Tag Archives: featured

Tim Farron set to run London Marathon for air ambulance charity

Our former leader really is a glutton for punishment. Last year he ran the London Marathon, raising over £5000 for the Brathay Trust, a social enterprise supporting young people in Cumbria.

And tomorrow he plans to do it all again:

This time, he’s fundraising for the Great North Air Ambulance and has already raised more than £3000.

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“The Tories are the most economically right-wing major party in the developed world”

According to John Burn-Murdoch in the FT “The Tories have become unmoored from the British people“. The charts are very telling and worth looking at. You can see them here but best to go to the FT itself.

Through the mini-Budget Liz Truss has moved the Conservatives to the right of Brothers of Italy and US Republicans, and even to the right of Bolsonaro’s party in Brazil.

This is set alongside a chart showing the position of British voters on the two axes of social and economic values. Even the most right wing of Conservative voters are not in sympathy with Trussonomics. Lib Dem and Labour voters lie even further to the left, of course. In numerical terms, the Truss Government scores 9.4 out of 10 (far right), whereas Conservative voters average 4.2, and British voters overall have an average score of 3.2.

The Tories have plotted a course to the very edge of the economic map, and when they scan the horizon there is nobody to be seen.

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Truss car crash interviews on BBC local radio on cost of living and fracking

Having absented herself from the media for days, the prime minister chose to defend her decisions and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on BBC local radio. Truss appeared on breakfast shows on BBC Radio Leeds, Norfolk, Kent, Lancashire, Nottingham, Tees, Bristol and Stoke. Her media advisers clearly thought local radio would be a soft touch with presenters more used to talking about a church fete. So very wrong. The interviews were sometimes excruciating. You could hear pauses at times, as she struggled to find her scripted reply and to remember which radio station was interviewing her.

First up for the prime minister was an interview with on BBC Radio Leeds. As the first of the day, it wasn’t so much of a car crash for Truss as the later interviews.

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Davey: Truss must cancel Tory conference to deal with economic crisis

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference which begins this weekend, and instead recall parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. Lib Dems are also calling on the government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

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Lib Dem Councillors shortlisted for national awards

The Local Government Information Unit has released the shortlists for its annual awards and four Liberal Democrat Councillors have made the billing!

Lib Dem Voice’s Editorial team send our congratulations and good luck on the night to for Liberal Democrats:

Ruth Dombey – Sutton Borough Council (Leader of the Year)

Ruth was first elected in 2002 and has been Leader of Lib Dem led Sutton council since 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Goodchild – Central Bedfordshire District Council (Community Champion)

Susan has been a Councillor since 2005 serving on both Bedfordshire County and Central Bedfordshire District Council. She is the Governor of a local school and involved in a number of community groups.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter McDonald – South Cambridgeshire District Council (Resilience and Recovery)

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The Conservatives no longer stand for a stable economy

Friday’s Kwasi-Budget was not officially a budget, despite being on of the most important fiscal statements since the Thatcher era. Because it was not a budget, it was not scrutinised by the Office of Budget Responsibility. That is yet another example of the Conservatives trying to circumvent processes designed to ensure that government’s act rationally.

This was a budget that will make top earners even more wealthy, while leaving the country and the poorest more impoverished. It was a budget based on the discredited myth of trickle-down economics. It was a budget that will allow wealthier people to dine out in style while those on the breadline scramble for crumbs.

This is an idealist budget driven by a leader who is beginning to make Margaret Thatcher look left wing.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Mahsa Amin’s death

They are burning their headscarves and police cars in Iran. Persian women are fighting back against the mullahs’ morality police. The catalyst for their anger is the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amin. The Iranian authorities claim she died of a pre-existing heart condition. Rubbish, say her family, there was nothing wrong with her heart. She died, they claim, because she was beaten in the police van on the way to the station. Ms Amin was arrested because she was wearing her hijab or head scarf improperly. That is common offence which the morality police monitor along with the wearing of tight trousers and leggings, holding hands or kissing in public.

Iran is not the only Muslim country with morality police. Afghanistan has probably the most severe. Iran probably holds the number two slot. Others include Nigeria, Sudan and Malaysia. Then there is Saudi Arabia where the ruling family’s adoption of Islam’s strict Wahhabi sect led to the establishment of the notorious Committee for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Better known among Saudis as simply “The Committee.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, however, has been circumscribing the morality police to the point of near extinction. The backlash in Iran may force the Mullahs to follow suit which can only undermine their wider claim to political legitimacy.

Another lurch to the right in Europe

Europe is taking another lurch to the right. This month two national parties with links to a fascist past have either come to power or are poised to do so.

Sweden has been known as Europe’s most tolerant country towards cultural diversity. But this month the rabid anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats emerged as the second largest party and is forming a government with the centre-right Moderates.

In a disturbing echo of Donald Trump, party leader Jimmie Akesson declared it was time to “Make Sweden Great Again.”

Georgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy has an equally upsetting motto which links her party to its fascist past—“God, family and fatherland.” Ms Meloni is expected to emerge as Italy’s prime minister after Sunday’s vote. Her party is Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, anti-gay, anti-abortion and has expressed doubts about NATO membership.

Italy and Sweden join Hungary, Britain, Czech Republic, Slovakia Austria and others who have lurched rightwards. There are differences between them but the one common element is the disturbing trend to portray their country as a victim.

Iceland

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Day 1 as lab rats: some views of the Budget

We knew yesterday’s budget was coming. Most of its measures had been trailed. Gone are the days when MPs find out what the Government is doing actually in the Chamber, even though that is what is supposed to happen.

The reality still came as a shock, though. You would expect me as a good old fashioned tax and spend liberal to be horrified by a reckless spending spree that made the rich richer and some of the poor very much poorer. I lived through the 80s when the last iteration of trickle down economics failed miserably. Mary Reid looked at the theory yesterday and found no evidence that it has ever worked.

This budget is exactly the last thing you want to see when we are on the precipice of recession. I believe in a state that uses its power to ensure that everyone’s basic needs to shelter, food, healthcare at the very least are met. We should not be tolerating hunger and poverty in this day and age and the measures announced yesterday will make life much harder for those on low incomes, particularly if they are working part time and are on Universal Credit.

But don’t just take my word for it. The way the markets tumbled and the pound crashed to its lowest level against the dollar for nearly three decades showed that they had no confidence in this either. The Guardian reports Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies as saying that the Chancellor was betting the house:

Today, the chancellor announced the biggest package of tax cuts in 50 years without even a semblance of an effort to make the public finance numbers add up. Instead, the plan seems to be to borrow large sums at increasingly expensive rates, put government debt on an unsustainable rising path and hope that we get better growth.

Former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, who first joined the Treasury in 1979 said the budget was “not ideal.”

And Conservative columnist Tim Montgomerie welcomed us to our new lives as lab rats:

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Observations of an ex pat: Blink

Vladimir Putin is daring the West to blink first.

It is the second time since 1945 that the nuclear super powers have been dragged to the brink of the abyss.

In October 1963 it was the Americans who felt threatened. Soviet missiles were moving into their backyard. This time it is the Russians. No US nuclear weapons are being sent to Ukraine, but Russia claims that Washington is using Ukraine as its proxy to—using Putin’s words—“destroy Russia.” But that is where the reverse parallels end. Ukraine is no Cuba. It is more dangerous.

For a start Putin is not Khrushchev. The Soviet system had many faults. It made no pretence of being democratic and its stated aim was the overthrow of Western capitalism. But one of its strengths was that, in 1963 at least, the Politburo was more of a collective leadership than it is today. There was a party leader, but there were others behind him who held significant influence and could replace him in a peaceful transition. In fact, that is exactly what happened.

Putin is an elected dictator. His stranglehold of the media, the judiciary and the electoral commission casts a huge shadow over the Russian ballot box.

Once elected, Putin’s power is far greater than that of his post-Stalinist Soviet successors. He maintains and dispenses that power with a system that combines old-style feudal fealty with kleptocracy masked by religiously-fuelled populist nationalism. And because Putin is elected he has greater domestic political legitimacy than his Soviet predecessors.

This legitimacy, however, has a price—success. If the Russian President fails to deliver he can be removed more easily than the old communist leaders. And because there is no obvious successor or mechanism for finding one, Putin is more likely to resort to drastic measures to stay in power.

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For Bi Visibility Day

Today is Bi Visibility Day, also known as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day.

The date highlights bisexuality and the challenges posed by biphobia and bisexual erasure – the tendency for bi people to be misread or have their lives retold as if they were straight or gay based on their public relationships.

When it began in 1999, then as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day, there was far less TV and media representation of bi life – and what there was so often depended on negative stereotypes. Media representation still has some way to go but has increased greatly in quantity and quality.In our understanding of real life experience too, biphobia was once dismissed as ‘homophobia lite’. It’s an odd idea – as if an employer that sacked staff for being gay back when that was legal would have just moved a bi worker to part-time hours.

As a party the Lib Dems have a good record: it was a Liberal Democrat equalities minister who sent the first ministerial message of support for Bi Visibility Day, and in councils like Stockport we have seen Liberals bring forward motions recognising this date and the need for year-round action on inclusion to address inequalities facing bi people.After the lull in many things due to the pandemic, this year the Bi Visibility Day website has over 100 events listed once more – from small things like flags being hoisted on universities and town halls to whole Bi Pride marches in France and Germany.

There’s even a film screening in Kyiv, where you might feel people had a good excuse to say they were a little busy and distracted right now.

But Bi Visibility Day is not simply about a bit of flag-waving and a party. The shift to a focus on visibility was not just for its own sake, but for the things that should flow from being visible and recognised.

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Reactions to the “fiscal statement” (not a Budget, apparently)

First from Ed Davey:

Sarah Olney is our spokesperson for Treasury and Business & Industrial Strategy and she spoke in the debate:

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Davey: We won’t step aside for Labour in West Lancashire but…

Labour MP Rosie Cooper who has represented West Lancashire since 2005 has announced she is stepping down as an MP after 17 years to chair the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Speaking Kay Burley yesterday, Ed Davey paid tribute to Cooper and said the Lib Dems would not be stepping aside to give Labour a clear run.

What we don’t do is waste money putting it into elections where we are not convinced we can win. We target our resources. We will always give electors a choice. Of course we will have a candidate. That’s the democratic thing to do.

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Davey: We have most right wing government in modern history

In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, Ed Davey discussed Liz Truss’s administration ahead of tomorrow’s budget that is not a budget. He said of Truss:

She is saying some of the most extraordinary ideological things. She has appointed probably the most right wing government in modern history. And it seems completely out of touch.

He said Truss’s decision to style Friday’s announcement as a “fiscal event” rather than a budget seemed to be aimed at preventing the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) scrutinising its impact.

The failure to have an OBR assessment shows the economy is being run by ideology, not a plan. They clearly don’t want the evidence, because that would be unhelpful to their argument. And that should trouble everybody.

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Fracking go ahead is not a coherent energy policy

Jacob Rees Mogg announced to the Commons today: ”I am glad to be able to announce that the moratorium on the extraction of shale gas is being lifted.”

This is a bizarre announcement driven by ideology that has no basis in science or economics.

It has long been apparent that Liz Truss lacks environmental credentials and ambitions. She doesn’t even have Margaret Thatcher’s grasp of global warming (who was the only prime minister in my lifetime to have a science degree). This a government that is not scientifically literate. It is parliament that is not scientifically literate with just 17% of MPs having science, engineering, technology and medicine higher education (STEM) qualifications. That compares to 46% of higher education students qualifying in 2019.

Rees Mogg said today that fracking will help with the energy crisis. He seems to think that getting shale gas is no more difficult that turning on a tap. The blunt reality is there not enough gas to make fracking viable in the UK and what there is, is difficult to extract. And that can’t be done overnight and the founder of Cuadrilla Resources, which had wells halted in Lancashire, says no sensible investors would risk embarking on large fracking projects 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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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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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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How to get a refund for Advance Train Tickets to Conference

Like many Liberal Democrats, I booked train tickets for the just-cancelled Conference in Brighton many months ago to save money. Advance tickets are not normally refundable, so when conference was cancelled, I was concerned that I was going to be out of pocket for the price of return tickets.

When I checked, though, it turns out that there is still a COVID policy until 30 September 2022: Advance tickets can be exchanged for rail travel vouchers for any reason, so you get a full refund for the value of the ticket. I’ll be using my vouchers to travel to York in the Spring, and I hope this will help more of you to be able to afford to be there so I can see you all, and in the words of the Queen: “We’ll meet again”.

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Autumn Conference is cancelled

This afternoon, Federal Board met to discuss a recommendation from Federal Conference Committee that our  Autumn Conference should be cancelled. It was due to take place in Brighton from 17-20 September. The sad death of the Queen, and her funeral on 19th September, on the penultimate day, meant that  FCC had to think about what to do. They spent a lot of time looking at all sorts of options, working with party staff.

Both Federal Board and Federal Conference Committee are made up of people who love going to Conference. It’s one of the great loves of my life. There is nothing like the joy of being amongst the Lib Dem family. It’s not something I would take away from anyone lightly. And that is exactly the same for everyone else involved in the decision.

At the heart of our discussions was the impact on members, emotional and financial and the Conference Access Fund will be pressed into operation to help those with unrefundable costs. The more donations it gets, the more people it can help. Had I been going, I’d have been going out for dinner and drinking in the bar, so I will certainly be donating some of that money that I would have spent anyway to help others.

Nick Da Costa, the Chair of FCC, sent this email to members registered for Conference earlier. The text is below.

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Our memories of the Queen

I cried on the day the King died. And I surprised myself when I cried again yesterday when his daughter died.

I’m not an ardent monarchist but Queen Elizabeth has been a constant presence in my life, her picture all around, and her celebrations writ large across the nation. As my colleague wrote yesterday “It is difficult to think of a public figure who has been so well thought of for so long.”

This feels like a seminal moment and a date in history that we won’t forget.

Back in February 1952 the teachers at my school were huddled around a radio one lunchtime, looking very serious. Then we were told the news and sent home. I remember telling my mother that the King was dead but she already knew and was in tears. The words “God save the Queen” sounded very odd to us then, just as it did yesterday when the Prime Minister said “God save the King”.

I don’t remember anything about George VI’s funeral, but we didn’t have a television so it wouldn’t have had much impact on me. But I know that, to the adults around me, it seemed to bring closure to the long dark years of the war and the post-war challenges, as food rationing finally came to an end.

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HM Queen Elizabeth II 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022

It is a moment that we all knew was going to come at some point in the not too distant future. Even so, the announcement of the Queen’s passing comes as a shock. It’s hard to take in that someone whose face you have seen every day of your life in some form is no longer with us.

Senior Liberal Democrats have remarked on her passing.

Ed Davey said:

We are all deeply mourning the profound loss of a great monarch, who served our country so faithfully all her life and who was loved the world over.

“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. Today our family of nations is in mourning, as we also remember the steadfastness, resolve and love Queen Elizabeth brought to the world.”

Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds said:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. My thoughts are with the King, her majesty’s other children, grandchildren and all those close to her at this difficult time.

“Her Majesty’s passing, without a doubt, does mark the end of a very long, and indeed a seminal chapter in the history of our nations and for most people her presence has been one of the few constants throughout their lives.

“Throughout her life, Her Majesty served the country with the absolute greatest dedication, honour and dignity. From serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War Two, to taking the time to speak to local schoolchildren at the opening of the Senedd last year, she never once shied away from public duty.

“Her life will forever be interlinked with that of a period of great change within the UK and although many today would struggle to recognise the world she had been born into, she always seemed to belong very much here today in the present.

“Her Majesty was always a great friend to Wales and she will be deeply missed within the UK, the Commonwealth and further afield. I pray that her journey into the next stage has been peaceful and that she is at rest.”

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Queen Elizabeth II represented perhaps the greatest life of public service in the history of our country. Our family of nations is in mourning.

“For seven decades she has been our country’s most recognisable ambassador. Whether it be her wartime service, her patronage of more than 600 charities or her Covid-19 broadcast to the nation, she has been a beacon for so many people. The Queen was loved and touched lives the world over.

“She will be remembered not only as the longest reigning monarch these isles have ever seen but as a steadfast and loyal sovereign, devoted to the wellbeing of her people,

“In 1947, the 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth declared to the British Commonwealth that her whole life, whether it be long or short, would be devoted to its service. By any measure that promise has been more than fulfilled.

“The thoughts of myself, my family and all of the Scottish Liberal Democrats are with the Queen’s family and friends at this time.

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Chosen family – making sure loved ones are respected

The loss of a close friend, the death of a life partner, even a long standing neighbour can hit us all hard. The processing of the loss along with the recollection of times well spent can be emotionally draining.

Yet for many as well as being emotional in and of itself, a friend or partner dying can also be a time when people can demonstrate harsh and unremitting cruelty. And unspoken truths about sexuality and identity are used against those mourning.

I am naming no-one but I’m sure many of us know stories of a person dying, their life partner is upset and processing the news. A relative arrives, reveals that they are the next of kin, take over control of the situation and exclude that same sex partner – the denial that the family member was LGBT+. There are too many cases that document the exclusion of the life partner – “you’re not married and I’m the sister/nephew/next of kin”. The power of the standing of “next of kin” has been used to whitewash over a truth about a same sex relationship that due to historical context or lack of legal protection has never been protected through a marriage or civil partnership.

That is why I have written to my local hospice to open a dialogue with them about people’s “chosen family”. Who do they wish to have decision over their effects and their send off? How do we, as a society, give some humane protection to those who have for years stood alongside, helped, cared and laughed and make sure that they are not cast aside in the sadness of the situation.

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Reflections on my first year as Drugs Policy spokesperson

It’s been a year since Alex Cole-Hamilton appointed me  Scottish Lib Dem  spokesperson for Drugs Policy. This is a new portfolio shadowing the Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance in response to an increasing trend of drug-related deaths in Scotland that has made us the Overdose Capital of Europe.

Since my appointment I have sought to learn, make connections and speak to people most affected by substance misuse while putting forward common sense proposals such as accelerating the rollout of Naloxone (overdose prevention kits), introducing supervised consumption centres, and calling for widespread drug law reform at the UK level. Here’s one TV interview with GB News where I put forward such proposals:

My primary focus  is reducing overdoses and drug-related deaths.  My first job involved travelling to Holyrood to attend a vigil  for Overdose Awareness Day.

I spoke to people who have lived with addictions and families who have lost loved ones to overdose. I even had the honour of meeting Peter Krykant, a former addict who took action into his own hands to start up Scotland’s first ever mobile overdose prevention centre in the back of a van. After being shown around the back of Peter’s old ambulance which  he’s modified into a mobile safe consumption centre, and upon hearing about all the lives he had saved, I was struck by the power of direct action, and how often it’s ordinary people taking matters in to their own hands who achieve far more than Government Ministers ever can.

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Your last chance to put in a question for Party Leaders at Conference

Do you fancy putting Party President Mark Pack on the spot? Or any other party committee chair?

Or asking Ed Davey something important to you in his leader’s question and answer session?

Maybe you want to ask Federal Conference Committee about making Conference more accessible, or affordable.. Maybe you want more information about the party’s diversity strategy from the Federal People Development Committee. Or perhaps you want to ask Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain about what MPs are doing on a particular issue.

You only have until 1pm tomorrow to submit your question. Do so here.

One of the advantages of asking a question is that you get the chance to do a follow-up actually in the Conference hall. This can be a really good way of getting the feel of speaking at Conference.

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Observations of an expat: Gorby’s object lesson

Mikhail Gorbachev is an object lesson in the dangers inherent in moving a corrupt, highly-centralised autocratic government in which the individual is a servant of the party and state to a fairer and more open society in which the state is the servant of the people.

That is not to detract from Gorbachev’s greatness. His policies of perestroika and glasnost helped to bring an end to the Cold War. But it also opened the door to the rise of dangerous Russian nationalism and Vladimir Putin.

Gorbachev did not set out to topple the Soviet empire. He was a true believer who was convinced that communism was the path to political nirvana. His mentor was Mikhail Suslov whose primary role was to keep the Politburo on the ideological straight and narrow.

The problem was that the Soviet Union of the 1980s was not communist. It was a planned economy with the financial levers in the hands of the Party. But even more so, it was a corrupt, oppressive geriatric oligarchy with a rapidly failing economy that was unable to support its military establishment and political control of Eastern Europe.

The “Era of Stagnation” – As Gorbachev dubbed it – started in the mid-1970s under Leonid Brezhnev with a clampdown on human rights and emphasis on heavy industry and the military establishment. Soviet consumers were ignored. Between 1975-1985 the Soviet economy grew at a miserly average rate of 1.8 percent a year. The income of Soviet man dropped. Bribery, long queues and shortages were endemic. The state-controlled media and statistical bureau reported the exact opposite. Everyone knew they lied.

The exception to this economic plunge was the Party faithful. They were allowed to buy Western consumer goods in special hard currency shops and the Politburo were chauffeured from office luxurious dacha in Zil limousines.

When Brezhnev died in November 1982 there was a power struggle between the reformist wing led by Yuri Andropov and the old guard led by Konstantin Chernenko. Andropov won and then died 15 months later. Chernenko succeeded him only to die after just 13 months in the top job. The hierarchy swung back to the reformist wing and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev immediately announced that he wanted to improve living standards and political freedoms and was prepared to cut non-productive military expenditure to achieve those aims. His policies were summed up by the terms perestroika (economic restructuring) and glasnost (political and social openness). The economy was decentralised, incentive schemes were introduced for workers and managers and state subsidies reduced along with Soviet aid to satellite countries. Nuclear arsenals were reduced and Soviet troops were pulled out of Afghanistan.

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Ed Davey: £10bn energy bailout needed to save the high street

Earlier today we highlighted the impact of high energy costs on schools. And now Ed Davey has turned his attention to the commercial sector – retail and hospitality in particular.

He is calling on the new Prime Minister to set up an emergency support scheme for 1.4 million small businesses akin to those that appeared during lockdown. As we mentioned before, the energy price cap only applies to domestic households, so businesses could find their costs rising by 400%.

His proposal would offer grants of up to £50k to shops, pubs, restaurants and all small businesses to help them cope with huge energy bills. The grants would cover 80% of the increase in energy bills for one year, up to the maximum of £50k.

The cost of the scheme is estimated to be around £10 billion, and this could be covered by reversing the planned tax cuts for big banks. In detail, we are told that would include cancelling the Government’s cut to the Bank Surcharge that is due to take effect in April 2023 and restoring the Bank Levy to 2015 levels, raising £10.6 billion over the next four years.

Ed said:

Our treasured high streets risk being turned into ghost towns and small businesses across the country risk being devastated by sky-rocketing energy bills, but Conservative ministers don’t seem to get it or care.

Local shops, pubs and restaurants could all close their doors for the last time over the coming months unless the government steps up urgently.

We need an energy bailout now to save the high street, rescue small businesses and keep prices down for families. This could be funded by reversing the Conservatives’ tax cuts for the big banks, and focusing on saving our struggling small businesses instead.

There is no time to waste. The new Conservative Prime Minister must bring in legislation to protect families and businesses from soaring energy bills as soon as Parliament returns on Monday.

Makes sense. But will the new Prime Minister have the courage to do it?

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Surrey Heath by-election speculation has Truss rattled

There is speculation tonight that Michael Gove will stand down from his Surrey Heath seat if Liz Truss is elected leader of the Conservative Party next Monday. The Guardian and Independent report the Liberal Democrats are rushing through plans to confirm a candidate for the seat amid speculation that the former levelling up secretary is considering quitting parliament, triggering a byelection. The Lib Dems are reported as having set a deadline of this week for selection of a candidate for the constituency.

Tory sources are reported as denying that Gove will quit, accusing the Lib Dems of political dirty tricks. There is speculation nevertheless that he will return to journalism.

The Lib Dems in Surrey Heath are reported to have mailed members to explain nominations for the local selection process end on Wednesday evening.

“We always work hard to support seats where there might be a possible by-election,” a Lib Dem source said, adding the party was on “high alert” in the area. The source said:

Given current rumours about Michael Gove quitting his constituency to return to journalism, it would be natural to ensure that Surrey Heath is election ready… Unlike the Conservatives, we never neglect what people are saying locally. We take nothing for granted and know winning a seat like this would be very hard work.

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Welsh Liberal Democrats pay tribute to former Assembly Member Mick Bates

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have paid tribute to former Welsh Assembly Member Mick Bates following the news that he has passed away following a battle with cancer.

Mick Bates was elected as the Liberal Democrat member for Montgomeryshire constituency in the inaugural Welsh Assembly elections in 1999 and continued to serve as its member until 2011.

Prior to becoming the Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire Mick had worked as a teacher, as a farmer and as a Liberal Democrat County Councillor.

Mick was well known for being a tireless campaigner for rural communities, but also for being decades ahead of his time on the need to tackle climate change advocating for action to save the environment years before it entered the political mainstream.

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On Artemis and Pakistan

Pakistan floods. A thousand, possibly thousands of lives ended. Homes and businesses destroyed. On the other side of the world, billions are being spent on trying to get back to the moon and onwards to Mars.

But does the world, even among the rich nations, have enough money to pay “to boldly go” while countries flood, suffer drought and people starve? Isn’t more important to give relief and tackle the real horror of our age, climate change?

But if we lose the lose our sense of adventure, the desire to explore, the need to imagine, will we ever solve the world’s problems?

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