Tag Archives: featured

NHS Strikes – view from the back of an ambulance

It is the season of goodwill, the season of health services being stretched to the limit and this year, the season of strikes, including amongst some of our most dedicated health professionals. Nurses and ambulance crews. The government having applauded nurses, health and care professionals on their doorsteps during the pandemic is spoiling for fight over wage increases. Promising no money.

That is one reason strikers are taking action. The need for some of them to go to food banks. The struggle to pay the rent or mortgage because pay has not caught up with the cost of living.

The other reason is the working conditions. The constant pressure in an understaffed, poorly managed health service. It never copes with demand. It is forever being reorganised but never seems to get out of crisis mode. It never has enough money.

Let me illustrate the issue through the case of Susan. Obviously not her real name.

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Old King Coal is back in Cumbria as the wind blows in favour of turbines

Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
And merry for coal was he,
He called for his mine, and he sold his soul,
Saying climate change is not for me!

(Misremembered nursery rhyme.)

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Labour Party constitutional reform proposals

This week Keir Starmer launched a report for consultation entitled  ‘A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy’.  It is admirably full of attitude survey results, international comparisons, and north-south contrasts.

The report has a solid narrative and an overall theme, and in this sense can be said to have a certain amount of clarity of purpose.

The emphasis is on what some might call ‘the real economy’ – industry and commerce, and small businesses, and social deprivation resulting from declining economic activity, especially outside London and the SE.

The ‘problem’ which the report focuses on addressing is a serious collapse in trust in the UK political and administrative system; which gets worse the further people are from London. It blames this not only on accelerated regional economic decline, but also on a corrupt and over-centralised governance system, where development and infrastructure proposals from areas distant from London, sit for decades at the bottom of the pile in Whitehall.  These conclusions have seemingly emerged in part from Labour mayors, and other government decentralisation processes around the UK over the last decade, where Labour leads. Rising Scottish and Welsh nationalism are also blamed in part on fiscal over-centralisation and mutual disdain with London.

The proposed remedies reflect the definition of the problem; greater participation of regions and nations in central decision-making (including a new second chamber of regions/nations to replace the House of Lords), moving central government civil servants out of London, and limited devolution of transport, employment support, and economic development spending decisions. One has to assume that the absence of basic detail behind the remedies means that they are still being worked through, (under cover of the report being ‘for consultation’; all the relevant consultees having already been consulted, it seems).

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186 days – my misadventures with Long Covid

186 days. Not far off half a year. That’s how long it’s been since I first had Covid symptoms.

We had tried very hard to avoid it for 26 months, but our son going to a Marina and Diamonds concert in Dublin at the end of May was always going to be a high risk endeavour. Within days we were all suffering. At first I was the best off of all of us so I was running round after everyone else. Then on 5th June, I could barely get up.

The salutary tale from my experience is that if you are election agent for multiple wards in your local area, get your expenses done immediately after the election. Mine were all done and signed by the candidates before I became ill. I just had to print off my declarations, sign and submit before the deadline on 10th June. I could, thankfully submit them online, but that simple task was herculean and broke me on several occasions before I finally managed it.

Since then, I haven’t got that much better. The cough may have disappeared after a month, but I have yet to manage to spend a whole day out of bed, and if I overdo it, the punishment is vicious. Eight days ago, I went out for a special family lunch. I did get home a couple of hours  later than I’d planned but I didn’t recover from that until midweek. I had a meeting to attend online on the day after but I couldn’t speak reliably. Words were getting lost somewhere between my brain and my mouth.  I had to message someone else and ask them to make the point I needed to make.

The crushing, all-encompassing fatigue is the absolute worst, but it has a backing chorus of pain, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness and gastric issues which, seemingly randomly, throw themselves into the spotlight on any given day.

I reckon that on a good day, I’m operating at about 25-35% of my pre Covid capacity. On a bad day, I am flat out.

Being able to do something one day is absolutely no guarantee that you will be able to do it the next. Some days I can write well in small bursts, but there was one day recently when it took me an hour to put up a relatively simple post on here.

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The horror of black mould in social housing

Some details in this article have been changed to ensure anonymity and safeguarding.

Last week, I got a message from a young woman with a two year old in a social property built around 1990. Her son had been seriously ill and in hospital with bronchial issues. She had been complaining to the housing managers about black mould for a long while. This case is proving to be the tip of the iceberg.

The death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale has heightened concerns. Tenants have always known that black mould is dangerous to health but housing associations and councils have too often blamed the issue onto tenants or failed to make it a priority.

Since Rochdale, we have had a steady stream of cases coming in via messenger. A baby not yet two months old and returned home on oxygen into a house riddled with black mould. I can’t publish details or photos but they made me cry.

A decent home is fundamental to health and happiness.

We are getting a positive response from the housing associations. One chief executive, currently away, emailed me in the earlier hours to ask for the priority cases, which we have sent. There are many more.

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NHS workers will strike to protect patients not harm them

LDV editor Charley Hasted writes in a personal capacity on the reasons that dedicated NHS workers have voted to strike and the pressures that have led them to vote for industrial action.

Tuesday brought the news that Unison Members in North East, North West, London, Yorkshire and South West Ambulance Service Trusts have voted for industrial action. They were joined by their colleagues in the GMB Union where members in South West, South East Coast, North West, South Central, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Welsh and Yorkshire Ambulance Service Trusts. Unite the Union members in Ambulance trusts have also voted to join Unison, GMB and our colleagues from the RCN in threatening industrial action.

As an Ambulance Dispatcher and Unison member I spent a lot of time thinking about how to vote. I didn’t sign up to stop people getting help when they need it after all. Nor did any of my colleagues. The NHS has spent years being staffed on goodwill and our desire to help people. We’ve put up with underfunding, insulting pay rises and being alternately sainted and damned by the government depending on which way the wind is blowing on any given day.

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Brexit non-opportunities

Peers are asked to give speeches at all sorts of occasions.  It’s particularly important for LibDem peers to accept invitations to a range of events while we have so few MPs, to maintain our visibility as a serious political party. So last Friday I spoke at the ‘Christmas Gala’ dinner of a UK bilateral Chamber of Commerce for one of the member states of the EU.

An official responsible for trade policy gave an upbeat presentation of the prospects for UK trade with EU countries.  I followed with a mildly critical interpretation of the situation, mentioning that I was a Liberal Democrat and had been sceptical of the promise of ‘Brexit Opportunities’ from the start, and a promise that the Lords would do everything it could to prevent the forthcoming Retained EU Law Bill from diverging too far from common regulations with the EU Single Market.

I was struck by the response from British business people there.  One rushed up to me after I had sat down to urge me and my colleagues to do everything we could to stop the government from deliberately diverging from EU regulations, as Jacob Rees Mogg and right-wing MPs are pressing it to do.  (I have passed his name on to our fund-raising team.)  Two others told me that their companies had now transferred staff and functions to Amsterdam, in order to operate within the EU Single Market; one added that his company is now paying more tax within the EU than in the UK as a result.  The sense of impatience with the bone-headedness of the Conservatives came across strongly.  Business people, it appears, are beginning to abandon the Conservative Party.

The message for Liberal Democrat activists is clear.  You should be visiting local employers to ask them how their business has been affected by Brexit, and how it would be affected by further barriers to trade with our neighbours created by deliberately incompatible standards and regulations being introduced.  And you should tell them that Liberal Democrats in both Houses will fight hard to limit the damage and bring the UK back to a closer relationship with the EU.  And you should tell the local voters how much the whole fiasco of pursuing the hardest possible Brexit, against the illusory promises made before the Referendum, is now costing local businesses and the national economy.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton presses Sturgeon for action on violence against women

On Sunday 20th November, Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post outlined the most horrific failures of several public services towards Adrienne McCartney, a victim of domestic abuse who died by suicide earlier this year.

The paper reports how the Police dismissed her calls for help and then arrested her, holding her in dreadful conditions, over a social media post.  Then prosecutors  did a deal with her husband to drop the most serious charges before failing to ask for a non harassment order. And then when she tried to get help for her deteriorating mental health,  the NHS could not provide it.

Adrienne’s lawyer told the paper:

“In all my years working in the field of domestic abuse, this case is the worst. Adrienne was let down by every agency she turned to. It is unforgivable.

“She should be here today and the fact that she is not is an indictment of the system and how it addresses domestic abuse. What happened to Adrienne keeps me awake at night but tragically she is not the first and, unless there is dramatic change, she will not be the last.”

He also described his frustration on the night Adrienne was arrested:

“She eventually ­managed to get a phone call to me. When I told officers that I would happily bring Adrienne to the police station myself to answer any questions they had, I was told to ‘f*** off’. That is also currently the subject of an official complaint.

“So a young mother is taken from her home late at night, in front of her children, handcuffed, only to be released after several hours without any charge and this, it has to be stressed, is a ­documented victim of domestic abuse.”

This week’s Sunday Post had details of a letter Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton wrote to the First Minister after reading Adrienne’s story, alongside calls for action from MSPs from all parties. Alex repeated our call for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms:

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It’s probably not the budgie

Katie (not her real name) put out a desperate plea on her community Facebook page, the battle cry of a mother at the end of her tether. A tenant of one of the region’s largest housing associations, she was living on the ground floor of a newly built block of flats in the ward I had represented for just a few weeks.

It was 2017 and Katie had lived for 3 years in the two-bedroom ground floor flat with her partner and their two tiny children, one 3 years old and the other a fragile 3 month old newborn who’d been born prematurely. The baby had had multiple trips to hospital with bronchitis in his very short life, and multiple courses of antibiotics.

Katie was convinced that the source of her baby’s health issues was the mould and damp in their flat. Shoes and toys left overnight on the floor went mouldy. The soft furnishings had had to be replaced twice in three years because they were rotting into the damp carpet. Katie spent every day cleaning, bleaching, and washing, and overnight the mould would return to anything left on the ground. Walking across the carpet in socks led to wet socks.

Katie’s mental health was suffering badly. She was cleaning all day, wiping down surfaces obsessively, but still failing to keep her children safe and healthy. She could get nobody who ought to have cared to take any interest. She felt judged at every turn. She feared being kicked out by the housing association for complaining too much. She felt as though she had no rights.

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The Party in England Responds to the Change in the Party’s Definition of Transphobia

No regular visitor to LDV can have missed the growing debate over trans gender issues. Here we publish the response from the English Party to recent events in full. Given the sensitivity of the subject we will be pre-moderating all comments in line with our editorial policies.

The English Council Executive, meeting last weekend, have agreed two motions in support of trans rights and in response to the Federal Board changing the Party’s definition of transphobia.

  1. A motion of censure for the appalling communications calling for an apology and a plan to make sure nothing like this happens again.
  2. A motion calling on the Board to seek further advice, in consultation with LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, and suspend changing the definition until that advice is received and/or Federal Conference can vote.

The motions were passed with strong support from everyone who spoke, and no one spoke or voted against. This represents a wide consensus from regional chairs and members across the country.

Just under two weeks ago, the Federal Board met for the last time and, with Federal elections still under way, chose to amend the Party’s definition of Transphobia.

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The Supreme Court decision on a Scottish Referendum

The Supreme Court has delivered the judgement everyone expected from it – the obvious statement that, under the law as it stands, the Scottish Parliament does not have powers to call a referendum on Scottish Independence without the consent of the UK parliament. This judgement presents one opportunity and one threat to Liberal Democrats.

The opportunity is the chance to cut through the squabbles between Conservatives and the SNP by pushing our own policy – that of a truly federal UK. A Federal UK has been Liberal policy for over a century and to my mind we do not emphasise it sufficiently often or strongly. Voices in other parties (including respected former ministers such as Malcolm Rifkind and Gordon Brown) have from time to time hinted at support for a watered-down version of federalism, but we are the only party which can authentically present the idea as fully worked out and our own.

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Qatar world cup: a dilemma that ought to be easy to resolve

A lot has been talked about the football world cup that starts today in Qatar. Questions like ‘Should it have been awarded to Qatar?’, ‘How many construction workers have really been killed and injured?’ and ‘Where does having a global sporting event in a state where same-sex relationships are illegal leave the fight for sexual equality?’ are all reasonable, but they don’t address the fundamental question of what sports fans should do over the next month: to watch, or not to watch?

I was in Qatar in December 2006 for the Asian Games, a continent-wide mini-Olympics with a range of sports open to Asian athletes only. I covered the tennis, and it was a fascinating experience in which Asian tennis players were allowed to shine the way they normally don’t on the global men’s and women’s tours. But it was also a troubling one.

Near our hotel was a building site, where Tamil construction workers from Sri Lanka were ferried in every day in a decrepit yellow American school bus. Because I much prefer walking when working at events where I’m sedentary for much of the day, I shunned the official transport and walked to the Games’ hub from where I entered the credential zone and made my way to the tennis.

On that daily walk I saw a number of things that make it very easy to believe that the number of construction workers killed in building the eight stadiums that make up the 2022 world cup venues is way above the already horrendous estimates of 6000-7000 that international human rights groups are giving. These are migrant workers, brought in reportedly for very low wages, who never make it home. Others do make it home, but with injuries sustained in building ‘accidents’ that they may never recover from, and with little or no financial support in many eastern Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Last week, German television broadcast a documentary in which the former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger went to Nepal to speak with families who have lost relatives on the Qatari building sites, or are now looking after family members with horrific injuries. One of his motives in making the documentary was to drum up some money to pay for the support such people need to live out the rest of their days (in many cases another five decades) in some comfort and dignity.

Hitzlsperger is one of the few top-level footballers to come out as gay, and the only former Premier League footballer to have done so to date. That adds piquancy to the documentary, and emphasises that the common thread running through the various criticisms of the Qatar world cup (abuse of migrant workers, LGBT+, questionable aspects of the bidding process, and more) are all to do with human dignity, or the lack of it.

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Our editorial policy

Every so often, the LDV team looks at how we do things. We think about how we want to run the site in a way that we can all be comfortable with.

We’ve had a look at our editorial policy and we have agreed to make some changes which reflect our current practice.

We have never aligned ourselves with any supposed wing or faction of the party, which is a good thing as they change all the time. We’ve published a wide range of articles and viewpoints, many of which we personally disagree with, because we want to facilitate debate within the party and with others outside it. That will continue to be the case..

Much is said about free speech. It’s something that we very much value. It also includes our freedom as editors to run the site in a way that fits with our ethos.

Nobody has the right to have anything they want published on LDV or anywhere else. We will judge articles on their merit and decide whether they will be a good fit for us.

There are some issues, though, which go way beyond the normal rough and tumble of political debate.

We’ve always felt a sense of responsibility that our site should stand up for vulnerable people.  We don’t want to contribute to the often toxic atmosphere that is present in much of the media where groups of people, whether they be, for example, social security claimants, immigrants, disabled people, LGBT people, or followers of one religion or another are demonised.

The way those marginalised groups are treated is not consequence free. Whipping up a storm against vulnerable people on the basis of who they are makes it more difficult for them to live their lives freely without fear and damages their life chances. We want no part in that.

So that means that sometimes we either have to pick a side or be part of the problem.  We will do so when we think it necessary to make our site a kinder, progressive place.

Our revised policy reads (with changes in bold):

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The Autumn Statement big lie – no more taxes

Well, who would have expected it? Hunt blamed the country’s current financial problems on Putin. Nothing to do with more than a decade of Tory mismanagement of the economy. Nothing to do with the disastrous Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss budget which he has now all but reversed. Our low growth rate and our troubles are caused by anything other than the Tories. Of course, we have are weathering bitter storms but the Tories left us unprepared for those storms. Now we must all pay the price.

The big lie of this budget is that there have been no tax rises. Tax rates haven’t gone up but people will pay more tax.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast makes grim reading. The UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year, contributing to the squeeze on living standards. The UK is in recession and growth will slow.

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Lib Dems warn on education funding ahead of this morning’s budget

The i reported that figures obtained by Lib Dems from the Commons Library show that due to inflation eating into Whitehall budgets, schools and hospitals will receive £10.7bn less than they were expecting in 2024-25.

Ed Davey, Munira Wilson and Sarah Olney have written to Jeremy Hunt highlighting how current budgetary pressures are affecting schools in their constituencies.

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Results of internal party elections

We have already reported on the re-election of Mark Park as Party President, and the remaining election results have now been announced.

You can read them in full here.

Vice President

  • Amna Ahmad

Federal Board

  • Joyce Onstad
  • Lucy Nethsingha
  • Neil Fawcett
  • Chris White (Councillor rep)

Federal Council

  • Alison Eden
  • Alison Jenner
  • Anton Georgiou
  • Callum Robertson
  • Candy Piercy
  • Chloe Hutchinson
  • Chris Northwood
  • Clare Delderfield
  • Gareth Lewis Shelton
  • Gordon Lishman
  • Hannah Perkin
  • James Gurling
  • Lisa-Maria Bornemann
  • Mark Johnston
  • Sally Povolotsky
  • Sarah Cheung Johnson
  • Simon McGrath
  • Stephen Robinson
  • Terry Stacy
  • Tim Brett
  • Zoe Hollowood
  • Antony Hook (Councillor rep)
  • Alex Warren (Councillor rep)
  • Aidan Van de Weyer (Councillor rep)
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Armistice and remembrance

I’m a huge advocate of recalling the lessons of the past, learning the stories, and putting faces to the names.

Over 30 years ago I was one of the few students who went to the war memorial in Nottingham – and as student President I was one of the first in recent times to lay a formal wreath at the Cenotaph there.

Come forwards and I lay a wreath as Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Derbyshire County Council.

In addition, I am the Lay Worship Leader for Great Hucklow Unitarian Chapel in Derbyshire Dales.

My view of armistice and remembrance has become more rounded and more informed and I now understand the role of all nations, the global effect of conflict and the consequences – in matters of hate, few are left out.

Accordingly when I lay a wreath at Matlock as Group Leader, I lay a wreath of red poppies but also a hand made wreath of purple poppies to represent the animals who served and died. Further this year, I tied a yellow and blue ribbon around my red wreath to reflect the Ukrainian conflict.

At my Chapel we have made remembrance a key cornerstone of our year and have adults and indeed the local school in attendance. As a Unitarian Chapel we are very inclusive and with our unique status as a national spiritual home for Unitarians we are able to call on a wider base of support. We have a poppy fall, we have a poppy heart, we do a service inside and outside the Chapel and it is – as is the Unitarian tradition – the most inclusive poppy fall in Derbyshire. Red poppies for uniformed service, purple for animals, black for all nations and races, pink for those arrested for their sexuality and white for peace.

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Caroline Pidgeon to step down as London Assembly Member in 2024

Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon announced today at the London Regional Conference that she will not stand for re-election in 2024. Later she tweeted:

Caroline will be greatly missed by colleagues from all parties, including London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom she stood against when he was first elected in 2016:

Similar praise came from Conservative and Green Assembly members;

And Liberal Democrats were keen to thank her for all she has done over the years:

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Morgan and Farron speak on rural levelling up

Rural issues are often sidelined in the Commons and in public policy. Yesterday, Tim Farron and Helen Morgan made significant contributions to the rural levelling up debate in the Commons chamber.

The debate, secured Selaine Saxby Conservative MP for North Devon, was sparsely attended but there were some strong speeches (Hansard).

Helen Morgan and Tim Farron highlighted the way that farming is being treated under the Conservative government, though the botched introduction of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) and trade deals. Rural transport was a major issue, trains, buses and access to rail stations. Hospitals of course featured. Ambulance delays. Bed blocking. The inability to attract staff because there is nowhere local and affordable to live. And the ever difficulty of getting a decent broadband connection in rural areas to allow businesses to thrive (I might add education and medical services to that list also).

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Ed Davey’s Autumn Speech in full

Here is the full text of Ed Davey’s speech, given at 1pm today.

Good afternoon friends.

It was an enormous privilege to represent our party, and my Kingston and Surbiton constituents, at the funeral of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Beneath the splendour of Westminster Abbey, surrounded by dignitaries from nations around the world – It was a beautiful memorial to a life of faith, devoted to our country and our Commonwealth. And a poignant celebration of values we all hold dear:

Patriotism. Compassion. Service. Values embodied by Her Majesty.

We thank her again. And we welcome her son, King Charles III, to the

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Ed Davey calls for legal right to see GP within 7 days

Getting a doctor’s appointment is becoming more and more of a challenge. Whether it means explaining in detail to a non-qualified receptionist who triages requests, or having to grapple with an inflexible online booking system, or having to join a phone queue at 8am exactly, or even filling in an online form just to be put in another triage queue – the processes seem designed to make you think it’s not worth it. They are particularly trying for anyone who is elderly, sick or in pain, or who has a chronic medical condition, and these, after all, take up a large proportion of appointments.

During the pandemic we got used to phone and video consultations, but we all knew these were not the most effective way to make a diagnosis, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that serious conditions were missed. It may still make sense for a doctor to hold an initial remote conversation, but only if an in-person appointment can be made speedily if needed.

But the delays in getting appointments is very real. Years ago no-one would have been offered a GP appointment in two weeks’ time for a new condition, and yet that is what is happening now.

Ed Davey is announcing plans to give us all the legal right to see a GP within a week (or 24 hours if urgent). It is certainly an indicator of the stresses within the NHS if a week’s delay is seen as an improvement. He has unearthed data which shows that 25% of people in some areas have to wait over two weeks for an appointment.  This is in the context of the two week target for suspected cancer cases to be seen by a specialist, where the clock only starts once someone has actually seen their GP. That wait could be doubled if they can’t get a GP appointment immediately.

The proposal is that this right would be enshrined in law, thus putting a duty on the Government to ensure that it happens.  Of course, it can only be achieved if the recruitment and retention of GPs is improved, and that requires action at the highest level.

So watch out for the announcement in Ed’s major speech at the weekend – designed to replace the missed Conference speech. Ahead of that he has said:

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Have the Tories broken Britain?

To answer my own question. Probably. At least for the next several years. We have dispirited political party in charge. It seems to change its mind on policies as often as it changes ministers, while claiming it is in control and leading us forward. All the Conservative Party has done with its constant internal chaos is lead our country to the precipice.

A huge economy likes ours is not going to fall overnight. Or even fall. But there are many striving and burgeoning economies across the world that want a share of our cake.

The pain of Tory incompetence is soaring interest rates. Tax rises are promised. Public spending cuts are high on the agenda.

The Tory pain will be felt by those who owe money, in mortgages and other loans. Saving rates will increase but will be overwhelmed by inflation. People will lose their homes. Businesses will go under. The poor will inevitably remain poor, even poorer.

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Ed Davey on Peston: Braverman, carer support and getting elected

Sir Ed Davey appeared on ITV’s Peston last night.

Peston suggested that since Rishi Sunak had arrived in No 10, the Lib Dems had been in reverse in the polls. Rejecting that and talking about the three by-election wins in Chesham and Amersham, Tiverton and Honiton and North Shropshire, Ed said:

A lot of people said we won because people were turning away from Boris Johnson… I knocked on doors. I talked to people. What we found that they were rejecting the Conservative Party. They were doing it because of health matters, like ambulances, huge delays in getting access to GPs or NHS dentists. They felt the Conservatives had taken them for granted and were just out of touch… We found lifelong Conservatives rejecting the Conservative Party. Whether its Sunak or Johnson it doesn’t really matter.

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Mark Pack: Why I’m running for Party President

Editor’s Note: The LDV team has invited the three candidates for Party President to write an article for us. 

I eat tofu. I listen to podcasts. I’ve appeared on the BBC. I read The Guardian. I live in north London. Both my parents were immigrants. 

It’s a good thing that Conservative Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers don’t get a vote in our internal elections, as I’m really not the sort of person they like.

And they certainly don’t share my politics… because I want our country to be more liberal, more tolerant, more inclusive, and at the heart of Europe. The more Liberal Democrat policies we get enacted, the better people’s lives are. 

To achieve that, we need to get our strategy and organisation right. We have to have more MPs, more Mayors, more MSPs and MSs, more London Assembly members, more councillors and our first Police and Crime Commissioners.

Since taking up post as President in January 2020, we’ve made real progress implementing the lessons from the independent election review of the 2019 general election. We’ve strengthened our campaign staff, steadied our finances and improved our governance. We’ve focused on reaching diverse groups, engaging our members, and modernising our technology so we can do better in getting our messages across.

We’re winning again at local elections and by-elections – and I’m delighted that by-election winners Helen Morgan and Richard Foord are backing my campaign. 

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Emily Davey talks to the Guardian about living with Multiple Sclerosis

The Guardian has just published an interview with Ed Davey and his wife Emily in which they talk to political editor Pippa Crerar about Emily’s Multiple Sclerosis. They have decided to do so now so that they can use their platforms as an MP and Councillor to advocate further for disabled people and their carers.

Emily was diagnosed with the condition in 2012, but she has noticed a deterioration since lockdown, when she was  not able to be as active. She and Ed have decided to talk about this now to highlight how this is affecting other people:

 (Emily) Davey, who ran Kingston council’s public health portfolio during the pandemic, said: “We’ve got a problem here, we have people with mobility problems, including the elderly, who aren’t suddenly going to recover and get better. How do you manage to get people active again on that scale?”

Her husband added: “Here is just another example of the impact Covid had on the nation’s health which is probably not well recognised. We know both from our own personal experience, but also from our constituents and from talking to doctors, there’s a massive issue out there across the country.”

Emily talked about how she her condition is changing:

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Your Parish and Town Councils need you!

ALDC are often reminding us that we should run candidates everywhere in local elections, and far be it for me to disagree. But it isn’t always easy – not everyone wants to be a councillor, and in years like 2023 with the prospect of a Conservative collapse in the Districts, there is a risk that even supposedly paper candidates may get elected.

But let me introduce you to a world where elections are usually uncontested, and where not every seat is filled.

The National Association of Local Councils has published its review of the 2022 elections at Town and Parish Council level and, whilst it was a relatively “off year” for the tier, with just 10% of local councils holding elections, just 11% of those elections were contested, representing 888 of the 8,068 council seats up for grabs. Worse still, 1,639 seats remained vacant after the elections, or 20% of the available places.

As liberals, that tends to offend, especially given our general view that citizens should be engaged and consulted by those who represent them. Indeed, the laws that determine how local councils are elected permit co-options within thirty days of an election where vacancies remain unfilled, a recipe for affirming undemocratic local cliques.

For many small Parish Councils, the lack of power is a contributory factor – how can you entice people to sit in meetings every two months where most of the issues are dealt with at higher tiers of local government? – but even towns with five figure populations and significant budgets struggle to find sufficient candidates.

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COP27: If Sunak won’t go to Egypt, King Charles should

Alok Sharma lost his cabinet role shortly after Rishi Sunak picked up the keys to No 10 Downing Street. It was a shocking action. Sunak could have kept Sharma in place until after COP27. A simple act that would have shown the new prime minister’s commitment to the challenge the world faces as the atmosphere and oceans heat. It would have shown a mark of respect for one of Britain’s greatest champions in tackling climate change. Another simple act would be for the prime minister to attend COP27 for a day to show that Britain is not wavering on its commitments on easing climate change.

The industrial revolution began here in Britain, just up the road from me in Ironbridge. Its achievements are to be celebrated. Its consequences must now be mitigated. We, and the other nations most responsible for greenhouse emissions, must be at the forefront changing the way we work, the way the world works.

This is more a necessary transition than a painful transition. Of course, it costs money up front, but the payback of being ahead on technology change gave us the advantage more than two centuries ago. It should do so again.

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Nominate top women in Westminster: Helen Morgan “one to watch”

The House magazine runs an annual poll to identify the top 100 women in Westminster. To quote from the launch publicity from The House:

There are more incredibly talented women from across politics and public service than ever before, from parliamentarians, to journalists, civil servants, and activists.

Some might say, yes, but there is now a shortage of women in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet.

Putting that to one side, we Lib Dems and liberal thinkers have a lot of talented colleagues in both houses and across the broader Westminster village. Why not spend a few minutes shouting out for Lib Dem women that you admire? You can do so here.

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David Gauke suggests cross-party action to force a General Election

Until the 2019 General Election, David Gauke had been Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire for 14 years. One of the voices of reason on Brexit, he ended up losing the Conservative whip just before Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament when the opposition seized control of the parliamentary timetable to pass Hilary Benn’s Act aimed at preventing a no deal Brexit.

Like most of the country, he recognises the dangers of allowing Boris Johnson to return to Number 10 and has come up with an idea. He wants Ed Davey and Keir Starmer to invite Johnson’s opponents amongst Conservative MPs to force a General Election. In return, Labour and the Lib Dems would not oppose those Conservative MPs with majorities over 10,000 in that election if they stood as Independents against new Conservative candidates.

Mr Gauke set out his thinking in a Twitter thread:

If Boris Johnson became PM again, given the views of many Tory MPs, this is what I’d be tempted to say if I was Keir Starmer or Ed Davey: “The PM is not fit for office. Nor is the Tory Party. We know that many honourable Tory MPs feel the same way. Now is the time for all MPs who put the national interest first to come together & force a General Election. It is a lot to ask Tory MPs to do this but, because this is a national emergency, we are prepared to make a bold & generous offer. We say to those Tory MPs with majorities bigger than , who are motivated by national interest & not just saving their seat, that if they vote with us in supporting a GE, we will not stand against them in their seats if they run as independents.

This offer might just persuade a sufficient number of Conservative MPs – who cannot face being led by Johnson again – to leave the party & back a GE. The other parties might be foregoing some seats they’d win but they’d get their GE (and plenty more seats).

I get where he is coming from.   Between us, Lib Dems, Labour and Greens took over 14,900 votes in South West Herts in 2019. Gauke, standing as an Independent, was beaten by the Conservative by 14,200. We are agreed that we must have a General Election now, but Lib Dems would argue that  whoever is the Conservative leader, not just Boris.

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The fallout

Lib Dems have been busy today dealing with the fallout from the resignation of Britain’s shortest ever Prime Minister. I’ll rephrase that – the British Prime Minister who served for the shortest time in office EVER (although the original version is probably also true, if of no political significance).

First, all departing Prime Ministers are entitled to an annual allowance for the rest of their lives of £115,000 to cover office costs. This was covered in a press release yesterday, where Christine Jardine is urging her not to take it. Today Ed Davey told LBC radio:

Most people have to work at least 35 years to get a full state pension. I think working 45 days shouldn’t give you a pension that is many many times what ordinary people out there get after a lifetime of work.

Second, traditionally Prime Ministers can hand out peerages and other honours in a resignation list. Boris Johnson has only just honoured 29 people in that way. Another tranche following so soon from Liz Truss would be completely inappropriate. Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem Chief Whip, has written to the Chair of Parliamentary and Political Service Committee:

As you know, it is traditional upon a Prime Minister’s departure from office for them to issue a ‘Resignation Honours’ list. This list signifies individuals who are to be rewarded with an honour from the King which, in turn, would be considered by your committee.

However, because of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Liz Truss’s tenure and resignation, I am writing to urge you and the committee to reject any Resignation Honours list put forward by her.

Liz Truss will be the shortest serving Prime Minister in British political history. It is possible that by the time she formally resigns, she will not have held office for more than 50 days.

I do not believe that it would be appropriate for Liz Truss to be permitted to issue a resignation honours list, given the extremely short length of her tenure.

I urge you to make it clear that you and your fellow committee members would not sign off on any such honours, which would be the second list in a matter of months.

Third, there is a lot of concern that Boris Johnson is thinking of entering the leadership contest. This was, of course, the Prime Minister who was only persuaded to stand down after 50 ministers resigned. As also mentioned in press releases our MPs have now tabled a motion to stop anyone who has broken the law while in Government from ever becoming Prime Minister. It reads:

That this House believes that the upholding of standards by its Members is of vital importance to the functioning of UK democracy; believes that it is vital that the Prime Minister and Ministers uphold these standards; and therefore resolves that any honourable or right honourable member that is found to have broken the law whilst in Government should be barred from holding Prime Ministerial Office.

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