Tag Archives: Alistair Carmichael

14 November 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s been a long day today, with the last press release issued after 10 p.m….

  • Tories “unacceptably risky” on impact of Brexit food shortages
  • Number Ten bows to pressure on FOBT stakes
  • Failures on women’s health becoming the norm
  • DUP “punishment beating” comments unacceptable and dangerous
  • ‘No Brexit’ still a very real possibility
  • Country still none the wiser on PM’s blindfold Brexit
  • Brexit will rob UK of crucial cross-border crime-fighting tools

Tories “unacceptably risky” on impact of Brexit food shortages

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has warned the Tories are being “unacceptably risky” as a House of Commons committee finds that failures in preparing for Brexit mean food shortages …

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7 November 2018 – (the rest of) today’s press releases

Tonight’s press releases are brought to you from Madrid, where hundreds of liberals from across Europe are gathering for the ALDE Party Congress. This feature might be rather more erratically timed than usual until Sunday…

Brexit legal advice must be published

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has called on the Government to end their “murky games” and publish all legal advice on Brexit plans for the Irish border.

Mr Brake said:

Refusing to publish legal advice on Brexit makes a mockery of the discredited mantra ‘Take Back Control’. Choosing to withhold this information from the public raises serious questions about what

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29 October 2018 – today’s press releases (part two)

As promised, part two of today’s output from the Party’s Press Team…

Fiscal Phil’s sticking plaster Budget

Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

This was all very modest stuff, with more in it for potholes than schools and the police. A standstill non-event.

With growth remaining stubbornly low and Brexit weighing down our economy, it is clear the big problems are still to be tackled. It was a sticking plaster Budget, when major surgery lies ahead.

If we are to see an end to austerity, then we need a proper injection of

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26 October 2018 – today’s press releases

A very diverse range of press releases today, it must be said…

Universal Credit causing unacceptable hardship

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has slammed the Conservative Government for refusing to listen to problems experienced by those on Universal Credit as the Public Accounts Committee urges Ministers to make fundamental changes to the scheme.

The Public Accounts Committee has today (26th October) published its report into the implementation of Universal Credit. The committee concludes that:

  • The DWP’s dismissive attitude to real-world experience is failing claimants
  • The recent announcement of delayed roll-out is not a solution
  • The Government must work with third-party organisations to shape programme

Liberal Democrat MP …

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22 October 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s been a busy day in HQ, and there’s news of a victory over the Government in the Lords…

Lib Dems: Research shows hard border for NI puts lives at risk

Research by the Liberal Democrats and PoliticsHome has shown how crucial a soft border is between Ireland and Northern Ireland, specifically in relation to emergency service call-outs.

A series of freedom of information requests has shown that 182 ambulances and 270 fire engines crossed into the Republic during 2016-17 in response to 999 calls, highlighting how a hard border could potentially leave people with far slower emergency responses if the UK …

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Whip issues apology over Trade Bill vote

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael has issued a statement following yesterday’s vote on the Taxation (Cross-border trade) Bill:

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Alistair Carmichael: Voting for what the SNP wanted would have left Scotland weaker

There’s been a lot of ill-informed nonsense on social media about the way the Liberal Democrats voted, or in fact didn’t vote, on devolution in the Commons the other night. I was going to write a post to explain it all but then found I didn’t have to, because Alistair Carmichael had done it for me, and better.

What I think was the problem is that we didn’t really get our story out in good enough time and allowed the SNP to put it about that we had somehow not stood up for Scotland. We need to learn from this and explain it all beforehand.

Actually, and unsurprisingly, the situation is very different. As Alistair explains here, if we’d voted the way the SNP wanted and had won that vote, we’d have gone back to the original clause of the Bill, which was awful because it would have repatriated all the EU powers to Westminster to be doled out from there. No thanks.

So, Alistair now takes us through what happened and comments on the extraordinary PMQs session yesterday.

There was a single motion voted on which was a government motion to agree with an amendment from the House of Lords (apologies some jargon is unavoidable here but I shall try to keep it to a minimum). This amendment related to the inclusion of a new clause in the bill dealing with the transfer of powers coming back from Brussels post-Brexit. I was not going to support that motion as there is not yet any agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments – the reason why Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament quite rightly voted against granting the legislative consent motion for the Bill.

At the same time, however, the Welsh Government HAVE reached agreement with the UK Government and that is what is now contained in the bill. If it is wrong to vote against the Scottish Parliament’s view then surely it is wrong to vote against the view of the Welsh Assembly. There was an amendment to the government motion from the Labour Party on the order paper that reflected the true position and it was originally my wish to vote for that. Unfortunately, however, that amendment was not put to the vote so, in the circumstances described, an abstention seemed like the appropriate thing to do. In this view we were joined by the Labour Party.

One further consideration. It may not have been what they intended but the actual effect of the SNP vote (if successful) would have been to restore the Bill to the position that it was in when it left the Commons – a much weaker position for Scotland than the one that the Bill currently provides!

There are serious points at issue here :

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Tim Farron: How would you want your family to be treated if they were fleeing war?

On Friday, MPs kept alive a Bill proposed by the SNP’s Angus MacNeil aimed at reuniting refugee families. The debate was one of those which makes you proud of MPs from all parties. The Bill had support from Conservative, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Ed Davey, Alistair Carmichael and Layla Moran all made interventions.

Tim Farron made a really powerful speech. His leadership was marked by his constant and passionate pressure on the Government to do more to help refugees and it’s something that he still continues to pursue. Here’s his speech in full.

I will try to be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the most important thing today is that this Bill proceeds. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), and to all hon. Members who, unusually, are here on a Friday. This is my fourth debate on a Friday in 13 years, because this Bill matters. It is a chance and a test. It is a test of our support for the people who need it most; it is a test of our ability to act with compassion and common sense. It is not a hard test, because this is a modest and tightly defined common sense Bill.

Let us be clear what the changes in the Bill would mean for the refugee children who are already here in the United Kingdom. These are children who have experienced unimaginable things. Nevertheless, I want Members to try to imagine. What horrific set of circumstances might have to happen to a family that would mean that the danger and misery of fleeing across land and sea, as well as the risk of separation, is preferable to staying put? Imagine how you would want your children and your family to be treated at the end of your journey. Imagine that sanctuary, and the kindness that goes with it, and be very clear that that must be the model for how we treat families today.

Separated refugee children in the United Kingdom have already overcome threats and danger in their own communities. They have been split from their families in their rush to find somewhere—anywhere—safe and have then been forced through a terrifying journey by sea and land to Europe, journeys that we know have claimed hundreds of children’s lives. These refugee children are here right now living in our communities alongside us, asking us today to step up and reunite them with their families. The Bill will allow them a future with their families instead of being separated from them. It will mean children growing up with their parents where they should be, at their side, rather than living with the constant worry about the fate of their families, stranded and out of reach. The Bill simply makes that possible.

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We might not be discussing mental health detention at our Conference, but we are trying to change things

The wonderful Ms Rigg wrote a very detailed piece on how the motions were selected for Spring Conference this week. As a member of the Party’s Federal Conference Committee, she knows all there is to know about such things and it’s great that she shares so much with us.

In her post,  she lamented that a motion on mental health detention, had not made it through.

The mental health detention motion would have highlighted an injustice that is not widely known and would have given us a distinctive policy platform which none of the other parties have – with all due respect to the submitters of the NHS at 70, there’s little in there that is distinctive.

I tend to see her point on this. We do need to show our distinctive perspective on all sorts of pieces so I’m glad that she voted the way she did.

We would have had no shortage of support for such a motion. In fact, we may even have got some parliamentarians speaking in favour. Alistair Carmichael held a debate in Parliament this week on this very issue.  He told the story of a constituent’s son, who’s based in England, and the ordeal he went through. The treatment he received and the failure of the authorities to realise what they had done wrong and apologise for it is pretty disgraceful. Here’s Alistair’s speech:

In recent years, as a community and a society, we have made remarkable progress on our attitudes to mental health. To talk about mental illness is no longer the taboo that it was when I was growing up, and as a consequence we have seen remarkable progress in recent years in relation to the treatment of people, especially in our national health service.

Today, I will focus attention on a slightly different aspect of this issue—one that does not get the same attention as the treatment of people with mental health problems in the NHS. I will talk about the experience of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system—initially, of course, with the police, then with the prosecution services and, possibly, the prison authorities. The purpose of this debate is to make clear to the Minister that within those agencies of the state, we need a change of attitude and culture similar to those we have seen in other aspects of our daily life.

It is surprising that this issue does not get more attention. Many of the people about whom we are speaking often exhibit in public or private what might euphemistically be called “challenging behaviour”, which is a symptom or consequence of their mental illness. It seems to me that at all levels—in the police, the prosecution services, the courts and the prisons—we need a greater level of understanding of their life experience and, as a consequence, better implementation of procedures. In fact, many procedures are pretty good but, as I will come on to explain, they are not followed in a way that is appropriate or that was intended when they were put in place.

I confess that I had rather thought that, within the criminal justice system, we had got beyond that point. Almost a quarter of a century ago, both as a trainee solicitor in Aberdeen and as a prosecutor, I railed against some police officers who, at that stage, still reported people who had attempted suicide, alleging that they had breached the peace. That attitude belonged in the 19th century, not the 20th, and I hope that such things would not happen today. However, it illustrates the underlying attitude that requires exposure.

My interest in this issue was first engaged as a result of a constituent—a lady resident in Orkney—who came to see me because she was concerned about the treatment of her son. This is not an isolated case. From discussions ​that I have had with people in the police, the criminal justice system and social work, I believe that it illustrates pretty well many of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of people in our community, especially those who suffer from mental health problems.

I will not name these people; my constituent and her son want to retain their privacy, which is perfectly legitimate. However, the Minister should be acquainted with this case; last week, I forwarded him my correspondence file, which is fairly substantial, so that he would be aware of the background.

My constituent’s son is resident in Romford. He has a history of mental illness problems, but prior to the episode that I will discuss he had taken himself off some of the medication that he had been prescribed, because it had side effects that disagreed with him. He was reported missing by his partner on 27 April 2014. She contacted the police because she was concerned that he might kill himself. Eventually, he was traced by two police constables to a shopping centre in Romford. Questioned by the constables on the street, he told them that he was in possession of two kitchen knives, and at that stage he said that he did not intend to harm others; later in an interview, he said that he was considering harming some of those he loved.

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Carmichael: The Cabinet crumbles

A few weeks ago, I was out drinking (which I don’t do very often these days) on a Wednesday night and Michael Fallon resigned.

Tonight I was out drinking on a Wednesday night and Damien Green resigned. Robert Peston, who predicted he’d be absolutely fine, must be crying into his beer now.

All I can say is that it’s a sacrifice I would be prepared to make on a regular basis, especially for the Hanging Bat’s excellent honeyed ale with a schooner of rather excellent Porter on the side, all in the company of a very bad  influence indeed.

It must …

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Carmichael: Conservative ministers wrong to attend DUP Conference

Alistair Carmichael has criticised the appearance of two senior Conservative Ministers at the DUP’s annual Conference. The Conservatives are beholden to the DUP for a majority and in June agreed a deal with them which cost us £1 billion. The greater cost, though, is the damage to the sensitive political relationships in Northern Ireland.

Was is really necessary or wise for Damien Green to go for a dinner and Tory Chief Whip to be welcomed to the stage with such obvious pride by the DUP?

Alistair Carmichael says that it wasn’t?

The peace process is still fragile and has survived because British politicians have been prepared to rise above the usual partisan politics.

It is difficult to see how anyone in Northern Ireland and Ireland will see Conservative ministers as being anything other than part of the problem now. It was a mistake for them to go.

Ireland has been much in the headlines this weekend. Tom Brake had this to say on the comments by Ireland’s EU Commissioner that it is a “very simple fact” that “if the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU Customs Union, or better still the Single Market, there would be no border issue”.

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WATCH: Liberal Democrat MPs slam Government’s contemptuous approach to Parliament

This afternoon, Alistair Carmichael led an emergency debate, which he had secured, to raise the many ways in which the Government is marginalising Parliament. From ignoring Opposition Day debates to curtailing debate on legislation to the Henry VIII powers.

His speech introducing the debate was excellent. Watch it here.

My favourite bits are this:

The best Governments—and if ever there was a time in our country’s history when we needed the best possible Government, this is surely it—are those that are tested by Parliament, by the Opposition parties and by their own Back Benchers. Time and again, our system fails when the Government and the Opposition agree and arguments remain untested. How different might the debates on the case for going to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 have been if the then Opposition had been prepared to take a more questioning approach to Tony Blair’s case? I am sad to say that this Government, however, do not welcome scrutiny by Parliament, but rather seek to avoid it.

and the bit where he challenged MPs to get assertive:

In one sense, the Government have done us a favour by bringing this issue to a head, because it forces us as a House to decide what our role in the future of this country is going to be. Is it to be an active participant, with a strong voice and a decisive say, or is it to be a supine bystander as the Government continue to do as they wish, regardless of their lack of a mandate and, as is increasingly obvious, their lack of authority.

I have been a member of many debating societies over the years. They have all been fine organisations that provided entertainment and mental stimulation in equal measure. I mean them therefore no disrespect when I say that I stood for Parliament believing I was doing something more significant than signing up for a debating society. The difference is that in Parliament—in this House—we can actually effect change. Whether we choose to do so is in our own hands.

I loved the fact that the Tories responded by slagging off the Liberal Democrats in the most immature way as they clearly had no defence.

Christine Jardine said that MPs were there to serve the electorate, not to play games. She talked about seeing Parliament as others see it and the impression it gives to people outside who were not involved in politics.

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Not the best day for the British government’s Brexit endeavours

It’s not been the best day for the British Government. Theresa May had to accept that Japan’s immediate priority was its trade deal with the EU, which should not be surprising given that it gives access to half a billion people compared to our 60 million.

In the joint press conference held by Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Theresa May, Mr Abe stopped short of committing to a rapid new trade deal after Brexit, saying only that the two leaders would discuss the issue.

Instead, the Japanese Prime Minister stressed the need for a smooth and orderly Brexit that minimises disruption for Japanese investors in the UK.

Alistair Carmichael said:

Theresa May went to Japan seeking a new trade deal, she’s now had to admit the biggest priority will be completing the one the EU is already negotiating.

Once again the promises of the Brexiteers have been dashed on the rocks of reality.

It’s a sign of the Prime Minister’s weakness that rather than going abroad to fight for British jobs, she’s been forced to desperately fight for her own.

The chances of the UK getting a trade deal with Japan before Brexit are about as slim as the odds of Theresa May staying on to fight the next election.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the Brexit negotiations aren’t going well for our Brexiteers. At a joint press conference, Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator, warned there has been “no decisive progress” on key issues and there were issues of “trust” between the two sides.

Tom Brake said:

The government is stuck in a Brexit quagmire of its own making, and risks taking the country down with it.

Five months on since Article 50 was triggered, progress in these talks has been almost non-existent.

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Vince’s six questions for David Davis on the customs union

Vince Cable has set out six questions the Government must answer after the “constructive ambiguity” in its document published yesterday told us not a huge amount. The questions seem designed to reveal whether the government’s position is actually based on any evidence about the impact of its options or whether the options are just a fig leaf to cover up the deep divisions in the Cabinet.

Vince said:

The government is offering two ways forward but won’t tell us which it prefers. That’s no doubt because cabinet ministers can’t even agree amongst themselves.

These plans are more concerned with papering over the cracks within the Conservative party than protecting our economy.

All those industries that depend on membership of the customs union, from the car industry to aerospace, still have no clear idea what is coming down the track.

All they know is that instead of jumping off a cliff in 18 months, the government now wants to do so in a few years’ time.

The government must come clean over the real costs of these plans for British businesses and consumers.

And on to the six questions:

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Alistair Carmichael is to be the Lib Dem Chief Whip

In an interview with his local paper The Orcadian, Alistair Carmichael ruled himself out of standing for the leadership, saying:

“It is difficult enough juggling the demands of having a family in Orkney and living between there, London and Shetland, without making it more complication.

“I think there are other things that I can do that add value to the party’s efforts, rather than be leader.

He revealed what that would involve, too. He’s going to go back to the role he had during the early Coalition years – as Chief Whip.

That role will be very different now. Then, he had to …

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Farron: I am determined to protect decent people from being taken for granted by a heartless Conservative Government

Well, I certainly chose a fine two days to be sent to the Highlands campaigning. I mean, I’ve barely been able to catch up with the manifesto launch yesterday and the leaders’ debate tonight. I’ve been in the most wonderful places on the planet as far as I am concerned, but have been experiencing the broadband and connectivity problems first hand.

I will be back home tomorrow night. I haven’t yet seen the Leader’s Debate, but by the magic of technology, I can bring you Tim Farron’s opening and closing statements.

He kicked off with a powerful and personal appeal:

I got into politics to fight.

To stand up to those who take you for granted.

I grew up in Preston in the 1980s.

I saw what happens when decent people are taken for granted by a heartless Conservative government.

I am determined to stop that happening again.

The decent Britain I love is under threat.

Theresa May – backed by Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn – is going for an extreme Brexit deal that will damage our future for generations.

Don’t give up.

The Britain I love is not lost yet.

No matter which way you voted in the referendum:

If you care about our children, do not cut our schools.

If you care about our elderly, don’t leave them on trollies in corridors.

If you want Britain to lead the world, do not turn your back on it.

A brighter future is possible.

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Carmichael: If you don’t want to come out of the single market, the Lib Dems are the only party who will speak up for you

Here’s Alistair Carmichael talking to BBC News earlier, saying that the Lib Dems are “optimistic and confident” about what we can achieve in this election:

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael calls on Labour to get behind the Liberal Democrats on Brexit

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WATCH: Alistair Carmichael: The British people need to mark Theresa May’s homework

Alistair Carmichael gave an interview to the Daily Politics this week in which he outlined the case for a referendum on the Brexit deal.

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Tim Farron tops Guardian front page as Carmichael’s “You’re not an opposition” riposte to Thornberry gets biggest Question Time cheer

Last night, Alistair Carmichael took full advantage of the opportunity his last minute addition to the Question Time panel gave him to give both Conservatives and Labour a blast.

Watch him tell off Labour’s Emily Thornberry:

Earlier today, Tim Farron was the top story on the Guardian website as he lambasted Labour’s failure to put up any sort of opposition to the Tories.

In an overt attempt to steal votes from Labour in pro-remain constituencies, Farron said he believed Corbyn had put his party on the wrong side of the biggest political issue in a generation and was struggling because his MPs were increasingly split on how to respond.

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Alistair Carmichael on Question Time tonight

Finally, we have a Lib Dem on Question Time.

Alistair will, I’m sure, seek to highlight the general uselessness of the annexe to the Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

If it weren’t for Alistair, I’d be tempted not to watch tonight. The smug apologism for Trump that Piers Morgan represents is bad enough, but Chris Grayling and Emily Thornberry can usually be guaranteed to annoy me.

It is …

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Will Labour moderates seize the moment?

In an article for the Telegraph (which the sub-editors did not headline in a particularly helpful way), Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael called on Labour moderates to work with others who share the aim of securing the UK’s place in the single market and who want to see a successful economy which gives more money to invest in public services.

First of all, he states that the party really is over for Labour:

First, as this summer’s leadership election made clear, they do not even have a Neil Kinnock, let alone a Tony Blair. The Corbyn grip on Labour is stronger than ever, and so the party will continue to look inwards not outwards to voters.

Secondly, Labour then could look to Scotland and the North for both raw numbers and talent. No longer.

So as they view their prospects for 2017, Labour MPs face some unpalatable but necessary decisions. The Fabian estimate of Labour reduced to 150 seats may turn out to be optimistic. Its leader is more interested in ideological purity than winning elections, and, challenged by identity politics in its heartlands, Labour is as far from power as it was under Michael Foot. This time, however, there is no way back. Our first past the post electoral system – long supported by Labour – now threatens to consume them.

Labour, he says, is a “road block” to progress.

He calls on those in the Labour Party who don’t agree with its current direction to work with us:

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Exhibit A on how the Lib Dems restrained the Tories

Commenting on the Home Secretary’s speech to the Conservative party conference, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

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Conference speeches: Alistair Carmichael: Liberal Britain will follow this party once again

Here is Alistair Carmichael’s speech to Conference in full:

It is good to be back in Brighton.

It has been quite a year since we all left Bournemouth after autumn conference last year.

I remember the journey home.

We had had a good conference.

Membership was up and we had more new members at conference than I had ever known

Glee Club had been as hot, tuneless and tasteless as I had ever known it.

Tim had delivered a stonker of a leader’s speech

The mood was upbeat.

But too be honest I remember thinking on that train pulling out of Bournemouth that it was all a little suboptimal.

I had just spent a week with good friends who had been fantastic colleagues in parliament but who had lost their seats just the same.

Good men and women who hadn’t deserved to lose.

Vince Cable, Norman Baker, Simon Hughes, Mike Moore, Jo Swinson, Lorely Burt, Mark Hunter, Steve Webb, Lynne Featherstone, Dan Rogerson….

I could go on.

Mostly, replaced by Tories carried in on a national tide who, even sixteen months later, for the most part I would struggle to recognise let alone name. How their constituents must regret it now.

That was hard.

It was, quite honestly, hard to see a way ahead for this party that I first joined as a fourteen old.

It was hard to see our purpose.

It was even harder to see our future.

After five difficult years in coalition it felt like the Tories had got all the benefit and we had

got all the grief.

They had won the majority in parliament. They wore the mantle of economic competence like they do so much in life – with that unmistakable sense of Tory entitlement.

As I say – just a bit…suboptimal.

Well, what a difference a year makes.

Twelve months after that rather subdued journey from Bournemouth home to Orkney, the landscape looks pretty different today.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: May’s legacy on immigration detention is callous and cold

Alistair Carmichael has written an article for the Times Red Box website in which he slams Theresa May’s record on immigration detention:

32,000 people is half the population of my home town.

He explains why immigration detention is so bad:

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: We put an end to child detention. Now the Tories have backtracked

Alistair Carmichael writes for STV News about the Tories sneaking out the announcement about the closure of the Cedars facility:

It is the oldest trick in the parliamentary book. Slip out all the bad news on the last day when MPs are already looking out the Ambre Solaire and the flip flops. By the time the Commons returns in September the moment for protest will have passed and the pressure will be off.

Thursday’s clutch brought the usual mix of the good, the bad and the indifferent. And one more — the shameful. Buried in amongst announcements about schools funding, Ecofin and Armed Forces Pay Review Body appointments, there is one entitled “Cedars pre-departure accommodation”. It is a cosy-sounding title that betrays its true nature.

Cedars was the accommodation set up under the coalition government when implementing the commitment in the coalition agreement to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. It meant that children in families awaiting removal from the UK would no longer have to spend time in lock-down institutions.

Why should we treat children of asylum seekers less well than we would want our own to be treated, he asks.

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LibLInk: Alistair Carmichael: Theresa May’s liberal rhetoric a surprise

Alistair Carmichael has written an article for today’s Scotsman in which he matches up Theresa May’s words on entering Downing Street to her actions in government. Certainly we can all remember Margaret Thatcher’s warm words about bringing peace and harmony when she entered No 10, and we know how that turned out.

For many people there were three main reasons for being pleased to see Theresa May enter No 10 Downing Street last week. Firstly she was not Boris Johnson; secondly she was not Michael Gove and thirdly she was not Andrea Leadsom. As a father, I felt it could have been worse. Mrs May, a vicar’s daughter we are told, delivered a little homily for the benefit of the world’s media outside her new residence. The rhetoric was good. I know from five years in coalition government that getting some Conservatives even to acknowledge the inequalities of modern life can be difficult. Here we had a Conservative prime minister not just acknowledging them but promising to tackle them.

But her record so far doesn’t quite reflect this:

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LIbLink: Alistair Carmichael: Parliament can not duck responsibility for UK joining Iraq war

As we have a 13-years-too-late mea culpa (but a big boy made him do it) from John Prescott, Alistair Carmichael writes for the Times about Parliament’s role in supporting the Iraq War.

He makes the very valid point that Parliament could have given Blair a much harder time, asking for more evidence, scrutinising every claim made, but they ducked it.

Too many of those who now say, “Of course, if I had known then what I know now …” must be challenged. For the most part they could not have known then what they know now because they were not prepared to ask the questions or to demand the evidence.

Attention focuses on the actions of the prime minister and government of the day and rightly so — they failed to do what they should have done. That is, however, equally true of the Conservative opposition. Where they should have questioned, they acquiesced. Where they should have demanded evidence, they accepted assertions. As a party of the establishment, they could not allow themselves to believe that the various arms of government would be embarking on a war without a sound basis in law.

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Carmichael: Britain needs to hear liberal internationalist voices like never before

Alistair Carmichael has given his reaction to the referendum result on his Facebook page, reproduced here with his permission.

Facebook asks what is on my mind. This may not be the most coherent answer I can give in my sleep-deprived state but here goes :

1. As a result of the referendum vote we now have massive economic issues to face and deal with – the priority for all parties should be to tackle that.

2. We can not tackle these problems while, as a country, we are split down the middle so this is a time for bringing people together and healing the divisions if we can. I sense a lot of anger amongst my friends and I share the frustration but we can not allow that anger to be self-indulgent. There is too much at stake.

3. The only way in which a break up of the UK can now be avoided is if we go for a properly federal structure and elect it proportionately. Brexit is the consequence of a broken political system.

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Alistair Carmichael MP writes: Snoopers’ Charter debate was a circle of Hell even Dante could not have imagined

This week in Parliament we debated the Investigatory Powers Bill or, as some would have it, the Snooper’s Charter take 2. It was two days of my life that I will never have back and, after fifteen years as an MP, it was two of the most depressing days I have known. Being an MP is a great job and when parliament works as it is supposed to it can be exhilarating. When it fails to do what it is elected to do, namely to hold the government of the day to account, then it is hell. The debate on this bill took us to a new circle of hell that even Dante could not have imagined.

The Bill is rotten to its core and I wish we could have blocked it as we did in Coalition when faced with the Communications Data Bill. Dealing with Tories in government was difficult. Dealing with Tories in government and Labour in opposition is impossible.
We had two days to debate hundreds of amendments in the House of Commons. The government alone brought forward one hundred and four amendments on the first day and a further twenty on the second. After all the amendments the provisions on bulk data collection and the retention of “internet connection records” are not even half-baked. They are raw.

You would have thought that this would be grist to the mill of any decent opposition. You would be right in that. Unfortunately we don’t have a decent opposition, we have the Labour Party. There was not a single amendment in the whole two day debate on which Labour considered worthy of voting. For two days they were absent from the voting lobbies. We did get a little excited on day two when we heard through the usual channels that they were “going to vote on something”. We need not have got our hopes up – it turned out that “something” was a third reading of the bill (ie on the bill as a whole) and the vote they cast was to support it.

For our part, despite our overarching opposition to the Bill we had tabled a raft of amendments in an attempt to make the Bill a little less awful. The SNP took the same approach. I will not bore you with them all but give you a flavour below.

First, I proposed – and pushed to a vote, an amendment which would have deleted provisions in the Bill for the introduction of the collection and storage of Internet Connection Records (ICRs). Now, I’m not yet 100% clear what an internet connection record is. Nobody is – even the Home Secretary. I surmise that it will probably be your web history. This will then be stored for 12 months just in case you ever come under suspicion. Meanwhile, that information can be hacked and stolen revealing an enormous amount of detail about your life, activity and even your state of mind. I knew that when I pushed the amendment it would not pass. Andy Burnham the shadow Home Secretary had already said that whilst he accepted that ICRs were incredibly intrusive and might not even be helpful in solving crime he supported their collection in principle (God alone knows what the principle was but by this time I had given up on trying to understand the Labour Party’s position).

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