Tag Archives: 2021 autumn conference

Conference progress on a Federal UK: levelling up the Liberal Democrat way

As a member of the Policy Working Group chaired by John Shipley, delivering the motion F21 A Framework for England in a Federal UK, I volunteered to write this follow-up to Sunday’s Conference debate. This is my consolation prize for disconnecting my audio and embarrassingly failing to speak in the debate myself – somewhat riling, given my work on regionalism and federalism since 2015.

It seems, however, that I need not have worried about the result from a personal perspective. After a clear, explanatory opening speech by Prue Bray, many contributors spoke in favour of a strong tier of English regions constitutionally equivalent to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as states of a federal UK, providing for a union that would work better in terms of fairness, localism, empowerment, democratic accountability and, importantly, creating constitutional stability between the home nations.

This is not to say that the Working Group’s views were unanimous. We recognised the need to present several options, not just one proposal. We excluded English regions with separate legal jurisdictions, as different from each other as Scotland is from England, as lacking popularity and seen by some as dangerous. The choice was between a single English state or a set of regional states and then a further decision on the nature of an all-England legislature. By a two-thirds majority Conference chose regional federal states and an English legislature separate from the federal structure, formed by regional representatives rather than a directly elected national body.

Accompanying that, Conference endorsed a Union in which at least half of tax revenue would be spent by sub-national bodies, competing with Canada and Germany as two of the most fiscally decentralised countries. We also outlined – not exhaustively – the sort of powers that the federal states should have.

Our answer to the Tories’ “levelling up” is that we have an actual plan: a massive shift in power towards local and regional authorities and a fair distribution of resources across England and the UK as a whole, taking money away from Whitehall and giving more local control over finances.

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Ed Davey profiled on BBC Radio 4

In his usual, often sardonic, style, Ed Davey has profiled by Mark Coles. In this 15-minute broadcast, we hear things we knew and things we probably didn’t. The profile begins with his birth on Christmas Day. Being orphaned. Neighbours leaving food on the doorstep. His school but good exam performance. Setting up a debating society. Being a prog rocker. Falling asleep at parties. In a gap year working in the local pork pie factory before interrailing and on to Oxford for PPE. Despite bad green jumpers, MI6 tried to recruit him. Rescuing woman from path of ongoing train.

And then …

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Moran: Introduce Health Data Trust to protect private medical data

Today, at their Conference, the Liberal Democrats have backed ambitious plans to safeguard private health data.

The party is calling for the establishment of a five-point ‘Health Data Charter’, which will set out key tests for whether data sharing is in the interest of the public and the NHS.

They also propose a ‘Sovereign Health Data Trust’, which would bring together experts, clinicians and patient representatives to oversee the implementation and observance of the new charter.

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Lib Dems urge sanctions and Olympic boycott on China over Uyghur genocide

The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion at their party conference that calls for sanctions on Chinese officials and a boycott of the Winter Olympics.

The motion also calls for family reunification of those forced into “re-education” camps and calls on the Foreign Secretary to grant asylum to Uyghurs fleeing persecution.

Liberal Democrats have consistently called on the UK Government to take urgent action against those perpetrating these atrocities, including the use of Magnitsky sanctions.

Ahead of the vote at their party conference Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran has written to every UK Government Minister urging them to back a boycott of the Winter Olympic games due to happen in February 2022.

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Tim Farron: Time to end pointless housing targets

Be honest. When did you last collect a campaign leaflet from the doormat, see a six-figure housing target, and scream, “this is the Party for me!”?

Probably never.

Why? First, because everybody knows housing targets are empty slogans. No Government has hit their magic number since 2007, but they’ve never been held accountable for missing it. Second, every Party picks the same number… or tries to out-do the other lot by 50,000.

On Saturday evening, Conference will debate and vote on Policy Motion F20: Building Communities. I’m supporting an Amendment to the Motion which increases local authorities’ compulsory purchase powers, ensures that 40% of new build houses are social homes, and erases the proposed national target of 380,000 new homes per year.

And if anybody suggests the removal of this target is in any way NIMBY, they are… well, let’s put it politely – they’re totally wrong.

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We must stand a candidate in every constituency at the next General Election

Our Party has something to offer everyone in England Scotland and Wales and therefore it makes sense that we should stand a candidate in every seat (our friends in the Alliance Party do a great job in Northern Ireland).

That might seem like common sense – but at the last election we participated in the Unite to Remain Agreement by which we, the Greens and Plaid Cymru (Labour refused to participate) agreed to stand down in some constituencies – and it was a disaster. Not only did it make no difference to the results, but the way in which our local parties and PPCs were told they were standing down with no input from them caused huge problems.

If you agree we should stand a candidate everywhere, please support Amendment 3 to motion F23: Party Strategy, 10.55 on Sunday morning.

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Lib Dems call for Care Leavers education support

The Liberal Democrats have agreed upon a new deal for Care Leavers at their party conference today. The package calls for support measures for Care Leavers particularly in the area of education.

The party is calling for further provision to support carers right the way through their education, with support measures proposed from the early teens right the way to further education.

The motion calls for young people and Care Leavers to have specialised mentoring, extra exam support and tuition. The package also calls on the Government to increase the Care Leaver Bursary from £1,000 to £2,000.

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The Guardian on Lib Dem strategy: Bringing down the “blue wall”

In an almost effusive leader column, today’s Guardian praises Ed Davey, Lib Dem strategy and calls the Chesham and Amersham victory stunning. It says the Liberal Democrats are determined to make that win just the first step in bringing down the Conservatives’ “blue wall”. Boris Johnson can’t be ejected from Downing Street without a Lib Dem revival. Although Ed Davey will not be telling delegates to go back to their constituencies and “prepare for government” there are good reasons to believe something is happening, including the May by-election results.

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WATCH: Alistair Carmichael’s Conference Speech in full

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael spoke on the opening day of the Party’s Autumn Conference. In his speech he discussed Covid ID cards, Priti Patel’s Home Office failures, the labour shortage crisis and refugees. And the video is spectacular.

 

I don’t know if our Home Secretary lacks the empathy or imagination to put herself in the place of these desperate people who take these risks to get to our shores.

But I DO know that her response to that growing crisis shames our country…

This summer we saw Tory MPs queuing up to criticise the RNLI… for doing what they exist to do, saving lives at sea.

a government led by a Prime Minister who considers himself to be above the rule of law. A government that rules for the benefit of the elite… Whatever challenges present themselves in the weeks and months to come we shall continue to take the fight to this government.

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Lib Dems call for immediate ban on conversion therapy in all forms

The Liberal Democrats have called for a total ban of conversion therapy in the UK, with no exemptions for religious practices.

The party also wants to see a criminal ban on referrals, transportation of minors overseas, and advertising and promotion of any conversion practices as well as a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of conversion therapy.

The call comes in the same year as the Government have met with the Evangelical Alliance who advocate religious exemptions for gay conversion therapy and LGB Alliance who argue that affirming a child as trans is a form of conversion therapy, whilst failing to honour their promise to ban the practice.

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The two Davids: Steel versus Owen – Fringe Friday 17:30

The Journal of Liberal History is organising a fringe meeting on Friday at 17:30. Sir Graham Watson (Steel’s former Head of Office) and Roger Carroll (former SDP Communications Director) will discuss what went wrong in the relationship between the Liberal and SDP leaders that led to the failure and break-up of the Alliance. Chair: Christine Jardine MP.

The meeting coincides with the publication of the autumn issue of the Journal of Liberal History.

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Ed Davey to rule out a coalition with Boris

The Financial Times today reports that Ed Davey will use his conference speech on Sunday to position the party as an unambiguously anti-Tory force. He will vow never help to help put Boris Johnson back into Downing Street.

When asked if the Lib Dems would facilitate a Tory government at the next election, Davey replied: “No.”

Davey defended the decision to hold a virtual conference, arguing that planning was done well in advance before it became apparent what the coronavirus situation would be.

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Time to stand up for Liberal Democracy: Fringe launch 17:35 Friday

As we Liberal Democrats begin our annual conference, held entirely online for the second year, we must recognise that we do so in the context of existential threat to the political system that gives our party its name.

30 years ago, Francis Fukuyama declared the victory of liberal democracy, and “the end of history”. But now history is very much back, with authoritarianism on the rise in Britain and across the world.

This context, we believe, means that it’s now time for the Liberal Democrats to stand up as the party of liberal democracy – and for leader Ed Davey to set out a meaningful vision for the country, instead of relying solely on local action to make incremental “Blue Wall” gains. As Nelson Mandela famously said:

Vision without action is just a dream; action without vision just passes the time; vision with action can change the world.

A new collection of essays, Citizens Britain: towards the renewal of liberal democracy, will be launched at a conference fringe event today.

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Rationing carbon

Conference Motion F12, Tackling the Climate Emergency

Our remaining carbon budget will probably be used up in less than 10 years at the current rate of consumption. If that carbon budget is squandered, our children will face a double problem. They will need to fight rising sea levels, desertification, violent storms, and unprecedented heat waves without the use of convenient and powerful fossil fuels.

Yet we continue to squander fossil fuel. The most important decision ever taken by humanity is how to control fossil fuel use.  Our precious carbon budget may need to last for hundreds of years until the CO2 levels in the atmosphere decline again.

Given the gravity of the situation, I can see no alternative now but to ration carbon. Each person’s total carbon emission must be added up using a smartphone app whenever they make a purchase, and further purchases should not be possible if their ration is exceeded.

Rationing is a simple tried and tested way of distributing scarce resources. In World War 2 this country had limited supplies of food, so food was rationed – rich or poor – the ration was the same. The result was that the poor stayed healthy and were motivated to win the war.

Rationing is painful, but this is an emergency, and whatever is needed must be done. The response to Covid was a ‘Stay Home’ order. The pain was incredible, but it was done.

If a few countries could make rationing work, others should follow, because there is concern about climate change in all countries.

The consequences of this approach will be a complete shift in global priorities: Fossil carbon consumption will be seriously considered in every aspect of life.

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