember that social deference has ended and the social order in this country is different from what it was then.

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Joan Walmsley: The Queen was on my side and your side

The next in our series of tributes to the Queen from our parliamentarians comes from Joan Walmsley.

My Lords, I shall say a few words from these Benches on behalf of myself and my co-deputy leader, my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who is unable to be with us today.

Her late Majesty, like many women, was thrown into a difficult role at a time when she least expected it, yet, like many women, she pulled herself together despite her grief and got on with her job—or her calling, as she saw it. She did it in her own way, as I am sure our new King, King Charles, will also do, adapting her approach as appropriate over the years. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, just said, she managed to achieve a balance between consistency and flexibility, and she did it with grace, charm, dignity and dedication. She was at the heart of her family and the nation, and supported us all in good times and in bad. We will miss her among us, as she has so often been.

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Brian Paddick: The servant Queen

We are publishing tributes to the Queen from Liberal Democrat parliamentarians across the UK in the run-up to her funeral tomorrow. This is from Brian Paddick.

My Lords, I have been trying to make sense of all this, as someone who never met Her late Majesty. My mother was seven years older than Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, but when I lost my own personal life anchor, when my mother died, I felt that I still had Her Majesty the Queen.

Her late Majesty was the safest of a safe pair of hands. She was the most reliable of the people upon whom we relied; she was the greatest example of duty and dedication. I was concerned in recent years that the Queen could not possibly continue to the very end without having to abdicate as old age took its toll, yet she served to the very end—something that I feel sure she would have been very happy to achieve. Our Lord Jesus Christ is sometimes described as the servant king. Her late Majesty was surely the servant Queen. May she rest in peace.

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Jane Dodds: She was a stateswoman like no other

Jane Dodds paid tribute to the Queen in the Senedd.

The text is below:

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Christine Jardine: The Queen shared our thoughts, our memories and our pain

Our parliamentarians paid tribute to The Queen in debates held last weekend. Here is Christine Jardine’s speech:

The text, from Hansard, is below:

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Floella Benjamin pays tribute to the late Queen

Baroness Floella Benjamin has paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords.

Floella  talked about the late Queen as someone constant in the lives of young people :

She gave them that sense of pride which is so important for the human soul and spirit, which young people need.

She also  talked about her own meetings with the Queen – something which as she said is something she could never have dreamed of as a child growing up in Trinidad in the 1950s and singing “God Save the Queen ‘ at school.

I first met her in 1995, when I was president of the Elizabeth R Commonwealth broadcasting fund, which was set up with funds she donated from the royalties of the BBC programme for the 40th anniversary of her reign and which hundreds across the Commonwealth have benefited from.

And she goes on to talk about a visit paid to the University of Exeter when she was Chancellor :

As Chancellor, I had the task of hosting her. It was then that I got a glimpse of the true character of this remarkable woman. It was like having a masterclass in people skills. She loved to indulge in finding out about everything and in a short time I had to judge who she wanted to find out more about and when she wanted to move on

The Queen had a well known admiration for, and friendship with, Nelson Mandela and this came out in her conversation in Exeter:

We chatted and shared stories about everything, including faith and forgiveness, which were qualities she told me she admired in Nelson Mandela

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New issue of Liberator out

Liberator 414 can be downloaded here (click on the 414 icon). This is the free September 2022 online-only edition of Liberator and we hope you enjoy reading it.

You can sign up here to be emailed each time a new bi-monthly Liberator comes out.

What’s inside this issue?

Alongside Radical Bulletin, Commentary and Lord Bonkers’ Diary, Liberator 414 includes:

THE LOUSE AND THE FLEA.

The Tories have made the worst of a bad choice of leader, Nick Winch looks at how to beat them

LOOK AT THE ELEPHANT.

There’s one in the political room, it’s called Brexit. Labour ignores it and the Lib Dems are shy of it. Confront it, says David Grace

FOUR INTO ONE WONT GO

Jonathan Calder concludes from Duncan Brack’s Compass Progressive Alliance publication that this concept cannot work if imposed top down

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS?

To go by at the Liberal Democrat conference agenda, no crises face the UK and a few detailed changes are all that is needed. Get real, says William Tranby

BUILDING A LIBERAL WORLD

Liberal International can seem remote; Robert Woodthorpe Browne explains its work on human rights, climate justice and international trade.

TWO UKRAINIANS, ONE CAT

Rose Stimson’s Ukrainian guests are now safely in the UK, no thanks to the Home Office.

DEDICATED FOLLOWERS OF FASHION

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It has been a week like no other

The queue is more than four miles long with waiting times of nine hours as I write. Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime. Certainly, it has been a week like no other like no other in living memory. Perhaps like no other. The sudden and dramatic death of Princess Diana created an unprecedented outpouring of grief and astonishing scenes in the capital as crowds flocked to be in London. To camp in the parks. To put flowers on the trees. But it does not match what is happening in London today.

The arrangements after the death of Queen Elizabeth II were well rehearsed. Like many deaths it was not unexpected but the timing was unknown. Her last duties as Mary Reid said earlier, were to accept the resignation of the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson and the incoming prime minister, Liz Truss. Perhaps we will never know Her Majesty’s views on the prime ministers she agreed could the lead country, or those leaders from around the world she must have met with gritted teeth behind the famous smile.

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A special Lib Dem Winter Crisis Conference

We are most likely heading into a bleak winter. The UK is in dire shape – the loss of our Queen, a lacklustre government, the economic downturn, energy and cost of living crises, strikes, ongoing Brexit consequences – maybe even the return of some COVID variant. Public support for Ukraine under these difficult circumstances must also be maintained.

This is the moment for the Lib Dems to show Britain that we have policies to deal with these critical issues. The answer could be a Special Lib Dem Conference on the Winter Crisis, as permitted by our constitution, to be held in November, just at the onset of winter, in substitution for our lost Autumn Conference.

The Federal Board and Federal Conference Committee rightly decided that the Autumn Conference could not go ahead at a time the country was in mourning. But what was unexpected was a single all-encompassing decision to completely cancel the conference rather than reschedule.

We cannot be absent ourselves from the political scene at this critical moment. The two main parties are proceeding with their conferences. The Trade Unions have postponed and will have theirs later. The FCC suggested that our parliamentary spokespersons could cover this off. But we need to take decisions and only the party membership can authorise policy through a fully-fledged decision-taking conference.

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Coins of the realm

Some people have been asking whether coins and banknotes with the image of Queen Elizabeth will continue to be legal tender. The answer, of course, is yes.

When I was growing up I used to look out for coins from as many different reigns as possible and I kept them safe, so I have just spent a nostalgic hour looking through them again. At the time of the Coronation coins were still in circulation from many years before, and even Victorian pennies would turn up in change from time to time. We looked out for the very rare Edward VIII coins, which I never found.

Not surprisingly I still have plenty of George VI coins, plus ones from the time of George V and Edward VII, and I’m pleased to say, Victoria. They all turned up in my change in the 1950s and 1960s. The oldest one has a portrait of the young Victoria, dated 1891 – you can see it on the right of my photo of pennies and halfpennies.

It seems some Victorian coins are still legal tender, though they are not ones you are likely to have in your purse – gold sovereigns and half sovereigns and silver crowns, originally worth £1, 50p and 25p in today’s money.

Coins are very robust and can survive for 50 years or more. Although new Elizabethan coins, with the pretty portrait of the young Queen, entered circulation they only slowly displaced the ones from earlier reigns. But that was given a jolt with decimalisation in 1971, when coins were minted with the new values of 10p, 5p, 2p, 1p and 1/2p, eventually joined by 50p and £1. Coins with the same values as previous ones (5p = 1 shilling, 10p = 2 shillings) hung around for a while, but the old threepennies, pennies, halfpennies soon disappeared. The pretty little farthing (1/4p) coin, with a picture a wren, the UK’s smallest bird, on the obverse had been withdrawn earlier.

One thing we do know about the new coins which will be minted for Charles III is that he will be facing to the left. Monarchs face alternatively left and right as you can see in the photo, with a gap where Edward VIII should be.

We will be using a mixture of coins from two reigns for many years to come, or at least for as long as coins are in circulation. Most of us are now quite used to presenting credit and debit cards for quite small payments, so there is a question mark about how long we will be seeing them. You might be wise to hang on to a mint collection of Charles III coins when they do appear as they could be quite valuable to collectors in the future.

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Internal party elections – revised timetable

Given the tragic news of Her Majesty the Queen’s death, the Returning Officer has decided to alter the planned timetable for our Internal Elections.

The original timetable was based on the idea that it would enable candidates to collect nominations as part of the planned Conference in Brighton. Now that this has been cancelled, we are faced with both an increased workload for the staff team, as well as there being no conference at which to collect nominations.

Consequently, the Returning Officer has decided to delay the opening of nominations by 1 week, to the 20th September at 5pm.

In addition, the period in which candidates can collect nominations has been extended by 1 week.

Candidates now have until 6pm on Monday 10th October to collect the necessary nominations for roles they wish to stand for.

The new timetable is as follows:

  • Publication of the notice of elections: Monday 29th August, 17:00
  • Opening of nominations: Tuesday 20th September, 17:00
  • Close of nominations: Monday 10th October, 18:00
  • Deadline for submission of candidates’ manifestos: Friday 7th October, 17:00
  • Dispatch of ballot papers: Tuesday 25th October c13:00
  • Deadline for return of ballot papers: Tuesday 15th November, 17:00
  • Counting of votes and declaration of results: Wednesday 16th November 14:00

The remainder of the relevant information can be found in our Internal Elections hub here: https://beta.libdems.org.uk/internal-elections

People wishing to stand for election can submit their consent to nominations form in advance of the opening of nominations here: https://beta.libdems.org.uk/consent

Ed – Note that the following places are up for election: 

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 6 Comments

Refunds for Autumn Conference

Everyone who has registered for Conference should have received an email from Nick Da Costa, Chair of the Federal Conference Committee.

Here is an updated version of his email:

Dear All,

Rail and Accommodation update

Those of you registered from Conference will shortly receive the below email following updates from National Rail and Visit Brighton. Visit Brighton have also reached out directly to people who have booked hotels.

The Conference Team will also be reaching out soon regarding registrations, but I wanted to give you an update on this items in the first instance. There will be more updates from the team when we can

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Peaceful protest

It is very concerning to see incidents of peaceful protesters being arrested.

This is opposite to everything that the late Queen stood for – and presided over – for 70 years.

We have a right to peaceful protest in this country. We cannot pretend that dissent does not exist. There will never be 100% agreement on everything. It is ridiculous to try to pretend that there is 100% approval of the monarchy. Our strength is that we tolerate dissent.

We should wear peaceful protests as a badge of honour. It is sign of a healthy democracy.

The young lad in Edinburgh should have been protected from the mob – not allowed to be yanked about by members of the crowd, and not arrested for some trumped-up charge.

There seems to have been some lack of preparation here. In all the plans about proclamations etc, had no one thought to prepare for peaceful protests?

As Alistair Carmichael tweeted:

 

The greatest way we can honour Her Majesty the Queen is to preserve and celebrate dissent – and the peaceful protest which goes with it – in this country.

There needs to be urgent recalibration of the police response to peaceful protest in the light of the current period of mourning and ceremony.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

Christine Jardine: The Queen brought reassurance and hope in our darkest times

Christine Jardine used her Scotsman column to pay tribute to the Queen and to describe the atmosphere in Parliament as the news came that the Queen’s health was causing concern.

When the Speaker rose to convey the confirmatory announcement from Buckingham Palace, the feeling in the chamber was like nothing I have ever known or could have predicted.

This was a moment that we all in that place, indeed everyone in the country must have known could not be far off and yet somehow it was a shock.

The immediate priority was focusing on the resumed debate in an attempt to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall.

But the rest of the day was a haze of speculation, changed plans and simply watching and waiting for what was fast becoming the inevitable.

When the news came, it was family that was at the forefront of her mind:

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 7 Comments

This cancelled Conference jeopardises member participation and party democracy

If you went back in time to September 2019 and told the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth that members would not convene again in person for over three years, they would rightly be horrified. If you told them that we would be the only party to fail to do so, that horror would at best turn to astonishment.

And yet, that is the position we find ourselves in. We are a party which prides itself on its internal participatory democracy, in which members elect party leadership and committees, determine policy, form internal organisations like Lib Dem Women and the Green Lib Dems, and scrutinise party committees and office-holders, both informally, and formally at Conference twice a year. While the debate about the accessibility of Conference rightly rumbles on, and remote Conferences proved successful for carrying on training and essential business during the Pandemic, we are not yet in a world where other crucial elements can survive purely online. The Fringe, Exhibition, fundraising, congregation of thousands of party members together, and meetings of the many party grassroots organisations, have been almost entirely lost since 2019, with many party organisations facing a future where they are unable to effectively engage new members or fundraise while having to shoulder the costs of last-minute cancellations (which, as with members, disproportionately affect the less well-off).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

The transfer of power

I am not a historian nor a constitutional expert but I was always a bit smug about the way the transfer of power happens in the UK. The evidence from the USA demonstrates that even in long established democracies the handover period can be fraught with danger. In comparison the changes from one Prime Minister to another, and from one Monarch to another, seem pretty seamless here.

The events of the last week have shown me that the processes are not as seamless as I had imagined. On Tuesday, for a short period between the visits of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, full constitutional power lay in the hands of the Queen. We were dependent on her acting in the interests of democracy and the country, which of course she did. Two days later we realised just how risky that short period had been. Although unlikely, malign interventions, or indeed death, could have thrown the process into unplanned chaos.

And then we lost her. Charles was immediately hailed as King and we all assumed that the powers that come with monarchy had transitioned smoothly at that point. But in fact there was an awkward wait until the Accession Council on Saturday, which showed that was not the case.  In Part 1 of the meeting the Council proclaimed Charles as King, without him present – this was the acceptance of him as King by the people. In Part 2, the King held his first Council during which he had to assent to a long list of Orders of Council put to him by the Lord President of the Privy Council, and then take an oath to formally recognise the status of the Church of Scotland.

Is there anyone still alive today who attended the last Accession Council in 1952, or even remembers what it was about? It was held in private and probably did not register in the minds of most citizens at the time. For some historians it has always been a matter of deep interest, but I imagine most of us were simply unaware of its complexities and risks.

Maybe you all knew that already and I am just showing my ignorance. But I think not, as judged by the many comments on social media deploring the ban on political activity until after the Queen’s funeral. At first I too thought it was excessively restrictive, and I fussed about the piles of undelivered Focusses sitting in my home and the dilemmas for people fighting by-elections this week, not to mention the cancellation of Conference. I too thought it was all about showing respect for Queen Elizabeth during a period of mourning, and I sympathised with the view that she would have wanted democratic practices to continue. But the events on Saturday were a revelation and changed my mind.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Conference: the right decision even if it’s a regrettable one

I very much share everyone’s upset and frustration about the cancellation of our Autumn Conference. I’m set to lose a great deal of money on my non-refundable, fully-paid in advance hotel booking, and I’ve spent many hours and a great deal of angst on a speech that I’m not going to deliver. And, above all, I very much wanted to attend conference in person for the first time since my re-election in 2019 – now nearly three years ago!

But I fully support the decision. The death of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday isn’t just the death of an individual. We haven’t cancelled conference just out of deference to the feelings of her family, or the many other people up and down the country who feel a personal sense of loss. This is the death of a Head of State, which demands a different level of response. It’s right that as a party, we respond at an institutional level, and pay respects to the long years of service Her Majesty gave to this country.

But more importantly than that, this is a period in which the powers of the Head of State transfer from one person another, and it’s a sensitive constitutional moment. Even more so, because it hasn’t happened in this country in most people’s memory. Of the six former prime ministers present at the Accession Council on Saturday, only one of them – John Major – would have had any memory of the previous accession, and even he was only nine years old at the time.

Posted in Conference, Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 8 Comments

Welcome to my day: 12 September 2022 – a time to reflect…

In my professional life, I have been expected to answer incoming calls with “Her Majesty’s…” and, for most of my thirty-six years of service, that’s what I’ve done, with a degree of pride, both in my organisation but also a reflection of the fact that I serve the monarch, albeit through her government. It is slightly odd to realise that I’m going to have to change that.

But change, I guess, is inevitable. And, whilst intellectually it was obvious that the Queen would eventually die, there was that curious sense that she wouldn’t because, what it would be like without her? …

Posted in News | Leave a comment
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