Tag Archives: 2018

Highlights of 2018

As you are inclined to do on Hogmanay, I was looking back at the year. 2018 was far from a great year but there were some fantastic moments. Here, in no particular order, are six of mine.

Gabriel in the Commons

 

One of my favourite moments was seeing young Gabriel Hames in the chamber of the House of Commons. Earlier, his mum, Jo Swinson, had taken part in the debate on proxy voting. A few weeks’ earlier, Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis reneged on a pairing arrangement with her on a key Brexit vote that the Government won by a handful of votes.

Jo’s speech was very candid about the realities of working with a young baby:

She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.

Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.

She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.

She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.

The People’s Vote March

It doesn’t get much better than being amongst 700,000 like minds on a beautiful hot Autumn day. As someone said at the time, marches like this are rarely on the wrong side of history.

It was an amazing atmosphere. Not far off three quarters of a million people peacefully and with great humour, coming together to make their point.

And there’s young Gabriel again.

Radical Kindness

Another highlight was the fringe meeting we held at Conference, trying to inject some kindness and warmth into a horrible atmosphere which developed in the media surrounding  rights of transgender people.

Barely a week goes by without some ill-informed attack on trans people or the charities supporting them. However, in an hour in Brighton, Emma Ritch from the Scottish feminist organisation Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance talked about how the atmosphere was so much better in Scotland and how feminist and LGBT organisations worked together in an inclusive way. The meeting loved the concept of “radical kindness” which underpinned their dialogue. You can read all about the meeting here

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2018 – a year of missed opportunity for the country and the Liberal Democrats

This year was the year when hugely dramatic things should have happened. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should have gone. A referendum on the reality of Brexit, with an option to remain, should have been scheduled for early in the New Year and we should be celebrating a new feeling of hope and optimism as our politics changes for the better and starts delivering for the people who are really struggling and who have been let down by successive governments for decades.

Instead this was the year that media and the internet got very excited about Impending Drama, but that drama rarely delivered. Theresa May was supposed to be deposed in every season but she survived the post Chequers and post deal resignations. The greatest irony of the year has to be Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigning in protest at a deal he helped to negotiate.

The Liberal Democrats have had some electoral success with decent local election results and a net gain of 18 seats, more than any other party in by-elections. We’ve seen modest increases in our national polling and our leader is often the least unpopular. We would have hoped that as everyone came round to our way of thinking on Brexit, we might have reaped more of a dividend, but there hasn’t really been a national election to test that yet.

We should be doing better, though. We have diverted too much time and energy into developing a supporters’ scheme that we haven’t been able to capitalise on the thing that will get us the supporters and members in the first place – a strong message. We’ve done some good stuff on that with the new Demand Better strapline but we need to take it further. Our campaigns staff have excelled themselves with the Exit from Brexit campaign, too, but our overall story needs a lot more heart and soul in it. Paddy is so much in my thoughts at the moment, and I’m reminded of his very direct “Join us if you want to put an end to poverty and inequality” pitch. That is what we need.

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