Tag Archives: featured

Let’s take a stand at conference against the cruel Braverman Bill

The Conservatives are intent on dragging our country off a cliff with their Small Boats Bill. As Liberal Democrats, we must do everything in our power to stop it – starting at Conference this weekend.

Suella Braverman’s Bill says that anyone who enters the UK via a small boat will be immediately detained and deported to another country as soon as possible. Just like their botched Rwanda plan, this is immoral, unworkable and incredibly expensive for the taxpayer.

We all want to tackle people smuggling and prevent people from making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel, but this bill will do nothing of the sort. The Conservatives are still refusing to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK. Instead, they are demonising vulnerable people and giving impunity to the real criminals – human traffickers.

At the same time, they are stripping back hard-won protections for the most vulnerable. The ban on child detention was a Liberal Democrat policy that we proudly put into law in 2014 – now under threat from this government. Important legal limits on how long pregnant women can be detained are also at risk.

The consequences go even deeper. By using the bill to exclude certain groups of people from accessing their rights – whether it is the protections under the Modern Slavery Act, the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights – the Conservatives are setting a dangerous precedent.

They are acting like they can pick and choose what rights our government must protect, while also picking and choosing who can stand up for their rights if they are harmed. Small wonder, then, that backbench Conservative MPs are rumoured to be plotting to use this legislation to push for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. Their dangerous rhetoric has only been emboldened by the Home Secretary.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Reactions to the Budget – “Conservatives so out of touch they are living on another planet”

Here’s some of the Lib Dem reaction to today’s Budget. Mary and Caron will keep updating it as the day goes on.

First up:

And Wera Hobhouse amplified this point:

Ed Davey’s first reaction was that the Budget showed how out of touch the Conservatives are:

This Budget shows the Conservative Party is so out of touch they might as well be living on another planet.

Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak had a chance to show they care about the cost-of-living crisis that’s hitting millions of Britain’s families and pensioners but they failed miserably.

People are desperate for real help especially a cut to their energy bills – but all the Chancellor could offer is empty words and more unfair tax hikes.

We also saw a total failure to invest in fixing our crumbling hospitals and supporting local health services. It shows the Conservative Party doesn’t understand that you can’t get Britain ‘back to work’ without fixing the crisis in our NHS and social care.

Tim Farron was quick to get a cheeky comment in after the story about Rishi Sunak paying for the grid to be upgraded for his private heated swimming pool.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Raise a glass in York

Conference has always been a central element in my involvement in the Liberal Democrats. Like many of us, all year round I spend a large proportion of my waking hours doing things for the party – and being able to make links, exchange ideas and, yes, gossip with people from across the country at conference not only makes doing that year-round work easier, but also makes it very very much more fun. I have really missed them over the last three and a half years – with the final cruel punch of the last-minute cancellation for non-pandemic reasons of last autumn’s big return conference feeling particularly unfair.

So I will be thrilled to be back in York this weekend, surrounded by Liberal Democrats.

But as I finally get to catch up again with many of you, I will be giving more than a thought or two to some of those who I will not get the chance to see again at conference.

That last conference we held, in Bournemouth in 2019, “the one where Jo Swinson was leader”, was the last time I saw my former boss, Steve Hitchins, previously Leader of Islington Council. Steve was certainly not about to allow his walking difficulties stop him from getting up on to the stage and telling us how the health policies we were debating seemed to him as a former chair of an acute NHS Trust. Steve tragically and unexpectedly passed away just a few weeks later – a much too early sad loss of one of the party’s most robust campaigners and one of its most effective champions of frontline diversity.

In York I will, as always, go to an LDEG fringe meeting. But I will not see Derek Honeygold sitting – like Ted Heath – in a corner seat on the front row, as he must have done at pretty much every LDEG fringe meeting ever. In March 2020 Derek became one of the first victims of covid. LDEG fringes will not be the same without his twinkling eyes and intriguing contributions to the debate.

When I make it to the bar later, I will not turn round from ordering drinks to see there the beaming smile of Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, long a smiling stalwart of the party’s international scene, with something funny and interesting to say to me. Always so enthusiastic and encouraging, from LI Congresses in Africa and being chair of the international relations committee (FIRC), to the streets of London that I once went canvassing with him on, Robert’s utterly irrepressible energy made a huge contribution to the party before his very sudden death from a stroke this last autumn.

I will not have the chance to sup again from the well of the erudition of Jonathan Fryer – another deeply committed Liberal Democrat internationalist, former chair of the international relations committee and eternally super-enthusiastic MEP candidate. But too a regular BBC broadcaster, public Quaker, lecturer and so many other things – including, astonishingly, biographer and friend of Christopher Isherwood – before his awfully sudden and tragic death from a brain tumour.

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

Has the BBC been impartial over Lineker?

There was a moment last night when I wondered if we were going to see tonight’s Match of the Day presented by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries after pundits and commenters alike responded to Gary Lineker’s suspension with solidarity.

Gary Lineker is a national treasure and sports presenter. While he is on telly, he talks about football. If he talked about politics, I doubt he’d have the following among football fans that he has. I never watch him because I am not a football fan. However, I have a very positive opinion of him from Twitter, where he has, for years, been chatting away about all sorts of stuff. He wasn’t a fan of Brexit, you know.

Lineker is far from the first BBC star to have political views. One of the first I remember was Kenny Everett, with his Let’s Bomb Russia comments and cruel jibes about Michael Foot back in 1983 at a Conservative Party election event.

And what about Ian Hislop and Paul Merton? They have rarely been complimentary about any Governemnt? Are they next in line for the chop?

When Rishi Sunak tweeted on Tuesday with some pride that he was removing modern slavery protections from people who arrive in this country illegally,  anyone with a commitment to human rights was rightly concerned:

Here was our Prime Minister basically giving a free pass to slavers who could then tell their victims, correctly, that there was no recourse to help. It’s hardly surprising people were angry.

Lineker’s response was strong but justifiably so. He called the Bill:

An immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s

The way in which the Tories have been othering vulnerable members of society, from immigrants to people who need social security to survive to trans people to fat people to those suffering from addictions, disabilities and mental ill health has been of concern for some years. Remember when David Cameron described migrants crossing the Channel as a “swarm?” It’s dehumanising and creates a culture where vulnerable people are seen as a threat and not as fellow human beings just like us. It’s done to set people against each other to distract from a failing government.

Our Tim Farron is both a mad football fan and passionately pro supporting refugees. He tweeted:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 22 Comments

Shirley Williams: Liberal Lion and Trailblazer

When Shirley Williams died in April 2021, Sir Ed Davey paid tribute to a “a Liberal lion” and remembered her as a “trailblazer” and an “inspiration to millions”. 

There were many other affectionate tributes. Unusually for a politician, Shirley was widely loved during her lifetime. David Steel once described her as “a national treasure, rather like the late Queen Mum”. As a Liberal Democrat icon, she stood alongside Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy.

Shirley Williams was, after all, the most popular of the “Gang of Four” who broke away from Labour in 1981 and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Roy Jenkins and David Owen provided the political weight and gravitas, but Shirley provided the personal warmth and empathy. With her stunning victory at the Crosby by-election in November 1981, she was the first candidate to be elected as an MP under the new party’s banner. “Shirl the Pearl”, as she was known, later became the first president of the SDP. 

Even so, her broad and enduring popularity was, in some ways, remarkable. Shirley last held government office in 1979 –as education secretary in Jim Callaghan’s ill-fated Labour government, from when she was best remembered for expanding the comprehensive school system. She passed up the chance to contest the SDP’s first leadership election in 1982 and lost Crosby the following year, a victim of adverse boundary changes, and never returned to the Commons. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Wera Hobhouse calls for action to tackle eating disorders

Anyone who has supported a loved one with an eating disorder will appreciate Wera Hobhouse’s tireless efforts to get better support and services for those living with these terrible and distressing conditions.

I know first hand how horrendous it is to watch someone suffering in this way. The agony that my loved one went through will stay with me forever, as will all the related anxiety. And I really appreciated that Wera drew attention to eating disorders in men for that reason.

What made things much worse is that there was so little in the way of practical support available. It is great to know that we have a champion in Parliament who gets this and who is fighting for more.

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Wera held a Westminster Hall Debate. She called for action to tackle an epidemic of eating disorders. She asked for a targeted strategy for eating disorders to tackle the waiting times for treatment for children and adults, provide training for health and education staff to recognise the signs that an eating disorder might be developing, earlier intervention and evidence based treatments.

The full text of her speech is below:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Securing a liberal Britain in hard times

Getting elected locally, becoming a citizen and living in freedom or security should be tackled in the right order. I just did the opposite. Arriving from Australia as an immigrant in 2016 (pre Brexit), getting elected a Councillor last May and becoming an UK citizen last month was a journey that made me think: how do I as a LibDem contribute to the safety, security and sustainability of our country? There are no easy answers but some clear pointers to what we might need: progressive, practical and patriotic steps to make Britain its liberal best.

I wrote back in March 2022 on LibDem Voice (Defence and Security: at the heart of liberal societies) about a growing think tank based at the National Liberal Club that reaches hundreds across the UK and the world by hybrid talks and expert discussions. I am also an Armed Forces Champion of my Council (shared with a colleague) with responsibility to the whole community. Veterans, serving members, cadets and their families expect all local governments to keep the covenant between community and those who serve.

But that is the smaller arena and the local or narrow pathway.

We as LibDems are at the heart of many national debates on matters of significance: the war in Ukraine, the risk of further Russian aggression, the role of China as a strategic competitor to our internationalist and liberal values for starters. Times have never been harder since the 1980s.

We also remain the voice of many who are deeply disgusted by this shabby Conservative government and are unconvinced by the rising Labour Opposition. Data and polling may suggest that our voters and supporters are well informed, educated and engaged on the big issues – the environment, education, cost of living crisis economics and social justice. But we are also the proud custodians of traditions of liberalism, social democracy and dissenting progressive values that reflect on the defence of the realm, the international order and our broader obligations to allies, partners and neighbours.

The emergence of an associated organisation “LibDem Friends of the Armed Forces” is no surprise. The upcoming debate at York Conference in less than three weeks on an enhanced/evolved defence policy fit for purpose and electorally sound for the times we face is another natural step.

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

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus

Happy St David’s Day!

When I was in school in Cardiff we used to hold an eisteddfod on the morning of March 1st (if it fell during the week) which would involve a lot of singing. Then the Governors would graciously grant us an afternoon off.

St David was born and spent his whole life in Wales, unlike the non-native saints of England and Scotland. There is plenty of historical evidence for his existence and his service as archbishop in the sixth century. He appears to have been a modest man living an ascetic life, but a charismatic speaker. His symbol is a white dove and he is known for the advice “Do ye the little things in life”, a good motto for community politics.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for St David’s Day to be a public holiday in Wales. They have tabled a Bill to Parliament which would give the Senedd powers to designate a day as such. St Andrew’s Day and St Patrick’s Day are already public holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru all support St David’s Day becoming a public holiday, but it has been continuously blocked by the Westminster Conservative Government.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

One year ago today …

Embed from Getty Images

Liberal Democrats have been commenting on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ed Davey said:

Today all of us will be thinking of the Ukrainian families split up by Putin’s invasion. We will be thinking of those who have lost a loved one and those who fight for Ukraine’s freedom.

Over the past year we have seen amazing acts of heroism in Ukraine as well as unflinching unity across Europe and our politics in the UK.

We will never forget the suffering of the Ukrainian people at the hands of Putin’s barbaric regime and we will stand in solidarity with Ukraine until they achieve victory.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Almost one year ago today, our world shifted on its axis as Russian soldiers, tanks and instruments of war crossed the border and rolled into the sovereign territory of Ukraine. It spelled what so many of us had hoped we would never see again- war in Europe.

Putin’s invasion is an assault on diplomacy and democracy, on peace and freedom. In places like Bucha and Irpin, he has sanctioned unimaginable atrocities. He does not belong in the Kremlin; he belongs in the Hague.

As I reflect on the suffering that the Ukrainian people have endured, it has become terrifyingly clear that the liberal and democratic structures we take so much for granted can be so easily taken from us.

That is why we must defend the values that unite us and support our Ukrainian friends as they rebuild their lives so far away from home.

In Scotland, people have shown an overwhelming amount of collective generosity as they open up their homes to refugees fleeing the conflict. I am immeasurably proud of work taking place in my own constituency of Edinburgh Western, where Volunteer Edinburgh have done an incredible job at greeting displaced Ukrainians and coordinating donations, learning centres and other opportunities across the city.

Today, the world remembers everything that has been lost. But we also hope that one day soon, Ukraine will once again enjoy its blue skies of freedom.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

Beyond potholes … addressing fly-tipping is an issue LibDems can campaign on in cities everywhere

Canvassing in the Hounslow by-election recently, I couldn’t help but notice old refrigerators, household waste, and builders’ rubble accumulated on the street corners and estates of Heston West. Residents were fed up and felt that they were being taken for granted. Statistically, Hounslow has the 2nd highest number of fly-tipping incidents in London. Even more depressing is that the Labour-run Council only bothered to issue 53 Fixed Penalty Notice fines for fly-tipping in 12 months. (Fly-tipping data for all UK Local Authorities is available here).

Fly-tipping is a real blight on the sense of pride everyone wants for the place they live. Council-run housing estates are especially popular locations for fly-tipping. Even worse, the daily exposure to stained mattresses, soiled nappies, and other waste constantly drags on the mental health and general well-being of the people living on them.

For Liberal Democrats getting serious about fixing urban fly-tipping is an opportunity to show city-dwellers what a community-minded approach can achieve. Our Heston West candidate has already adopted action on this blight as one of the major themes of his campaign. There is a lot Local Authorities can do about this problem, but only a few are doing enough. For challengers in Local Elections, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the difference a LibDem approach can make.

Two years ago in “leafy” Kingston there was a noticeable increase in fly-tipping during the pandemic. Statistically, Kingston is one of London’s least fly-tipped boroughs, but that is no consolation for people living with a problem in their area. Certain streets and locations of the borough received significant dumps of household waste/furniture and black bags. Housing estates and flats above shops especially had problems. Council Departments in Housing, Highways, and Parks were not working together, and issues were being handled poorly, frustrating residents and Councillors. And just Like Hounslow at that time very few Fixed Penalty Notices were being issued.

With the support of the LibDem Group, I initiated a fly-tipping task force. The task force brought together councillors, officers, and the vast amount of data gathered by the Council to identify ‘hot spots’. We then systematically set about fixing the worst areas through site visits and engaging with residents and local businesses. Each area had a slightly different problem and some issues were more difficult to resolve than others.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments

Poll highlights need for Lib Dems to develop compelling narrative

A poll of “blue wall” seats this week should make senior Lib Dems charged with delivering our next election campaign pause for thought.

Field work carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies last weekend shows Labour 7 points ahead of the Tories in seats the Conservatives currently hold in the south of England, but the party of Government gaining 2% and us going down 2% since the last poll a couple of weeks before.

Of the 42 seats that Redfield and Wilton count as the Blue Wall, there are not that many that we are seriously targeting so our 17% polling figure should not alarm us too much. However, the Tories are fixing their attention and massive resources on defending those seats and will not miss the opportunity to persuade people that these seats are between them and Labour not them and us. We will obviously be countering that where we are strong with local messaging so that people are in no doubt that it’s a two horse race between us and the Conservatives. We’ve been building very strong foundations in those seats over the past few years. However, we don’t want even a few people in the likes of Winchester and Esher and Walton thinking that they should be voting Labour to get rid of the Tories. If they do, then we’ll have Tory MPs, and surely nobody wants the likes of Dominic Raab in Parliament for another five years.

As Lib Dems we know the importance of targeting our resources very carefully. This, however, shouldn’t come completely at the expense of our national poll rating. The national mood music is very important both in our target seats and beyond. We need to be thinking about the political landscape for the next election and the one after that. Only by getting ourselves into more second places can we hope to properly break through. There is no point in winning a handful of seats in 2024 and ending up with the north face of the electoral Eiger to climb everywhere else.

Our national poll rating remains stubbornly low. We haven’t recovered from our coalition lows, except for that brief period when we were actually saying things that excited people in the early part of 2019. Capturing the imagination with a strong message and giving people a reason to vote for us is a good thing and we shouldn’t shy away from it.

We seem to be so terrified of saying anything that might upset the voters in the blue wall that we end up not saying anything at all. And those progressive minded voters who we need to  back us need to hear us talk about the things that matter to them too. And in truth, the things that matter to them matter to us.

I sense a frustration amongst activists in Labour facing areas that the increasingly centralised national Lib Dem campaign machine is not bothered enough with them.

We need to recover our boldness, passion and sense of indignation at what the Tories have done to this country super quick. We need to start using the P word, the S word the B word and the C word to show how the country can be a much better and happier place to live. We need to talk about ending poverty. We need to sympathise with the aims of our public sector workers who are striking for a decent pay rise and less stressful working conditions. We need to be much more robust in talking about the failures of Brexit which are damaging virtually every aspect of our lives. And we need to win the culture wars, not stand cowed as people are marginalised and demonised by the right wing media.

As Liberal Democrats we care deeply and instinctively about inequality and tearing down the barriers that people face that suck opportunity from them. That everyone should have enough food, safe and warm shelter and the resources to participate in life to the full should not be as controversial as the right wing media makes out every day, yet we don’t challenge them enough. We should be riding a coach and horses through the  Conservative narrative which sets people against each other. We want people to have a decent share of the pie, not fight each other for an ever decreasing pile of stale crumbs. So we need to start talking about ending poverty and giving people a fair crack of the whip.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 70 Comments

Mark Pack: My monthly report to members

We have a chance this May to achieve something we’ve only ever managed twice before in our party’s entire history: make it five rounds of local election net gains in a row.

We should be excited about that possibility. Not only for reasons of psephology but also for reasons of power.

Every gain we make will mean more people benefiting from Liberal Democrats in office, and every gain we make will mean more opportunity to turn our policies into action.

Policies such as the great record in Eastleigh of building new houses – and keeping on winning elections.

To keep our run of local election gains going in May we need two things: candidates and teams to help them. The last time this round of seats were up for election, our calculations show that we missed out on several hundred (yes, hundred) further gains because we didn’t have enough candidates in winnable territory.

Centrally, the party is doing more to publicise the opportunities to be a candidate and to encourage more people to think about i., (The data from these surveys ends up in Lighthouse so it’s available to all local parties.)

But nothing quite beats the in person conversation, the chat over coffee, to help more people realise what a great candidate and councillor they would be. 

That’s particularly important for potential candidates for under-represented groups, who can need that extra encouragement that our party is a welcoming home for them.

Then we need to get our candidates elected, which is where help from people who don’t have local elections in their own area can be so important. Going to help in person or picking up the phone to make some calls makes the difference in close contests.

If you can help with either of these tasks, please do. There’s also a wide range of free training available to help you make the most of these opportunities.

Working together, we can get more Liberal Democrats elected and get more things done such as turning a disused rubbish tip bequeathed by a Conservative-run council into a successful solar farm, helping our planet and generating income to pay for high quality local services.

The paradox at the heart of British politics

Alongside that local picture, there’s a paradox in our national politics we also need to navigate our way through.

The public increasingly views Brexit negatively. The headline figures show a slow but sustained, long-term trend.

Some of this change comes from long-term demographic trends as those joining the adult population are overall much more pro-European than the average. Some of it too comes from people changing their minds – although much of that is a churn to/from don’t know.

In fact, when YouGov recently asked about how people would vote in a new referendum, there was only a net 1.5% of people switching direct all the way from Leave to Remain. Moreover, those increasing pro-European views are also often quite soft. Put simply, the more that the possible conditions of Britain rejoining the EU are mentioned, the further support drops.

Even so, the overall trends are clearly headed in the right direction given our pro-Europeanism. Yet there is a paradox here. Because while public opinion is increasingly negative about Brexit, public opinion is even more strongly of the view that the most important issues to people, their families and to the country are other topics.

Different pollsters ask these questions in different ways, but the pattern of answers is similar. That pattern matters because, as the last general election showed, however much we might wish the election to be about one issue, in a democracy the voters get to choose what an election is about – and they can choose to make it about something else.

Today the most important issues are the economy, cost of living and health services. These affect people directly, now, in very practical and obvious ways.

Many people face big waits for a GP appointment, can’t get on an NHS dentist waiting list, worry about ambulance times if things do go wrong, and millions are stuck on waiting lists.

Overwhelmingly, the public wants to hear those who seek to lead them concentrating on these issues. Talking about other issues instead can feel at best like missing the point and at worst disrespectful to the immediate pressures and worries they face.

The way to show these voters we understand their lives is to talk about the economy, the NHS, practical issues in their area affecting their lives, and the underlying sense of being taken for granted by the Conservatives.

Party Awards: get your nominations in

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

Plan ahead – rail strikes planned for Spring Conference weekend

The railway workers’ union the RMT has announced a series of strikes planned for March and April.

The dates of the strikes are the 16th, 18th and 30th of March, and the 1st of April.

The first two dates are the Thursday right before conference, and the Saturday of Conference, both of which dates might impact those travelling to conference.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Out now – Spring Conference Agenda and Directory

The agenda and directory for Spring Conference has been published today. The first in-person federal conference since September 2019 takes place from 17-19 March.

You can read all the details of the motions up for debate, fringe meetings, exhibitors and training here.

If you read any of the motions and think, you know what, they’ve missed out this, or we should do this instead, you can submit an amendment with the support of 10 members, or an affiliated organisation like the Young LIberals by 1pm on 6th March.

You can ask the Federal Conference Committee to advise you on how to draft your suggestion by 1pm on 20th February.  That is next Monday. You don’t have to get drafting advice, though, n order to submit an amendment.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Lib Dems react to Sturgeon resignation

I might disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on many things, but I have long liked her personally.  She is one of the best political communicators we have had, someone who is very good at empathy and emotional connection. Her resignation speech today was dignified, sincere and candid about the pressures she has faced after eight years in the role.

Sturgeon is standing down on her own terms at a time of her choosing. Her work ethic is pretty legendary and she feels that she doesn’t have within her the capacity to continue working at this pace after 8 years in the top job.

Her leadership during the pandemic, described today by Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton as “a hell of a shift,” was not perfect but had a clarity and compassion that others lacked. Alex said in a BBC interview that today was not a day for throwing political brick bats and paid tribute to the First Minister personally:

The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats says Scotland faces “many challenges” and he calls on the SNP to “get stability restored” after the first minister steps down.

But today is “not a day for political attacks”, Alex Cole-Hamilton tells BBC News.

Despite having a “combative” relationship with the outgoing first minister, Cole-Hamilton recalls a warm moment between the two when the FM offered him “words of comfort” after his young daughter choked on a coin and had to be resuscitated around five years ago.

Watch here:

Later he added:

Nicola Sturgeon’s talent has undoubtedly shaped Scottish political life and she deserves to be thanked for her public service. Today is not a day for political attacks.  I wish her well for everything that comes next.

It is to Nicola Sturgeon’s credit that she has been open about the pressures and stresses that leadership has involved.  Everyone will recognise how hard it will have been particularly to steer the country during the pandemic and the weight of those decisions.

Scotland needs leadership that will focus on what really matters because every corner of our NHS is in crisis, the cost of living is punishing, islanders still need new ferries and education deserves to be a top priority.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will work hard to move the debate on from the divisions of the past because people can’t wait for years behind yet more arguments about independence. Scotland needs new hope, right now.

Alex is not the only person to have been impressed by her kindness. Back in 2011, she took time out of her day to send me, a random nobody activist in an opposition party, a lovely message of sympathy when our much loved campaigns director Andrew Reeves died.

It is also worth saying while she has recently been attacked on women’s rights, mainly by people who have never done anything for women in their lives, she is a committed feminist who has done a great deal to improve all diversity strands in her own party.  She also – eventually – delivered 30 hours of term-time childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and introduced the Scottish Child Payment which gives £25 per week to families on the lowest incomes.

Here’s what other Lib Dems have been saying about her resignation and we’ll update as more comments come in:

Christine later wrote a very generous column in the Express.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

The alternative reality of the political right

Liberal Democrats operate in a world in which we assume that those we talk to and work with are reasonable, open-minded, fair and generous, and share broadly the same assumptions about society that we do. Except, of course, that those in power don’t. To an increasing degree, Conservatives who read the Telegraph, Mail and Spectator, watch Talk TV and GB News, follow research by right-wing think tanks and see US Republicans as their closest political soulmates live in an alternative reality.

Liz Truss is a classic example of this. After her rapid exit from the Prime Ministership, she travelled to Washington, to institutes already well-familiar from previous visits, to regain her intellectual self-confidence. The lengthy essay the Telegraph has since published for her was headlined ‘I was brought down by the Left-wing economic establishment’. That’s the Treasury, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the City of London, the solid ranks of economists in leading universities in the UK and other wealthy countries, even the business journalists of the Times. They’re all part of a left-wing consensus, against which right-wing free marketeers must valiantly struggle, with only the support of hedge-fund and property billionaires to finance their fight.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 27 Comments

Age does not give a blue political rinse

There is a long standing aphorism that people become more conservative with age. A well known example that comes to is Winston Churchill. However, the evidence for age giving a blue rinse to voter’s politics has been uneven. New surveys and analyses suggest that while many people may previously have swung to the right in later life, that is possibly no longer the case. People are remaining liberal thinking longer and later in life. This gives hope for progressive parties as the “Thatcher’s children” generation ages and a more liberal cohort advances in age and remains liberal thinking.

This has implications for all parties. The Conservatives have recently swung to the right, playing to the older generation. Leading Tory politicians seem to believe that voters are made in their own image. That folly means they are losing the younger voter.

There is now a challenge for progressive parties, which need to ensure that they retain liberal thinkers into old age. There are signs that is happening.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Liberator 416 is out

Liberator 416 can be downloaded here (click on the 416 icon). This is the free February-March online-only edition of Liberator and we hope you enjoy reading it.

You can sign up here to be emailed each time a new bi-monthly Liberator comes out. There’s also a free archive back to 2001.

What’s inside this issue?

Alongside Radical Bulletin, Commentary, Letters and Lord Bonkers’ Diary, Liberator 416 includes:


Liberalism used to be about enabling free thought and giving communities a voice. Has a series of centralising measures in the party stifled that creativity and innovation? Gareth Epps investigates


The Liberal Democrats have ignored two sets of recommendations on race because other equalities issues are more popular. They will therefore go on losing to Labour in urban areas, says Janice Turner


Posted in News | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Another Daily Mail misogyny fail

I woke up around 6am this morning. After rearranging dogs so that I wasn’t clinging to the edge of the bed, I should have gone back to sleep. Instead I made that error of picking up my phone and looking at Twitter. Ok, so I might have wanted to see what people were saying about last night’s episode of Death in Paradise, but that’s not really an excuse.

What I saw enraged me. A Daily Mail headline asking “Did living in the shadow of his high achieving wife lead to unthinkable tragedy?” This referred to the murder of Epsom College head Emma Pattison and her 7 year old daughter by her husband.

That was bad enough, but then I discovered the previous day’s headline. Apparently the murderer was “desperate to do more with his days” after his business failed.

Suggesting that either of these things is remotely an excuse, particularly in a headline, perpetuates attitudes that have no place in a civilised society.

The media tries to construct a false narrative that women being murdered by their domestic partner  is “isolated” rather than two or three occurrences per week.


For as long as men have been abusing and murdering women, their excuses for doing so have carried much more weight in society than they deserve.

Women’s behaviour, clothes, sexual history, earnings, weight, or careers are just some of the things that have been blamed rather than the behaviour of the perpetrator themselves.

I am fed up of the media gaslighting women into believing that they are responsible for the behaviour of abusive men.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Kira Rudik: The fuel we are living on is hope

Editor’s Note: Updated with video on 12 February. 

Last night the Lib Dem European Group hosted an event with the leader of Ukraine’s Holos Party, Kira Rudik. Holos is one of five parties now in ALDE and was the first liberal party to gain seats in the Ukrainian Parliament.

LDEG have now put the video on their You Tube channel.

If you haven’t got time to watch it now, here are some of the highlights of Kira’s conversation with former Lib Dem President and vice President of ALDE, Sal Brinton. But do go back and watch it when you can.

Kira first appeared at Lib Dem Spring Conference last year, just 18 days after the invasion. She talked then about how she would never have expected to be learning how to fire a rifle and described her 2 hour daily Kalashnikov training as “a hell of a workout.” At that point she was wanting the international community to give Ukraine a chance against the Russian invaders.

Almost a year later, she talked about what life was like in Ukraine. Certainly they had held off the Russians and had even taken ground back off them, but they had lost 50 % of their energy infrastructure.

They can produce enough energy but can’t distribute it. They make sure that critical infrastructure like hospitals have what they need – the rest, she says, they figure it out as the go along. They  have electricity outages which have impact on water supplies and heating. In Ukraine’s freezing Winter, the  priority is heating, then running water then electricity. She said that when you wake up, you check if your phone is charged, if you have heat, it’s 50/50 if you have running water. You need water stored everywhere at home as you may not have it for 2-3 days at a time.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

Sunak reshuffle road to oblivion?

It seems to be a sign of a prime minister’s prowess that new departments are created or existing departments are reshaped during their tenure. All politicians want to leave their mark but there is always a parallel agenda. Promoting loyal supporters and getting rid of those causing trouble, and of course, those who have found to have broken the rules.

The need to replace the ambitious Nadhim Zahawi came after he was sacked as Chair of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio for breaching the ministerial code.  All that Rishi Sunak needed to do was to appoint a new Chair of the Conservative Party and give them a seat at the cabinet table.

But Sunak instead decided on a mini reshuffle.

The new department structure was heralded as delivering Rishi Sunak’s five promises: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats.

Grow the economy? Fair enough but not in the short term. Halve inflation? Only perhaps in the margins. Reduce debt? No way. Cut waiting lists? Irrelevant. Stop the boats? Of course not. The reorganisation of departments that might prove a lasting legacy for the UK but it will have no impact on the Tories electoral prospects.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

Chamberlain’s Carer’s Leave Bill closer to becoming law

On Thursday, a private member’s bill promoted by Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife passed its third reading without opposition and now goes to the Lords. As the Conservatives do not oppose the bill, it is set to become law.

Chamberlain said the new employment rights in the bill are vital at a time when the Government are trying to get people, especially the over-50s, back to work. The bill creates a new entitlement for employees to take up to a week of unpaid leave a year in order to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Lib Dem success on sewage in Commons

Yesterday, the Conservatives caved into the Liberal Democrat campaign to end sewage discharges into rivers, by accepting the party’s amendment which stops taxpayers money going to water companies unless the discharges stop.

Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord tabled the amendment to the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill, which originally allowed water companies to benefit from loans from the bank, even though they are paying their executives huge bonuses and giving shareholders generous dividends while allowing sewerage to be discharged into rivers and coastal waters.

The change to the Bill means the UK Infrastructure Bank can only fund water companies if they produce a costed and timed plan for ending sewage discharges into rivers.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Ed Davey on kinship care and his experience

Ed Davey spoke to Jason Farrell, Sky News’ home editor about his own experience of kinship caring. Ed explained his grandparent’s involvement in his own upbringing and how his maternal grandfather and mother were critical to looking after him after the death of this father when he was just four. Ed spoke movingly, at times tearfully, about his mother’s illness and how that created strain between his mother and grandmother. When his mother died 11 years later, his grandparents looked after him full-time while living with the loss of their only child. Kinship care, where grandparents are supported and encouraged in looking after grandchildren alongside foster or adoptive parents, is the best form of care he says.


Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

If I were a teacher would I strike?

I taught in schools and colleges for most of my professional life. At one stage I chaired our local union branch and joined in a couple of strikes. So you can guess where my sympathies lie with the current school strikes.

Now I don’t argue for pay parity between the public and private sectors of industry. In many areas of the economy the gap in pay between the top and the bottom of industry is eye-wateringly wide and contributes to inequality right across society. Simply copying what I see as immoral practices in the public sector would simply compound the problem. Instead the public sector, including education, should model a fair and equitable earnings distribution.

Teachers were put under huge strain during lockdown. Their teaching practices changed from day to day, many doing a combination of in-person and online teaching, they took on extra health risks, they had to keep adjusting their teaching plans to match the latest assessment/examination requirements – and doing all this while trying to home educate their own children.

As one teacher told The Guardian:

Teachers are on their knees. I absolutely love my job, I am still passionate after 25 years and have never considered leaving but every year a little more is asked and expected of us: we’re dealing with the creeping effects of growing class sizes, teaching assistants disappearing from the system, higher levels of poverty, inadequate school budgets. This week alone I have worked almost 11 hours’ overtime.

This is not just about pay, it’s about the workload and the impact this has on the students.

Ah yes, workload. Throughout my career I was generally treated as a professional, but not always. One boss would indulge in staff re-organisations every five years or so and that inevitably meant signing a new contract if you wanted a job in the new structure. And the new contracts always increased workload, whether measured in teaching hours or class size. I felt I was being treated as a functionary, hired to do a task. I loved my job, and loved teaching my students, and would normally put in 55 to 60 hours work per week, and far more than most people might think during the “holidays”.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

How much does your constituency regret Brexit?

New data based on a survey by Focaldata for UnHerd maps current opinions on leaving the EU by constituency. Published on the third anniversary of the UK leaving the EU, it shows that opinion has shifted since the Brexit referendum. The survey estimates that half of in England, Scotland and Wales think it was wrong to leave the EU (54%) while only a quarter Brexit was the right move (28%).

Regretting leaving the EU is not the same as wanting to rejoin. But there is a growing swell of people who wish to rejoin as I discussed here on LDV on Sunday.

This MRP analysis is potentially very important as it gives a guide to where it is beneficial for Liberal Democrats to campaign on a pro-EU ticket. Whether that is campaigning to rejoin or to forge closer relations with the EU is a matter for campaign strategy, national and local policy.

In every constituency except three, more people think that Brexit was a mistake than think it was right. The three dissenters are in east Lincolnshire, and only Boston has more people thinking Brexit was nothing they regret.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments

What has Brexit done for us?

Next Tuesday will be the third birthday of the UK’s exit from the EU. I can see nothing to celebrate though we might expect champagne corks to pop in Jacob Rees Mogg Land.

With hindsight it was like a pantomime. Campaigns of lies, deceptions and bluster. An Olympic competition for the biggest lie.

The referendum on 23 June 2016 saw a high turnout of 72.2%, with 48.1% against and a winning 51.9% in favour, though Scotland voted against. The UK duly left the EU at 11pm Friday 31 January 2020.

In the fantasy land occupied by Boris Johnson (now raking in the cash), Jacob Rees Mogg (now of GB news) and some newspapers, everything since then has been glorious. But that is a political fiction.

People realise that. In a poll published by the i this weekend, 49% of those that expressed a view wanted to rejoin the EU and 51% were against. That’s the closest margin yet.

The tide is turning against the Brexiteers.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 23 Comments

How you can join Operation Social Equality

I am pleased to tell you about a new Affiliated Organisation we are starting called Operation Social Equality. It is open to all members of the Liberal Democrats but has a specific focus to support members from low-socio economic backgrounds.

Studies tell us that those from low socio-economic backgrounds are amongst the most under-represented in politics and also the least engaged. So three years ago the journey started to look at what can be done to help the Liberal Democrats become more inclusive and to encourage more people from low socio-economic backgrounds to engage with the party.

I heard from many people who shared experiences just like those that I had experienced myself. I heard stories of some who had walked away from the party.  Some found doors to be closed or opportunities held just too far away to grab. It was from these conversations that Operation Social Equality was born.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?

Why does Ed Davey never talk about Europe? To be clear, I am not advocating launching a campaign to rejoin the EU. Although party policy supports this as a longer-term objective, there is no chance that the EU would treat an application from the UK seriously until a new government has taken steps to rebuild the EU–UK relationship –the kind of measures we set out in the policy paper Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe, endorsed by conference last year. This set out a detailed strategy for moving progressively towards a closer relationship with the EU, including ultimately joining the Single Market. These are of direct benefit in themselves, as well as steps the UK will have to take if we are to rejoin one day.

Over the last few months hardly a week has gone by without someone arguing for this, both here in Lib Dem Voice and in the mainstream press. So why isn’t our party leadership talking about it? I’m not defending their position – I think it’s wrong – but it’s worthwhile thinking through the reasoning behind it to see whether it’s justified. Although Ed Davey hasn’t shared his thinking with the party at large, I think we can identify three main reasons behind his consistent avoidance of the topic.

First, because, like Keir Starmer, he’s worried about alienating former Leave voters, particularly in the party’s 30 or so top target seats, almost all of which are Conservative-held. But opinions change – and over the last year they’ve changed significantly. Compared to most of 2021, when more people supported being outside the EU than inside, by the end of 2022, average support for reversing Brexit had reached 57 per cent. This is mainly due to Leave voters changing their minds: in November, one in five Leave voters told YouGov that they regretted voting Leave – the highest number yet recorded. In December Savanta found that 47 per cent of all respondents would favour a closer relationship with the EU compared with 14 per cent who wanted to be further apart. Even 30 per cent of Leave voters said they wanted the relationship to be closer, while 18 per cent wanted to be further away. So our position, of rebuilding the UK–EU relationship, has substantial support.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 60 Comments

Four ways you can help Liberal Democrat Voice

The Voice is only a success because of the interest and support from our readers. For many people just lurking and reading the site is all they want to do – and that’s fine, we’re grateful for people taking the time to read the site.

You can though help us continue to produce interesting content for a growing audience. Here are four simple ways:

Posted in Site news | 2 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Roland
    >” In the policy paper – ‘Towards A Fairer Society’ we are not proposing changing the benefit taper of 55%.” Michael BG I would hope with a uni...
  • Peter Davies
    Actually, I should have used single / dual income rather than earner. There are quite a lot of richer single earner couples that have only one earner but two in...
  • Peter Davies
    There is no explanation there of what household types means. The 'Key statistical comparisons' section is particularly misleading. It features the usual ste...
  • Robin Stafford
    An excellent summary thank you John, which I’ve shared with others. My biggest concern is not so much what Casey’s report has exposed - which those affecte...
  • Joe Bourke
    There was an explainer document accompanying the Fairer Society policy paper ...