Tag Archives: featured

Wendy Chamberlain MP: Tips for winning your selection campaign

When I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015, immediately following the General Election, I was working in military resettlement, supporting service leavers into employment. If you had told me that within 5 years, I would be a Member of Parliament for the party, I would have laughed very loudly.

When I decided to enter the selection for North East Fife in 2018 (at that time the most marginal seat in the UK with only 2 votes separating the SNP from the Liberal Democrats) it was clear that I needed to take some of my own job-seeking advice on board.

If you are serious about becoming a PPC in a Liberal Democrat target seat, here are some top tips on how to approach the selection. I’m assuming here that you are already an approved candidate.

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Lib Dem researcher discovers proof that the Queen lobbied ministers to change climate change law

Lily Humphries is one of the Lib Dem team in the Scottish Parliament and the brains behind many of our scoops with her freedom of information requests.

She features in in today’s Guardian which reports that Lily discovered that the Queen had successfully lobbied Scottish Government ministers to get an exemption from a new law which “requires landowners to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy.”

That’s not bad for someone who owns as much land as Her Majesty does. As the Guardian reports:

Her lawyers secured the dispensation from Scotland’s government five months ago by exploiting an obscure parliamentary procedure known as Queen’s consent, which gives the monarch advance sight of legislation.

The arcane parliamentary mechanism has been borrowed from Westminster, where it has existed as a custom since the 1700s.

The article explains:

The new documents, uncovered by Lily Humphreys, a researcher for the Scottish Liberal Democrats using freedom of information laws, disclose how the monarch used her special access to Scottish legislation to intervene in the parliamentary process as recently as February.

Not only that, but the Government didn’t tell Parliament about this as Willie Rennie pointed out:

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BREAKING….Alex Cole-Hamilton makes his move

Alex Cole-Hamilton has tonight announced he is standing to be Scottish Lib Dem leader. The contest is taking place after Willie Rennie announced he was standing down two weeks ago.

Alex throwing his hat into the ring is the most surprising thing since the sun rose in the east this morning.

He announced the news in video posted on Twitter:

 

He is brilliant on all the touchstone liberal issues of human rights, civil liberties and social justice.

In his weekly column for the Edinburgh Evening News, he set out his stalll:

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Cable causes controversy over Uyghurs comments

Our beloved former leader Sir Vince Cable took to a new right wing tv news channel last night to have a pint with Nigel Farage.

During that interview he basically said that we shouldn’t call the brutality that the Chinese authorities are inflicting on to the Uyghur population genocide. He said:

“The use of the word genocide is not right here. There is terrible human rights abuse in many countries of minorities and China is one of them and they have abused those minorities for sure but calling it genocide is hyping the language.”

I wonder if he would consider that Amnesty International were “hyping the language” in their report last month in which they described China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as “crimes against humanity.” Over 160 pages, they outlined horrific human rights abuses:

Agnes Callanard, Amnesty’s Secretary General said:

Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations that threaten to erase their religious and cultural identities.

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus.”

In February, the BBC reported on allegations of systematic rape in detention camps:

Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.

Earlier this year, the US Government described the treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide in its annual report on global human rights practices:

Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. These crimes were continuing and include: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians; forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of China’s birth control policies; rape; torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained; forced labor; and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.

With that sort of evidence, it’s not hard to see why Vince’s comments have provoked some controversy in the party, even from a senior MP.

Alistair Carmichael said on Twitter that while Vince was a long standing colleague whose views he valued, on this he was wrong:

Other members and party bodies criticised his comment too:

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Wera Hobhouse: Democracy is failing us – Day of Action Saturday 31 July

Attacks on our fragile democracy are ramping up. The evidence comes in a raft of recent Government proposals that include voter ID cards, curbs on peaceful protest and plans to introduce more elections by First Past the Post (FPTP).

Take the controversial plan to introduce voter ID cards, proposed as part of the Elections Bill. This would actually disenfranchise millions more voters. Ministers say asking voters to prove their identities will safeguard against potential voter fraud in polling stations. They also claim that ‘showing identification is something people of all backgrounds do every day’. But I’m not convinced there is any evidence that voter fraud is even an issue. You could be forgiven for thinking this is a tactic put forward by a Tory Government fearful that its ‘blue wall’ will come crashing down at the next general election. Their crushing defeat at the Chesham and Amersham by-election certainly goes to show how a well-fought campaign at grassroots level can do so much to bring communities together.

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World Review: Israeli spyware, Cummins, Tokyo Olympics and Haiti

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms asks, who you believe, Cummins or Johnson?

Spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents. The Israeli government’s denials of not being involved is fooling no one. The arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws, has led to riots but his arrest was only the spark. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon was the man behind the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moisie.

On more cheerful news, it is a minor miracle that the Tokyo Olympic Games are happening.

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On Hina and ice-cream

Last Thursday, LibDem London Assembly member Hina Bokhari invited me to spend the day with her. My goals were to get to know Hina better, learn what the London Assembly does, and create a video for my YouTube channel we could share with the world.

At one point Hina says “there’s nothing particularly remarkable about me.” I think this video shows pretty clearly that this isn’t true – she is actually an extremely remarkable person. As LibDems, we should all be very proud she represents our party in the London Assembly.

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Wera Hobhouse on 100 days to COP26

Yesterday, MPs debated COP26 Conference Priorities in a Westminster Hall debate. The debate was co-sponsored by Wera Hobhouse. Lib Dem MP for Bath. She said this is the biggest opportunity for real climate action since the 2015 Paris agreement, after which we have had a “string of incredibly disappointing COPs”. Wera called for the government to get its own house in order instead of paying to lip service to climate change. The Government has failed to set any direction on how to heat homes in the future, how to expand the electricity grid for increased electricity need, let alone on tackling emissions from heavy industry, shipping or aviation.

COP26 must be a COP of global solidarity. It is time for the Government to put their money where their mouth is. The world is watching to see whether the UK will step up to the plate.

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Willie Rennie: “A cheerful voice for a more decent politics”

Willie Rennie has done two major interviews this weekend talking about his decision to stand aside as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and his hopes for the future.

The Times (£) leader had praise for him yesterday, too:

It is to be hoped that Mr Rennie remains active in public life. He has been a cheerful voice for a more decent politics and his brand of low-key, relaxed liberalism is more necessary than ever. After a summer running in the hills he should return to the fray, ready to play his part in building a bigger and better centre.

Willie spoke to Magnus Linklater for the paper (£) and talked about his hope that Labour and the Lib Dems would work more closely together to present a progressive, pro-UK alternative to the nationalism and populism of the SNP and Conservatives:

“I think working together with Labour on issues of common interest would be a good thing,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I wouldn’t run before we can walk. But build confidence between the parties and also amongst the electorate to show we’re getting our act together.”

This is about trying to show that for middle Scotland there is something better and stronger than the Conservatives or the SNP, that it’s got energy, it’s got momentum, it’s got ideas, and that’s the most important thing, so people know that if they vote for it, it will be worth it,” he added. “The actual mechanism is less important — it’s the energy behind it that matters.”

He talked about how much Scotland had changed in the past decade or so – and not for the better:

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Observations of an Expat: America’s Original Sin

America has developed its own version of Original Sin. It is called the Critical Race Theory and is proving to be yet another toxic debate topic dividing Black and White and the growing chasm separating America’s right and left.

Original Sin was propagated by St Augustine in the 4th century. It maintained that every human was born sinful and spent a lifetime fighting against it. The Augustinian philosophy was a major tenet of the medieval church and proved especially with the breakaway Protestant sects. Gradually, however, first the Catholics, and then most of the Protestants revised their thinking. Sin was washed away with sacrament of baptism and replaced with personal responsibility.

Critical Race Theory maintains that all Americans—or at least all White Americans—are born racist.

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Ending profit making from the care of vulnerable children in Wales

Before my election to the Senedd I was a child protection social worker. I worked with some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society and those staff dedicated to giving them every chance to thrive.

That is why I jumped at the chance to table a debate on legislative proposal in the Senedd on Wednesday, just weeks into the first term. I used the opportunity to shine a light on the work that we must do here in Wales to create a genuine care system based on the needs, hopes, and aspirations of children and young people.

I used my voice in our national parliament, to speak up for the children, young people, and staff who are waiting for the Welsh Labour Government to act.

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Wera Hobhouse calls for Olympian steps to halt Xinjiang atrocities

In a Commons debate on Thursday, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse warned it would be unacceptable for the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, senior diplomats and officials to attend the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year. To do so would give credibility to a regime that is accused of genocide in Xinjiang. Western countries had to take a stance against China’s human rights abuses.

Hobhouse told MPs is totally unacceptable that peaceful demonstrations during protests on the field of play or in medal ceremonies are barred by the IOC under the threat of sanctions. Given the ongoing human rights abuses, is it at all justifiable for the games to go ahead?

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Dick Newby writes: Are progressive alliances needed to win?

Ever since Boris won the 2019 General Election, there has been growing talk of the need for a “progressive alliance” to stop the Tories winning the next election.

Quite what this might involve is unclear. Some would like a national pact between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens so only one party would stand in each seat, and others want simply to promote greater tactical voting and other parties to scale back their campaigning where another party is the main challenger.

Helpfully, the by-elections in both Batley and Spen and Chesham & Amersham give us some insight into how this could work and how voters might react.

Chesham & Amersham: a victory for tactical voting

Let’s take Chesham & Amersham first, where the Liberal Democrats started in firm second place. We fought a vigorous campaign and proved early Green party claims that they were going to be the main challenger wrong. People who were traditionally Labour voters, realising that their vote could make a difference, decided to tactically lend their vote to the Lib Dems – including some Party members and activists.

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Willie Rennie stands aside as Scottish Lib Dem leader

After more than a decade in the role, Willie Rennie announced this evening that he is standing aside as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Watch his statement here:

He leaves while he is still incredibly popular within the party – and the tributes he has received from outside it show how valued he is across politics.

When he took over in 2011, he inherited a party that had been given the hoofing of its life in the Scottish Parliament elections, reduced from 16 MSPs to just 5.

The small group he led had a big voice, though. Over the years, the Scottish Lib Dems have been the go-to people on issues like education and mental health. Willie’s dogged persistence, challenging Scottish Ministers week in and week out on issues like police centralisation, college places, mental health waiting times, childcare and free school meals shifted government policy on many occasions.

He stared wipeout in the eye in the Scottish Parliamentary elections of 2016. If you had told me we would emerge with 5 MSPs from that election after the disaster of 2015, I would not have dared to believe it. But he showed what he could do with a bright and optimistic campaign which include him launching the manifesto while running down a soft-play volcano and being interviewed on a slide. When his photocall at a city farm was overshadowed by two amorous pigs, journalists were given a packet of Percy Pigs each at the next big event.

His commitment to improving the party’s diversity saw him ensure that we had all women shortlists for both 2017 and 2021 elections, a gender balanced team of spokespeople and serious money invested in diversity projects in each year’s Scottish budget. He put his own neck on the line to get these measures approved by Conference. He needed a two thirds majority and he got it by basically ringing everyone who had registered and talking them round.

And he has travelled the length and breadth of the country so many times supporting candidates at every possible level of election. He’s encouraged people to stand who have now been elected. He has led campaigning with boundless energy, enthusiasm and a huge smile.

I am incredibly sad to see him go, but I can understand that after 10 years of unrelenting graft, he relishes the chance to do something a bit different. He’ll stay on as MSP for North East Fife, of course – but don’t expect him to stop speaking out on th issues he has championed.

And as a campaigner who has been responsible for many of the party’s successes over the past three decades, his skills in that direction will be in demand.

So what now?

The Scottish Executive will set a timetable for a leadership election in which any of the party’s other three MSPs will be eligible to stand.

But for now, let’s look at some of the lovely things people are saying about Willie:

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Is Boris Johnson gambling on tonight’s Euro final to boost herd immunity?

Crowding together. Shouting. Singing. Welcome to the excitement of football. As England and Italy prepare for the Euro final, scientists are concerned that football is helping drive up Covid-19 infection rates by allowing potentially super spreader events such as the finals at Wembley and Wimbledon. It is predicted that seven million pints will be served during the Euro final tonight in pubs across the land. Health secretary Sajid Javid has suggested we might be heading towards 100,000 new cases a day. Did he take sporting events into account?

It’s coming home but could coronavirus also be coming home with the fans? Maybe Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid want that. Could the Euro final be a booster jab that gets us closer to herd immunity.

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The Triple Lock: An 8% rise is justifiable

The Government appears to have forgotten why, the predominantly Conservative, Coalition Government introduced the “triple lock” whereby the State Pension increases in line with earnings, prices or 2.5%, whichever is the greatest.

It was an attempt to reverse the 30 years of erosion since Margaret Thatcher replaced the “earnings link” with a “prices link”. And after only ten years there is a long way to go to restore the pre 1980 relative value.

Prices are about the cost of static living. Earnings are about the standard of living and quality of life. As the economy grows so too do the expectations and necessities of life. For example, very few people had fridges in 1950; it would be difficult to manage without one today.

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Academic freedom and its enemies

On Monday 12th July the Commons will debate the 2nd Reading of the Higher Education (Academic Freedom) Bill.  This Bill, which closely follows the recommendations of two Policy Exchange papers and of Toby Young’s Free Speech Union, provides for the Office for Students (OfS) to regulate and enforce rules on free speech within universities, and establishes the new post of ‘Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom’ in the OfS.  It gives students, staff and visiting speakers the right to sue universities and student unions for alleged breaches of free speech, with fines to be imposed.  The OfS may also impose penalties.

This is a culture war bill.  The evidence that threats to free speech in universities are greater now than they were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago is thin.  The Policy Exchange papers are heavily dependent on US sources and examples – yet another example of the increasing capture of English Conservative thinking by US Republican ideas.  Gavin Williamson decries an attempt to prevent an ambassador speaking at a university – but my wife as a Young Liberal demonstrated to block the South African Ambassador speaking in Oxford in 1963.  He deplores the withdrawal of an invitation to Amber Rudd by an Oxford student society; but I recall at Manchester University in 1968 students disrupting the Education Secretary when trying to speak at an official university event.

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Ecocidal thoughts

Embed from Getty Images

Ecocide, unlike Geocide, has yet to be embedded in international law.

Ecocide, as envisaged, would perhaps be reserved for extreme forms of our everyday Planet Abuse and directed at corporates and government leaders whose policies wreak so much damage.  Even so, the chances of such condemnation becoming law are minimal – and the chances of it acting as any deterrent, even less.  Like so much else in the hot air of climate debating circles, the notion of Ecocide is as purely symbolic as national flag waving or political greenwashing.

On the other hand, everyday Planet Abuse is more easily understood by individual citizens and communities.  For sure, there are challenges in tracking useful metrics: many places and people will see different priorities, and we are still a very long way from the general taboos that progressive societies try to muster for, say, Domestic or Racial Abuse.

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A New Fair Deal for Oxfordshire

A couple months of ago, Oxfordshire changed. For the first time in 16 years, the Conservatives no longer had a majority on the County Council and instead, an alliance was formed between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party to form an administration.  We named this the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance, and I was elected the Leader of the new council.

For many years, I have been asked by voters why the opposition parties can’t work together to effect change. In the Witney by-election of 2016, Robert Courts won 45% of the vote – why, I was asked then, did Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems not get together and offer an effective and united challenge, breaking the Conservative dominance of local politics?  Perhaps that might have worked, but at the time, that was not an option.  But now, maybe things have started to shift.

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Observations of an Expat: Happy Birthday CCP

There were massed choirs, bands, marching soldiers, clapping children, thousands and thousands of red and yellow balloons and a military flypast. Some 72,000 hand-picked and thoroughly vetted party members packed into Beijing’s Tianmen Square to perform a carefully choreographed warm-up act for a speech by President Xi Jinping to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party.

The main thrust of Xi’s address was that the Communist Party was now China and China was the Communist Party. The two entities have been declared indivisible. The Mandate of Heaven has fallen on the shoulders of the party’s leadership and that the only way that China can continue to develop and take its natural leading place in the world is through dogged loyalty to the diktats of the Chinese Communist Party.

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Batley & Spen – Labour win is shock but Lib Dems kept Tories out

First – huge congratulations to Kim Leadbeater. Brand new to politics, she was absolutely thrown to the wolves in this campaign, but she survived it. The fight between Labour and Galloway was bitter and divisive, the last thing this community needed. I hope that Kim will be a compassionate and healing MP and I wish her luck.

Honestly, as someone who has been campaigning and knocking on doors in this election, the result has come as a huge shock. I thought the Conservatives would walk it. Perhaps that tells you something about the areas we targeted – our locally held ward of Cleckheaton and our adjacent target of Birstall and Birkenshaw are very much Tory leaning. Our campaign focussed on keeping that local election vote with us, rather than letting it slide back to the Tories.

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In defence of a Progressive Alliance

The amazing Liberal Democrat win in last week’s Chesham & Amersham by-election was the first electoral setback the Conservatives have had since 2019.

So it’s not surprising that it has sparked a fresh wave of debate across non-Conservative politics about what can be learned from it, one of which is around varying types of a progressive alliance.

It’s important to understand WHY people are talking about a progressive alliance in the first place. For me it starts with three key reasons –

The Conservatives have won 4 successive General Elections and judging by the opinion polls and recent election results, they are in a strong position to make it 5 in a row. The prospect of a Conservative government for most of the 2020s fills many with horror.

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Hancock out, Javid in

Under relentless pressure after he was pictured in a romantic clinch in breach of coronavirus restrictions, Matt Hancock last night resigned as secretary of state for health. He told Boris Johnson:

The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis… We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.

He is replaced by former home secretary and chancellor, Sajid Javid.

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Hancock: Emergent class of rulebreakers are undermining government

Will he go or will he stay?

Can Hancock survive a sneaky snog and buttock fondle that took place at a time when he was telling us all to social distance?

Matt Hancock survived Dominic Cumming’s torpedoes and hell has no fury like a political adviser scorned. Hancock has the prime minister’s backing. Well, Johnson has had his own jolly japes.

But the media are howling for Hancock’s resignation. His behaviour and his future is bound to dominate tomorrow’s political circuit. As Ed Davey said yesterday, the real issue is Matt Hancock’s competence in his role as health secretary. Agreed. But there is growing anger among those told to obey pandemic isolation rules while ministers and advisers routinely ignore them.

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Observations of an Expat: A Black Russian Sea

The landlocked 420,000 square mile Black Sea straddling the Europe Asia divide is fast becoming a maritime hotspot to rival the manmade islands of the South China Sea.

That is why this week the Russians buzzed the British warship HMS Defender, shot missiles into its path and then summoned the British Ambassador to the foreign ministry.

The British Type 45 frigate, said the Russians, had invaded Russian territorial waters. Wrong, said the British. Their ship could not possibly have been in Russian waters because it was off the coast of Crimea which was unilaterally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. This annexation was not recognised by Britain or the rest of the world. Therefore, HMS Defender was in Ukrainian waters not Russian and was establishing its legitimate rights under international freedom of navigation law.

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Local Council By-Elections 24th June 2021: Another night of Lib Dem success

Following on from the stunning by-election result last week in Chesham and Amersham, there’s been plenty for Lib Dems to celebrate in this week’s local government by-elections. An excellent gain in Chichester and a hold in Somerset West and Taunton has left us feeling very good for the second Friday in a row.

The headline result of the night has to be Chichester East, following on from their great performance at the County elections in May. The local team worked hard and it showed: a 24.7% increase and taking the seat off the Tories from third is seriously impressive. They were out knocking on doors rain or shine, and managed to get the fantastic candidate Bill Brisbane over the line. The win was down to a classic campaign fought well: lots of leaflets, a strong focus on squeeze, letters to postal voters, and a phenomenal Get Out The Vote effort. A cracking team, a superlative candidate, and a Fighting Fund grant from ALDC proved to be the winning formula. A huge congratulations to everyone involved.

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Daisy Cooper slams “barmy brainwashing” One Britain event

When I heard that some schoolchildren in the UK are going to be asked to sing a song saying how great Britain is on Friday, to be honest, I thought someone was just having a laugh. Surely nobody could be so crass?

I was wrong. As The Independent reports,

The Department for Education this week announced it would encourage schools to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June.

Celebrations for the event include singing a song called the “OBON Day Anthem 2021”, which ends with the children repeatedly chanting, “Strong Britain, great nation”.

It also includes the chorus: “We are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team.”

I find the whole thing nauseating.

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Chesham & Amersham: Ed Davey hails huge victory

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Chesham & Amersham: Sarah Green’s victory speech

In a confident speech earlier this morning, Sarah Green said she was humbled by the faith the people of Chesham and Amersham had placed in her.

Together, we have said enough is enough. We will be heard. And this government will listen.

No matter how safe the seat, you can have a Lib Dem representative.

Sarah had a message for young women. Don’t let people put you down or block your way. You can. You must. You will.

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Chesham & Amersham: That stunning, historic result in full

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