Tag Archives: featured

Layla Moran writes…The change we need to move towards racial equality

Every week, LDV gives each leadership candidate the opportunity to write an article. This is Layla’s for this week. 

UPDATE: Since writing this response, sent to the original letter writers on Sunday 2 August and posted on LDV on  4 August)  I have been involved in discussions with members, and have added my support to the Abolish BAME campaign. It’s time to end the use of BAME as a catch-all term. We can all do better on this, including me, and I hope this is the start of the change that’s needed.

Thank you for writing to me about racial equality in our country and our party. This issue must be an absolute priority and I am glad it has received such significant attention throughout our leadership contest, thanks to the work of members such as yourselves.

I would also like to sincerely apologise for the delay in replying and hope you have had the opportunity to hear about my vision during the hustings so far.

As you so rightly point out, the Liberal Democrats need to be at the forefront of challenging racism and since becoming an MP I’ve put this at the heart of my work.

Whether that’s campaigning for companies that profited from slavery to pay out and support BAME communities, leading calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed, fighting to dismantle the Conservatives’ hostile environment, or shining a spotlight on systemic inequalities in our education system, which mean black pupils are so much more likely to be excluded than their white peers.

The events of recent months have shown us why this struggle is more important than ever. As chair of the only comprehensive cross-party inquiry into the government’s handling of coronavirus, I’m committed to ensuring that the appallingly disproportionate impact on BAME communities is properly addressed and never repeated.

However, we also need to go much further, in order to build a fairer society where opportunity for all is a reality not just a buzzword. Under my leadership, I want our party to harness the energy and passion shown by the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd and champion more ambitious policies that will deliver real change.

One of the biggest issues facing BAME communities today is inequality in the workplace, which is why I’ve reached out to the Confederation of British Industry, the British Retail Consortium, and the Trades Union Congress, to help draw up legislation that would require companies to publish data on their ethnicity pay gap for the first time.

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Daisy Cooper MP writes….200+ Liberal Democrats back Ed Davey as the leader with ‘experience, vision and judgement’

Each week, LDV allows each leadership candidate one article on LDV. This is Ed Davey’s for this week.

As ballots open for the Liberal Democrat leadership election, we are endorsing Ed Davey MP as the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

We believe the Liberal Democrats need a leader with the experience, vision and judgement to navigate us through these turbulent times for our party and our country. The coronavirus pandemic leaves us facing economic chaos. The risk of a no-deal Brexit will only heighten those challenges. The fight against the climate emergency is ever more pressing. Our leader must be someone with the attention to detail and policy depth to tackle that triple threat. Ed Davey’s experience as a trained economist and of trebling renewable energy in Government are exactly what we need right now.

The party needs to rebuild on solid foundations, with a leader that will drive the party forward at a national level and will work with local parties and grassroots members in order to help them win crucial elections in 2021 and beyond. Ed Davey’s knowledge of the party and experience of winning in local, regional and national elections, as well as inside Government, will prove vital to that rebuilding operation.

Ed has presented a clear, coherent vision for the future of the party that stands for a fairer, greener, more caring country. A country where we give universal free childcare to parents, where we invest £150bn in green jobs and renewable homes and where we give the 10 million carers in the UK a new, better deal.

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Layla Moran: The momentum is with my campaign – vote for me to move us forward together!

Each week LDV invites leadership candidates to submit one article. This is this week’s article form Layla Moran

Today’s the day! Ballots are finally dropping into inboxes and through letterboxes. I’m urging Lib Dem members to vote for me, to move our party and our country forward – and the momentum is with my campaign.

Let’s be honest – there is a burning need for change. At just six per cent in the polls, we are in sink or swim territory. Our country desperately needs a strong liberal voice to challenge Boris Johnson’s increasingly isolationist and regressive Conservative Government.

I’ve been clear throughout this contest: to change our country, we must first change our party. Because only by renewing ourselves and rebuilding trust will we win again. And only by winning will we be able to deliver progressive, liberal change for communities across the country.

In my plan for our party, I’ve outlined five key steps to strengthen our party at every level and win again from the bottom up. It starts with learning the lessons from the past decade, and sending a clear signal to voters that we are renewed as a party, and can credibly communicate a progressive message. We can do this by electing me as leader!

After this, we will win back trust and support by living our values as a party, listening to voters, empowering our activists to deliver a core message that resonates with a broad base of supporters

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Lynne Featherstone writes….Vote Layla!

I took over as Layla’s mentor when Vince had to stop because he became leader. I didn’t know her. I’d met her only once at a training weekend a few years earlier. We had lunch to introduce ourselves to each other. I came away from that very first meeting thinking here is someone who should be our leader.

I did my damndest to get her to run last time against Jo and Ed. Sadly (but possibly wisely) she resisted my pleading. She felt having been in Parliament a short time, and with a majority of just 800, she wasn’t ready. This time, with her majority increased to almost 9000; there was no holding her back. She is original, brave, intelligent, empathetic, and charismatic, and she will move us forward together.

Layla is liberal through and through and through. She wants every single person to fulfil their potential and have the security to live life as they choose. The words in our preamble: no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity, called to her as they did to me.

Her key priorities on education, the environment and the economy – Universal Basic Income and carbon negative (not just neutral!) targets and a teacher-led curriculum are how we move forward. Bold, liberal ideas, delivered with the right message and messenger will build our party and our country back better. You can read more about her plan for the party and vision for the country here.

With Layla, we can move on from the coalition voting record. We can rebuild trust and deliver positive and progressive change. Yes – we did some good things during the coalition. I was the originator and architect of the same-sex marriage law. But brilliant and liberal as that was – it’s not what people think of when the word coalition is brought up, and the coalition will be brought up in the many interviews our new leader will be grilled in. Being able to move the conversation forward from it is vital.

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Ed Davey writes: Putting Liberalism at the heart of diversity and anti-racism

Earlier this month, an open letter was published to both leadership candidates about race and diversity. I promised in the comments to publish a full response, because this is an issue that I take incredibly seriously. Our party’s record on diversity is poor – and when it comes to representation of Black and Asian communities it is unacceptable. It will be a central purpose of my leadership to sort this – working with people inside and outside our party. 

Two years ago, the Alderdice Review, set out the problem with great clarity – with clear recommendations for sorting the problem. Yet the Thornhill Review of the 2019 General Election rightly concludes progress has been glacially slow. This work now needs to be super-charged. 

It does require leadership from the top – the top of every level in our party. 

Take my constituency of Kingston and Surbiton. It is the most diverse of any constituency we currently hold in Parliament. And after 20 years of working with our large Tamil, Korean, Pakistani and Gujarati  populations, we now have one of the most diverse party memberships in the country and 8 out of our 38 councillors have BAME backgrounds. 

And while I know we still have much more to do, I do think my experience leading this local effort will be useful in the nationwide effort we must now urgently engage in. 

The key to our success in Kingston has been hard work – going out to listen and engage with every community in our area. I personally visit our mosques, Hindu temples and churches very regularly – indeed, for our Sikh community, I even helped them establish Kingston’s first gurdwara. And I’m a regular at the schools many of our diverse communities hold every Saturday to teach different languages and cultures – from Urdu to Arabic, Korean to Tamil. 

It’s this reach out I would lead and would ask every local party to lead. As a party, we have to do better than simply stand with our arms open and then hope people will come to us.

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UPDATED: Watch Ed and Layla at hustings

This post will be regularly updated with links to recordings of  Ed and Layla at the many hustings events that are taking place.

I’ll update it and re-post it whenever there is something new to add.

First up, the very first formal hustings, with the Social Liberal Forum on Saturday 11th July.

The most recent hustings took place on 1st August – the Norfolk County

Also this week, the Yorkshire and the Humber event

 

And a themed hustings – the Green Agenda, from Wednesday 29th July

The first of the party’s big set piece hustings, on jobs and the economy took place on Wednesday 15th July:

More events under the cut. First South Central from 11 July

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Layla Moran, cutting through the media

Lib Dem Voice invites each candidate for the leadership to submit one post in support of their campaign per week. This is the post from Layla Moran’s team for this week.  

While we’re all caught up in the policy nuances of our summer leadership debate there is something to me that seems to have been overlooked – a leader’s ability to make the Liberal Democrats part of the national conversation in the media. This for me is one of the main reasons I’m backing Layla to be our next leader.

Layla has the media nouse to make the Liberal Democrat’s voice heard in the national conversation. Throughout this campaign, she has secured front-page stories across the spectrum, from traditionally Labour-supporting newspapers like the Mirror to staunch Tory backing papers like the Telegraph where she helped expose historic slavery links to some of the UK’s top firms leading to them donating to BAME community groups and charities.

She even led a campaign with the Daily Express on an incredible (and in the end successful) campaign to force the Government to introduce a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme for bereaved families. This shows how working with the media isn’t just about raising the party’s visibility, it can change policy and change lives.

Since I joined this party in 2015, I’ve never seen a Liberal Democrat MP so good at making us a relevant part of the national conversation. Layla is a refreshing voice in the media, in many cases providing the only clear opposition to this shambolic Tory Government. Just in the past few weeks, she made the front page of The i newspaper on opposing the Conservative’s heartless choice to reinstate car parking charges for NHS staff.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats trial new virtual conference – 3 top tips from me

I spent most of yesterday glued to various screens. I went to Social Liberal Forum’s leadership hustings in the morning and in the afternoon, we had the Scottish Lib Dems’ virtual special conference. Thanks to Paul McGarry for the screenshots.

Here, Willie Rennie and Alistair Carmichael are interviewed by Environment spokesperson Rebecca Bell, watched by convener Sheila Ritchie:

Chair Jenni Lang watches while LGBT+ Exec member Fraser Graham speaks on the diversity motion:

And here are John Ferry and Katy Gordon putting Layla and Ed through their paces:

We had a couple of items of actual business – a motion on diversity for the elections next year and the report on a reference back from a policy motion, which couldn’t wait any longer. We haven’t had a proper Conference since Spring last year. The election did away with our Autumn Conference last year and the pandemic scuppered Spring Conference in May.

We were the pioneers for the Lib Dems in using the platform Hopin, which the party has acquired for the Federal Conference due to take place from 25-28 September.

Massive thanks are due to Paul McGarry, the Scottish Conference Convener, Megan Wiseman and Paul Moat from Scottish HQ who set everything up. Federal Conference will have people to do that professionally, but they did a great job. Though there were a few testing problems with the tech, they got them sorted and we got all the business done.

The chairs and aides were based in Scottish HQ, all appropriately socially distanced bar the two from the same household.

The agenda provided two debates and two keynote events so there was a good mix. We had one procedural motion, a suspension of standing orders, and an amendment for each motion.

We used a separate voting system called mi-voice, but I think that for Federal Conference we’ll be voting in Hopin. That was a bit glitchy, but we got there.

As we were all attending from our homes, there was bound to be some background noise at some point. Usually it’s my dogs causing various sorts of mayhem, but on this occasion, it was the gorgeous Thor and Bella who did what every self-respecting dog does when a delivery driver turns up at their house.  They didn’t realise that their mum, Cllr Fiona Dryburgh,  was making her debut conference speech.

 

Top Tips

From yesterday’s experience, I’d say that there were three top tips for attendees to the Federal event in the Autumn.

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Building Scotland back better

The next Scottish Parliament election on 6 May 2021 will be a major test for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  With some recent polls suggesting increased support for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom the stakes could not be higher.

We opposed Brexit and oppose Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.  Another independence referendum would be a massive distraction from sorting out the problems Scotland faces.

We must continue to make the passionate, emotional and economical case for a reformed United Kingdom.  People want to vote for success, for hope of a better future and for people who aspire to make a difference.  We need to show how using the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament will enable Scotland to be built back better.

The Scottish Party is about to consult members about the shape of our 2021 manifesto. It is worth setting out a handful of ideas that could, if the Scottish Government devoted its whole attention to them, make Scotland a fairer, greener and more prosperous place to live and do so by giving more power to local communities.

In 2017 the First Minister declared that education was her “top priority”, but Scottish schools have declined in international rankings and the Scottish Government has failed to meet its own targets for the provision of nursery places. The damage done to our education system will reduce the opportunities available to our children and hold our country back.

The Liberal Democrats long campaigned for a penny on Income Tax for education.  We should actually make Education the top priority for government once again.   Education is our way to a high-wage, high-skill economy where inequality becomes largely a thing of the past. It is a scandal that most of Scotland’s secondary schools only allow children to take six subjects at Nat5 level (the equivalent of GSCE in England).  That must change.  

We could give more power to schools and colleges, local school clusters and councils to come up with new ideas that meet local needs and help raise attainment.  In an environment where the UK Government is talking of increased public spending, we could use Barnet consequentials to increase school budgets, recruit more teachers and support staff and make the Pupil Equity Fund (the Scottish equivalent of the Pupil Premium) permanent and more effective. Scotland used to legitimately claim to have one of the best education systems in the world. We need to recover that reputation.

The pandemic has shown how our society pushes stress and risk onto the shoulders of those who find it harder to bear.  The Scottish Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for reform of mental health provision, so it is treated with the same urgency as physical health.  We should make that change.  Holyrood must also make a massive investment in new affordable and social housing to end homelessness and ensure that everyone lives in the home they need.  We should simplify and speed up the programme to insulate every home in Scotland, cut carbon emissions and end fuel poverty.

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Mike German writes: Democracy, digital technologies and trust

A new report from the House of Lords has shone a searchlight on the effect of online activity on the health of our democracy. Over the past year Paul Scriven and myself have been members of a Select Committee taking evidence, investigating the level of harm, and developing proposals for tackling this critical issue. As Liberals we see technology can be a tool to help spread power, and improve democracy. But that can only happen with the correct framework around it.

Trust in our democracy is being eroded. Our key conclusions are that democracy should be supported rather than undermined by technology platforms, and that misinformation poses a real and present danger to our democratic processes.

There have clear examples of dangerous misinformation online during this Covid-19 pandemic. The online references to the 5G network and its connection with the virus, led some people to damage the telecommunications infrastructure. Other spurious medical advice has abounded. In the last General Election the Tories changed their website for the day. They claimed it to be an authoritative source of independent information in which -guess what – the Tory policy was the only right course!

The net effect of online misinformation is to threaten our collective democratic health. It is damaging trust in our democracy and takes us on a downward path where no-one listens, and no-one believes what they read and see. The government has promised an Online Harms Bill, but progress is moving at a snail’s pace. Ministers have been unable to even say whether we will get the new law before 2024. It is clear to us that the Tories are running scared of tackling the big online platforms. Our report calls for OFCOM to be given the power to hold these platforms legally responsible for content which goes out to their huge audiences in the UK.

Trust in what you find online has declined. People, particularly those coming up to voting age (16 in Scotland and Wales – catch up England!) need the skills and confidence to navigate online and find sources they can rely on. Too much of our education curriculum is about computing skills and not critical digital literacy.

There are lessons for all political parties as well, but the report singles out the Tories and Labour for their inability to see problems within themselves. Political parties must be held accountable for what we say, if we are to gain and expect the trust of the British people.

Electoral law has simply not caught up with the impact of online activity.

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Diana Maddock has died

Some incredibly sad news has come through this morning. Diana Maddock, winner of the Christchurch by-election in 1993 and a Lib Dem member of the House of Lords, has passed away.

Diana was a lovely woman. She was always willing to help and support others. I will miss her so much.

I first met her at a training session for women in the 1990s. She was kind, supportive and very frank about her own experiences.

Please feel free to share your memories of Diana in the comments.

All of us at LDV send our love to Alan and all her family.

There’s real affection in the tributes from senior party figures:

You can read more about her, and find out about her work as a councillor, MP, Party President and Peer on the party website:

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A Green Revolution is the recovery plan we need

Too many political leaders would let us sleepwalk into a global catastrophe.

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have never cared about the climate emergency. They will trash world agreements in favour of pursuing their dangerous ideologies and serve only those with vested interests in oil and coal.

But despite this, I’m an optimist. 

I’ve taken on Conservatives in government before – and won for our environment. As Secretary of State for Climate Change I oversaw the near quadrupling of Britain’s renewable energy, I smashed the monopoly of the ‘Big 6’ companies on the energy market, and I saw the creation of 250,000 of new green jobs in all corners of the UK.

As Liberal Democrats, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to fight for our planet. Future generations must inherit a world where everyone can breathe clean air, where making the green choice is a natural choice, and where our reliance on dirty fossil fuels is a distant memory. We need a Green Revolution.

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Layla Moran writes: Build Back Better: Policy ideas for Liberal Democrats

Yesterday evening I proudly launched Build Back Better, a new 128-page booklet exploring progressive policy ideas for Liberal Democrats in the post-coronavirus world. With contributions from a diverse range of over forty party supporters and councillors, Peter Frankopan, former MPs Lynne Featherstone, Martin Horwood, David Howarth and Julian Huppert, and former Party Leader Vince Cable – I hope this booklet will start discussions in and outside of our Party, and help us answer that deceptively simple question: ‘What are we for?’

Defining what we’re for is vital to winning back support. Having listened to members and voters, I also believe we need to send a signal that our Party is renewed since previous publications such as ‘Reinventing the State’ and the ‘Orange Book’ – with a policy platform that is clearly progressive in approach.

This will help us win support from across the moderate political spectrum and ensure that the Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of radical plans to Build Back Better from this crisis. Only then can we do right by the communities we seek to represent, and build a better, more compassionate country, where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.

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Wera Hobhouse: “Let go of the coalition once and for all”

I’ve launched my new campaign video today: we need a new direction, it’s time to let go of the coalition.

I was a councillor in Rochdale during the coalition — I saw its impact. But for our party, it has meant almost irreparable devastation. More than 2,500 councillors and 49 MPs were wiped out and it rocked the very foundations our party was built on.

It’s not to say that the coalition was all bad – equal marriage and pupil premium are just two of the many life-changing ideas implemented by Lib Dems – but some serious mistakes were made. We have acknowledged that – now it is time to well and truly move on.

The Liberal Democrats are not halfway between the Conservatives and Labour. We are a progressive, centre-left party, and we must fight for our values and beliefs from there.

We need a new direction; we must let go of the coalition and aspirations to return. We must get back to our liberal roots, serving our local communities, which is what we have always done best.

That’s where I will take the Liberal Democrats as leader.

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Why we need the English State Party of the Liberal Democrats

Is there any point to the English State Party of the Liberal Democrats?”

A recent article asked this question, and it’s a good question, and one asked by many people over the years.

In some ways the English layer of the Lib Dems is there because we are a Federal Party with the Party in Scotland and Wales who are the constituent parts of the party, and there has to be something at an English level.

For the last three months I’ve been Chair of the Party in England. I don’t like calling it the English Party, as one of our Bangladeshi members in Portsmouth saw that I had got this new role and was worried that I had joined some right wing fringe party.

The Party in England has done good, behind the scenes work, over the last few years. It provides the framework for the approval and selection of parliamentary candidates so that we have the same standards across England. It has also run the disciplinary function in England for many years. For individual members this is now being done by the Federal Party, whilst the Party in England will try to resolve problems in Local Parties and Council Groups.

There are many functions that the Party in England could do, but it has decided its better done at a different layer of the Party. During the Covid 19 crisis we have seen the different nations of the UK make different decisions on lockdown etc. That’s because health is a devolved issue. The list of functions that the UK wide Government does are limited. Defence, foreign affairs, pensions, social security and abortion rights. So policy on education, transport, farming, environment, energy, health etc are all decided at the state level (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England). So developing policy on these areas should be done by the Party in England as it is by the Scottish and Welsh Lib Dems. But we have taken the pragmatic decision that we will leave the policy creation work for these devolved subject areas with the Federal Party HQ. So there is no English Policy Committee, as this would be duplication. The same is true of the bits of Party Conference looking at devolved issues etc.

So what does the Party in England do? In my view no institution has the right to exist unless it is doing something useful and adding value.

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“An accident waiting to happen” – comprehensive, astute and blunt panel report on the 2019 elections


Embed from Getty Images

Over the weekend, I have been thoroughly reading, and inwardly digesting, the 61 page panel report on the 2019 elections.

I started making notes of passages which would make good quotes for this article. But my list was soon very long. Pulling out pithy quotes turned out to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

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LDV interviews: Bill Powell on surviving Covid-19, tackling inequality and plans for the future.

It was wonderful to catch up with Bill Powell on Friday. Bill, the former Welsh Assembly member for Mid and West Wales, recently spent 6 weeks in hospital, 3 of them in Intensive Care, after contracting Covid-19.

Our chat was his Zoom debut. Thanks to his friend Ann for making it possible.

Bill  talked about his time in hospital, how he was admitted to ICU within half an hour of arriving and was put in an induced coma. More than two weeks later, he had the disorientating experience of waking up, not knowing what had happened to him. Over the next week in intensive care, he suffered all sorts of dreams and delusions, at one point being convinced that the Queen and Prince Philip had died.

After that, he spent three weeks in rehab regaining his strength before leaving hospital to applause from staff and fellow patients. I had thought that, as everyone on the rehab ward would have had the virus, that they would be able to mix reasonably freely with each other, but Bill explained that it wasn’t like that at all and the people he saw most were the nurses and physiotherapists.

The support of those nurses, physios, occupational therapists and doctors was crucial to getting him well enough to go home. Since returning to his farm in Talgarth, he has given several media interviews expressing his profound gratitude to the teams who saved his life.

It was great to follow his recovery on social media. Once he’d left intensive care, I was first aware of him liking posts and comments on Facebook, and retweeting things. Then he started to comment and, eventually, to post things himself.

He really appreciated the avalanche of messages he received from party members, political opponents and constituents.

However, he is “haunted” by the thousands of people who weren’t as fortunate as he was and  feels an obligation to give something back.

He talked about how the current crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and how we have to come up with new ways of tackling them.

Welsh Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams came in for particular praise for the calm and competent way she is dealing with the pandemic

There are two ways to catch up on our chat. Paul Walter very kindly uploaded the audio to Soundcloud, and I managed to figure out how to get it from Zoom to YouTube. At the start of the YouTube, it looks like the audio and visual are out of sync but it sorts itself out after a bit.

Below, some photos and news articles chart his path to recovery. 

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++Breaking news: General Election Review

In an email to all members, Mark Pack, the party President, writes:

… today our independent review of the general election has published its report.

We asked for this, to be frank, thorough and challenging – and it is. More than 20,000 of you contributed your views to Dorothy Thornhill and her team. Thank you to everyone involved.

This review challenges us to change as a party and to change the country for the better.

It makes a series of clear recommendations about how we can improve our campaigning, plan better, build on what worked well locally, and win more votes and seats. You

Posted in News | 77 Comments

Paul Tyler writes: The Peers are Revolting or Who is Taking Back Control ?

A pause for thought: during the weekend of VE Day memorabilia were we celebrating 75 years of European peace, the retreat of fascism and the advance of parliamentary democracy ? Hopefully yes: realistically – in the case of the Brexiteers and their newspapers – NO !

And yet we have no cause for complacency. The UK is already looking as if we have reverted to being “the sick man of Europe” in terms of both our public health and the health of our democracy.

While in those 75 years the dictatorships of Western Europe have all collapsed, and effective representative democracy has taken their place, voters in Britain are increasingly marginalised and cheated. The Conservative manifesto in December 2019 aspired to make all votes of equal value: the actual result produced a ratio of inequality at the extremes of 33:1.

However, it is not just at elections that our representative democracy is under attack. Boris Johnson may choose to give a presidential-style address to the nation on a Sunday evening – to avoid questions and challenge from MPs – but we do not have a presidential constitution. He and his Government should be accountable to our Parliament, not the other way round.

No 10 obviously finds this inconvenient. Dominic Cummings is notorious for his disdain for Members of both Houses. MPs are already chaffing at the constraints that the combination of “virtual” exchanges and the business managers’ politicking are imposing.

The position in the Lords is far worse. Here, of course, there is no substantial Tory majority with plenty of lobby fodder to bully, and the response of Ministers to the Covid-19 emergency is under constant, sustained examination. And yet, there is no provision for effective scrutiny of legislation, let alone for votes on amendments, and the majority of Peers have been frozen out of debates or ludicrously squeezed by derisory time limits.

The response from Big Brother Cummings (the much more powerful BBC) has been to threaten that all Peers over 65 should be forcibly excluded.

That was too much for even the most tribal of Tories, and – led by former Cabinet Minister Michael Forsyth – a cross-party revolt resulted. Mr Cummings may think he can casually rip up the constitution, but that requires legislation.

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On pandemics and health, we need to look to South Korea – Phil Hammond “MD” in Private Eye


Dr Phil Hammond
Dr Phil Hammond

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, the “MD” column, written by Dr Phil Hammond, in Private Eye has provided a refreshingly astute and wise commentary on the crisis.

The latest issue of Private Eye is out now. I have recently subscribed to it, so I receive my copy without leaving home. Sheer luxury! (As an aside, someone once asked me to name the thing or service which I had bought or used for the longest period in my life. I came up with Lloyds Bank and Private Eye, of both of which I have been a customer since I was 17 years old. Some 43 years. Crikey – that makes me feel old.)

MD’s latest commentary covers two pages and is very interesting, as always.

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This time next year, London will be different.  We must be too. 

This morning, Lib Dems should have been out delivering good morning leaflets, ready for the long slog through to 10pm when polls close. Instead, like all Londoners, we are staying home to save lives and the elections for our next Mayor and Assembly have been pushed back by a year.

Nobody knows what the landscape will look like in May 2021, but it’s clear that nothing will be the same.  And that includes politics itself. The postponement gives us a chance to re-evaluate the London campaign.  One thing is very clear – our capital is resilient and dynamic but it will be significantly different post lockdown.  We must be too.

Rory Stewart has announced that he is withdrawing from the race. There’s no hiding from the fact that his presence was challenging.  As our members and activists recovered from an exhausting General Election, Stewart’s energy was attractive to voters looking for an alternative.

But let’s also be clear, from drugs reform and tackling the root causes of knife crime to radical green measures like road pricing and introducing a wellbeing budget for City Hall, we had – we have – the most progressive policies.  Our task, as we help London to thrive post-Covid19, is to ensure that every voter in the capital knows it.

Here are two ideas to help kickstart our revamp.

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Is our party hierarchical?

Despite the rhetoric, evidence might give us cause for thought. MPs and MSPs/Welsh Assembly Members seem to take precedence over the councillors who build up the party’s base again and again. I would argue that we should be an integrated whole – with much more mutual respect and understanding. And of course, never forgetting the parish councillors and Lords who serve us so well.

Councillors delivered excellent results last year, arguably giving the credibility which benefitted the party in the European elections. The party then extrapolated predicted General Election success from the latter; neglecting wisdom which cautions against using only quantitative information. Had other smaller parties built up that local government base, would the European results have been different?

When the Scottish Parliament came into being, our MSPs seemed to give less priority to proportional representation for local government than some serving councillors hoped for. In fact, that proportional representation took a number of years, and contributed in a small way to my decision not to seek re-election after 13 years (1990-2003). It can become disheartening to be always in opposition; I had a satisfying career as a research librarian, and wanted time to index books. The seat remained Liberal Democrat at the next election.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

Isolation diary: Watching TV

I don’t usually view TV during the day, apart from the rolling news, and that hasn’t changed since we have been in isolation. We don’t watch any news, on any media, after 7pm and by 8pm we are ready to sit on the sofa and relax with light entertainment.

Having been brought up on the Radio Times I do like the the weekly rhythm of watching my favourite programmes as they are broadcast.

So that means Would I Lie To You on Mondays. I don’t care how many repeats I watch, the inspired combination of Lee Mack, David Mitchell and Rob Brydon is guaranteed to keep me laughing throughout.

Then we always enjoy The Great Celebrity Bake Off on Tuesdays in aid of StandUp4Cancer. Once they had worked though this year’s episodes, Channel 4 started showing repeats. Yesterday’s offering with Lee Mack (again) was priceless.

Wednesdays bring us the The Repair Shop on BBC1. This was a show my husband had spotted when it was in the early evening slot and it well deserved being promoted to prime time. It combines gentle family stories with the real skill and artistry of the craftspeople who repair much loved objects.

On Thursdays we abandon broadcast TV for the weekly National Theatre at Home offering. This week it will be Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in Antony and Cleopatra. These productions were all originally shown live from the National for event cinema, and are now made available for one week only on YouTube.

On Fridays we look forward to BBC1’s Have I Got News For You, which has now found its form again having floundered a bit with the unfamiliar technology during the early weeks of lockdown.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Layla Moran writes: Campaign for Coronavirus Compensation Scheme gathers momentum

Over the last four weeks, the numbers of NHS workers losing their lives to Coronavirus have risen. The figure now stands at well over a hundred. And then there are the other frontline workers: bus drivers, carers, teachers, to name but a few, who are risking their lives to help others.

I want to ensure that the Government recognises their bravery and courage. I’ve been calling on them to introduce a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme, to look after the families of frontline workers should the worst happen.

Over 8000 people and 50 cross-party MPs have supported the campaign so far. And this week, I unexpectedly teamed up with The Express, who to their credit, put their weight behind this campaign and are proving instrumental in helping drive this forward.

You can help too. Please sign the petition and share it far and wide.

My campaign has clear asks. This new scheme should mirror the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and include:

  • a lump sum upfront
  • a guaranteed income for their family
  • child payments to eligible children under 18

This would be in addition to pension benefits. Furthermore, given the extraordinary nature of this crisis, the state should also contribute to funeral costs.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

+++Update on the Leadership Election

Last month, the Federal Board decided to postpone the party leadership election, due to kick off in May, until May 2021, so that the party can focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis instead.

Following this decision, an appeal against it was made to the Federal Appeals Panel (our internal Liberal Democrat equivalent of the Supreme Court). The Appeals Panel has agreed that the Federal Board can suspend the leadership election while exceptional circumstances exist, but not delay to a fixed date next year. It has asked the Board to keep the timetable for the leadership election under review, as circumstances continue to develop.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Looking into the future – How will Coronavirus change our policies?

So, we can’t go delivering, canvassing or envelope stuffing at the moment so what can we do? What about a bit of thinking!?

The coronavirus is making huge changes to the way that the Government, councils, businesses and individuals are doing things. Some of those are good. We welcome increased support to social care and health organisations, more support to emerging businesses and enhanced recognition of the role of councils in terms of service delivery. We welcome the greater respect that is being given to those who work in public services that we are relying on to keep us fed and safe. We deplore the anti-society behaviour of people like Dyson and Martin who have thought only of themselves and not of the needs of their staff or society as awhole as they have apparently sought to maximise their own position in all the societal turmoil.

Some food things have flowed from the lock down. Families spending more time together (not always but usually a good thing!); more exercises for many; less consumerism after the first mad dash at the supermarkets; cleaner air; the sound of birds; goats reclaiming Llandudno!

Many of these changes are very much on the line of Lib Dem polices. The question now is do we lie back and wait for business as normal or do we seize the initiative and get our thinking done now so that we emerge from lockdown with policies that accentuate the good things that have happened and deal with the bad things.

As you may imagine I prefer the latter approach. There is no need for us to sit and do nothing we can get ready. I challenge the Acting Leader of the Party; the President and the FPC Officers to set up discussion streams which can pull together thoughts on the key issues and be ready to come out fighting. This is no time to be waiting for the sclerotic processes of the FPC. Now is the time for virtual discussion and a rapid presentation of papers for approval and sue by our MPs, Peers and Councillors.

I think these are the key areas we should be looking at now:

Work in the future

I suspect that many people, having been given the opportunity to work from home will want to carry on doing so. This should be supported because:They will be more productive if they are not facing long and nasty commutes;

They will be more family oriented and strong families are a corner stone of our society;

There will be a huge environmental saving as people cut down on travel although there will be some environmental losses as more individual homes will need to be heated etc during the day.

Pleasure in the future

So, we now can’t get smashed until 05.00 in the morning. I’ll miss this terribly (not!)

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Layla Moran MP writes: Why we need a Coronavirus Compensation Scheme

Last week, I launched a petition calling on the Government to implement a Coronavirus Compensation scheme, to protect the families of all frontline workers should the worst happen. I need your help to make it happen.

During this crisis, the message to all of us has been repeated over and over: where possible, stay at home. But it isn’t possible for everyone.

The NHS, for instance, isn’t a faceless organisation. It is made up of many members of our community, our neighbours and our friends. In times of crisis, our society relies even more heavily on essential workers, such as doctors, carers, food suppliers and teachers, to name but a few.

All of these essential workers are now putting their lives at risk to protect others. And, similar to those in our armed forces, they should know that if the worst happens the state will help their loved ones.

I believe a scheme similar to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme should be put in place to protect the families of frontline workers, should the worst happen. In addition to pension benefits, it would include:

A lump sum upfront
A guaranteed income for their family
Child payments to eligible children under 18

At the time of writing, over 2600 people have backed the petition, calling for the safety net our front line staff and their families deserve. Yesterday, 50 cross-party MPs added their support, in a letter calling on the Prime Minister to introduce the Scheme.

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+++Plans for Lib Dem autumn conference on hold – online options to be explored instead

The chair of the Federal Conference committee, Geoff Payne, has posted the following text in the Lib Democrat Federal Conference Facebook group:

In the light of the coronavirus epidemic, the Federal Board has decided to put on hold plans for the preparation of a traditional party conference in the autumn and will make a final decision on whether to cancel the event in May.

In the meantime, the Federal Conference Committee will consider the feasibility of an online event, which might include some elements of a formal conference. Part of that will be the way in which the key elements of party accountability might operate online if a traditional party conference did not go ahead.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Leadership election postponed

The Federal Board met remotely yesterday and agreed to postpone the election for the Leader of the party until next year. The party’s President, Mark Pack,  issued this statement:

Not only are we going through what could become the country’s biggest crisis since 1945, but we’re also entering a very new world that will persist once the immediate crisis is over.

I’m proud of what we have achieved so far by championing NHS workers and pressing the Government on issues such as offering a better deal to the self-employed.

Throughout our history, we have always put the national interest first.

Our Federal Board has

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 36 Comments

Ed Davey asks for more help for self-employed people during Coronavirus pandemic

The Chancellor has announced unprecedented levels of support for British business in the last few days. However, one group of people are not getting what they need to survive.

Self-employed people have been told that they can claim for Universal Credit at the rate of SSP, which would give them a derisory £94 per week.

Today Ed Davey called on Rishi Sunak to do much more to give our self-employed friends and neighbours, the people who clean our homes, cut our hair, walk our dogs and do so much to make our lives easier.

An article on the Lib Dem website sets out the practical help we want to see:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 15 Comments
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