Tag Archives: featured

Ed Davey: Country wants a General Election

“I have just publicly congratulated a lettuce.” Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would write. But after six weeks in which the Government had descended into a destructive and self-destructive parody, it seemed appropriate. The Daily Star’s “Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce” livestream was childish, but appealed to our sense of the ridiculous as our politics became more absurd.

My plan for yesterday evening was to watch the Doctor Who Easter special. I knew it would shred my emotions, so I’d been putting it off, but the thirteenth Doctor’s tenure ends on Sunday so I’d better get on with it.  Anyway, Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon started to explain the bizarre events in the Commons voting lobbies and I ended up binging on the news channels until I fell asleep.

Of all the weird things about last night, the strangest was that the vote didn’t even matter. It was on an opposition motion, which the Government usually just ignores. What on earth possessed them to make such a big deal out of it when the Parliamentary Party was already in a highly sensitive state? Apparently making it an issue of confidence would nullify any of the rebels’ letters, but chucking them out of the parliamentary party would surely reduce the threshold and invite more letters from disgruntled MPs.

Not content with crashing the economy with the binfire budget, they turned in on themselves.

The Conservative Party is in so much pain that it is not capable of governing. It really needs to go and lie down in a darkened room for a few generations until it sorts itself out. Yet they are about to inflict their third PM in three years on to us.

I am not convinced that the 1922 Committee has thought through its high nomination requirement, which has presumably been set to keep out Boris Johnson. There is every possibility that you have one person with the backing of 100 MPs, and two others just short of that. They will be just as split as ever and we have seen how they behave when they all hate each other.

The country shouldn’t have to deal with this. Every household in the country on low and middle incomes will be paying more for borrowing, energy, basic costs of living because of Liz Truss’s folly. And the folly of MPs who allowed her to go forward to the members.

Ed Davey, Daisy Cooper and Christine Jardine have been commenting on various aspects of the Conservative chaos

Ed  has been doing the media rounds this afternoon making the case for a general election so that the country can finally get some decent government. Here he is on the BBC, Sky and ITV:

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Liz Truss goes, the country and world breathes relief

Jeepers. We needed this. But we didn’t need the continued instability. Liz Truss has rightly resigned this afternoon. She had no credibility when elected. She had no credibility in her few days in office.

The procedures for replacing Truss are uncertain. The Tories after a summer that saw potential candidates for the Tory leadership tearing each other and the Tory’s ability to govern the nation, govern anything was trashed.

In a statement outside No 10 today, Liz Truss resigned. She boasted of her low tax, high growth economy. She has submitted her resignation to King Charles.

The new Tory leader and the prime minister will be decided within the next week (by the Tories).

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This fantasy government is now the stuff of nightmares

When we were children, we played games of fantasy. Believing we were nurses, fire fighters, astronauts. As adults we still play games, not always acting like we are grown up. The Conservative Party has become adept at this. It previously appointed a prime minister who fanaticised that rules didn’t apply to him. Its current fantasy prime minister claims she is running the country. And too many the party fanaticises that no matter what it does, people will still vote it into power.

Yesterday, the Conservative fantasy turned into farce. A pantomime. Party managers’ attempted to whip Tory MPs into voting in favour of fracking by turning it into a vote of confidence on Liz Truss. That failed big time, with around 40 Tory MPs failing to vote. Fracking is a contentious issue but for a prime minister to stake her job as prime minister on it when it was known that many Tory MPs will not support it was one of the most ill-considered decisions of modern government. And, as it proved, the stuff of nightmares.

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Meet the candidates for Party President

Update: Since this post was published we understand that the date for the hustings for England will be rearranged. We will update you as soon as we can.

Following on from the Newbies Guide to the party elections we now have the dates for the presidential hustings.

There are three candidates for President of the Liberal Democrats:

  • Lucy Nethsingha
  • Mark Pack
  • Liz Webster

Three online hustings have been arranged, one each for England, Wales and Scotland.

  • England: Sunday 23rd October, 6pm to 8pm  New date Thursday 27th October, 6pm to 8pm
  • Wales: Wednesday 26th October, 6pm to 8pm
  • Scotland: Sunday 30th October, 1.15pm to 2pm.

These meetings are for members only. You do need to book here in order to receive the link to the online event.

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Ed Davey calls for General Election after Chancellor leaves office

We know now that Kwasi Kwarteng is out as Chancellor just hours after Downing Street told the BBC’s Chris Mason that he and Liz Truss were “in lockstep.” Whether he jumped or was pushed is for the journalists to work out.

I would be very surprised if we see them leaving Government in lockstep together, which seems unfair given that he was basically implementing the policies she put forward during her leadership campaign. In fact, he blinked first when the markets first went wild, putting out a statement after what was described at the time as a heated row between him and Truss.

It’s going to be interesting to see who she appoints as Chancellor – and who would be willing to do the job. Could we see Penny Mordaunt in No 11, or some  have suggested Jeremy Hunt.

We just have to wait to see what Liz Truss says at the press conference later this afternoon. She’s not a great one for humility and if there was ever an occasion that called for that in huge amounts, this is it.

While a u-turn, or partial u-turn (a j-turn?) on the Budget of Chaos will likely calm down the markets, the damage has been done to people’s mortgages and they will be feeling that for years to come.

Ed Davey has called for a General Election to get this lot out of office:

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Lib Dem MPs on health crisis: government has got it badly wrong

One of the most stunning non-answers in the House of Commons of late was Liz Truss’s response to Daisy Cooper at PMQs yesterday on the danger of collapsing hospital buildings. The here today, and possibly gone tomorrow, prime minister either didn’t hear the question or did not know how to respond (Hansard).

In a debate in Westminster Hall, Daisy Cooper was again in action, this time on the preventive covid-19 drug Evusheld. This is a pre-exposure prophylactic drug administered by injections that gives a degree of protection against catching Covid-19. There are around half a million immunosuppressed people in the UK who could benefit from this treatment, including people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. But the government refuses to make it immediately available, instead waiting on a NICE review which may not conclude until well in 2023, after the expected winter surge in illness, including Covid and seasonal flu. Cooper said the government had got this “badly wrong”.

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Daisy Cooper on PMQs

Daisy Cooper had a question about hospitals with dangerous roofs at Prime Minister’s Questions today. Bizarrely Liz Truss seems to be answering a totally different question.

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Helen Morgan: 12 hours with an ambulance crew

It’s midday on a wet and windy Friday afternoon. Normally I’d be in a village hall for a surgery with constituents. Instead, I’m hurtling down an A-road being deafened by a siren in the back of an ambulance.

I’m with paramedics Steve and Julie and we’re responding to the first call of our 12-hour shift. It’s only minutes since we clocked on but the elderly lady in need of help has been waiting more than three hours. She’s got Covid symptoms and chest problems making her a category two call with a target response time of 18 minutes.

Indeed, by the time we pack up just before 1am we’ve been to four category two calls, all of which had been waiting at least two hours, and one category three with a 12-hour delay.

All of our response times are around 10 times longer than the target and today is a ‘good’ day by recent standards in Shropshire.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: Russian setbacks, Ukraine, North Korea, Saudi, Trussonomics, Hurricanes

Setbacks for Russia

The Chinese, according to senior diplomatic sources, have told Vladimir Putin that they will not support his use of nuclear weapons. This is unsurprising given that Beijing used a recent UN meeting to reaffirm its long-standing policy of “assured retaliation” which basically means no first use and no support for first use of nuclear weapon by other countries.

The Chinese position is one of a series of mounting Russian diplomatic setbacks that are running alongside a series of battlefield defeats.

On Friday there was a Cold War echo when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to jailed Belarussian activist Alex Byalyatski, banned Russian dissident organisation Memorial and Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties. The award was clearly meant to undermine Putin.

Meanwhile 44 European heads of government (all of them except Belarus and Russia) met in Prague to present a united Euro-front against Russia.

At the same time, NATO defence ministers gathered in Brussels with arms manufacturers to discuss beefing up assembly lines.

And finally, because success breeds success, the US Congress voted another $542 million in economic and military aid to Ukraine.

Signalling success in Ukraine

NATO’s investment in Ukraine is starting to pay intelligence dividends. Any war scenario provides opportunities for testing equipment and ideas as well as learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the warring parties.

European military chiefs learned the rudiments of trench warfare during the American Civil War. There are also coups from captured equipment such as the T-90M tank which I wrote about last week. But of even greater significance is Ukrainian success in the signals war.

Modern warfare depends hugely on the ability of a warring state to 1- send and receive signals 2- block homing signals from the opposition’s guided missile and artillery systems and 3- deploy effective homing signals so that your ordnance reaches its target. The NATO equipment supplied to Ukraine is scoring high marks on all three. This is playing a major role in hobbling the Russian military and providing NATO with vital battlefield SIGINT (signal intelligence).

Attention Seeking Kim Jon-Un

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Exclusive: Vince Cable talks about his new book

Former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has just published a fascinating new ‘his and her’ memoir, ‘Partnership & Politics in a Divided Decade’, with his wife Rachel. It covers a tumultuous decade in British politics which saw the creation of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, Brexit and beyond.

I asked Vince about the book and his reflections on the era…

You published a well-received memoir, Free Radical, in 2010, so why write a second volume?

Certainly, two bites of the cherry is rather self-indulgent. I justify it on the basis that the really important things, politically, happened after 2010.

And why write a ‘his and her’ memoir rather than a traditional solo memoir?

I think the partnership element in political lives is very neglected – and the double act with Rachel meant the book isn’t so egocentric. At stressful times (Coalition, defeat, leadership) the emotional and practical support was essential. Also the ‘political wives’ perspective has been rather spoilt by Sasha Squire: funny but lots of malicious gossip.

The Coalition years seem a lifetime ago now, but you think it’s important to revisit them?

A major motive for writing the book was seeing the party become a victim of lazy stereotypes crafted by our opponents and our being mostly airbrushed out of history.

What should the Lib Dems be proudest of achieving during the coalition government?

There is a long list of Lib Dem achievements: the pupil premium; triple lock pensions and stakeholder pensions; gay marriage; lifting low earners out of tax; development of offshore wind; and in my department the creation of the British Business Bank and the Green Investment Bank, as well as relaunching apprenticeships and preserving the Post Office network.

We also stopped a lot of bad things: deeper cuts in benefits, highly illiberal moves on immigration, and some of the wacky ideas now being peddled by Rees-Mogg like ‘no fault dismissal’ and effectively outlawing strikes.

What about the controversial hike in student tuition fees?

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Three in four blame Kwasi Kwarteng budget for higher mortgages

New polling commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed three in four (75%) blame the Government’s budget for higher than expected mortgage rates.

The findings reveal even the majority of Conservative voters (68%) blame the expected rise in rates on the Government’s budget last month, which sent the financial markets into turmoil.

The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates to as much as 6% next year, adding considerable costs to mortgages. This week Moneyfacts reported the typical two year fixed rate mortgage has topped 6% for the first time in 14 years.

Those who own their home with a mortgage also blame the likely rise on rates on the Government’s budget (76%).

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Tim Farron set to run London Marathon for air ambulance charity

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

And tomorrow he plans to do it all again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lib Dem Councillors shortlisted for national awards

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Goodchild – Central Bedfordshire District Council (Community Champion)

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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The Conservatives no longer stand for a stable economy

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

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

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

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Mahsa Amin’s death

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

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

Another lurch to the right in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

Iceland

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Day 1 as lab rats: some views of the Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Observations of an ex pat: Blink

Vladimir Putin is daring the West to blink first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For Bi Visibility Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First from Ed Davey:

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

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

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

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

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

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Davey: We have most right wing government in modern history

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

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

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

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

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Fracking go ahead is not a coherent energy policy

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

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

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

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

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Life resumes…..

It’s been an intense 11 days  since the Queen died.

For many people, a national bereavement takes a similar pattern to any other. The adrenaline gets you through to the funeral and it’s only afterwards that you have to adjust to the loss and its consequences. However we may feel about Queen Elizabeth’s legacy or, indeed, the institution of monarchy itself, it will take some time to get used to the new normal, not least because we have a brand new monarch and a brand new Government.

Anyone under the age of about 75 will not be able to remember having any other monarch than Queen Elizabeth. It’s  astonishing that we have had two Queens, covering 134 of the last 185 years. Both reigned during periods of intense social and economic change. I was thinking about this yesterday  as I woke up and looked up exactly how long they had been on the throne. Victoria had been on the throne for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days – and Elizabeth for 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. In all the wall to wall coverage I’ve absorbed since 8th September, I hadn’t heard that mentioned. Or maybe I’m the only one that finds it worthy of note.

We haven’t in any sort of memory had a new Head of State and Prime Minister in such quick succession. Elizabeth had wartime giant Winston Churchill as her first PM. When George V died, Stanley Baldwin was on his third prime ministerial stint. The last liberal Prime Minister, Asquith, had a couple of years under his belt before Edward VII died and Viscount Melbourne was extremely experienced when the 19 year old Victoria acceded.

The new King Charles has had decades to learn his trade and he has acknowledged that he can’t be as vocal on issues close to his heart as he was as Prince of Wales. A climate change denying Government is bound to be a test.

The cost of living emergency has not gone away. It is biting the most vulnerable every single day.  Inflation may have dipped a tiny bit down to 9.9% in August but households are still finding that the basics in life are a lot more expensive than they were last year before you even think about heating your house.

The last big political announcement was Liz Truss’s plan to deal with meteoric energy price rises. She intends to limit price rise so that the average household will pay no more than £2500. It’s likely you will pay more if you live in an energy inefficient, damp house. That includes many people on low incomes in private lets and social housing.

Ed Davey called Truss’s plan a “phony freeze” saying:

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Floella Benjamin pays tribute to the late Queen

Baroness Floella Benjamin has paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords.

Floella  talked about the late Queen as someone constant in the lives of young people :

She gave them that sense of pride which is so important for the human soul and spirit, which young people need.

She also  talked about her own meetings with the Queen – something which as she said is something she could never have dreamed of as a child growing up in Trinidad in the 1950s and singing “God Save the Queen ‘ at school.

I first met her in 1995, when I was president of the Elizabeth R Commonwealth broadcasting fund, which was set up with funds she donated from the royalties of the BBC programme for the 40th anniversary of her reign and which hundreds across the Commonwealth have benefited from.

And she goes on to talk about a visit paid to the University of Exeter when she was Chancellor :

As Chancellor, I had the task of hosting her. It was then that I got a glimpse of the true character of this remarkable woman. It was like having a masterclass in people skills. She loved to indulge in finding out about everything and in a short time I had to judge who she wanted to find out more about and when she wanted to move on

The Queen had a well known admiration for, and friendship with, Nelson Mandela and this came out in her conversation in Exeter:

We chatted and shared stories about everything, including faith and forgiveness, which were qualities she told me she admired in Nelson Mandela

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It has been a week like no other

The queue is more than four miles long with waiting times of nine hours as I write. Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime. Certainly, it has been a week like no other like no other in living memory. Perhaps like no other. The sudden and dramatic death of Princess Diana created an unprecedented outpouring of grief and astonishing scenes in the capital as crowds flocked to be in London. To camp in the parks. To put flowers on the trees. But it does not match what is happening in London today.

The arrangements after the death of Queen Elizabeth II were well rehearsed. Like many deaths it was not unexpected but the timing was unknown. Her last duties as Mary Reid said earlier, were to accept the resignation of the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson and the incoming prime minister, Liz Truss. Perhaps we will never know Her Majesty’s views on the prime ministers she agreed could the lead country, or those leaders from around the world she must have met with gritted teeth behind the famous smile.

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A special Lib Dem Winter Crisis Conference

We are most likely heading into a bleak winter. The UK is in dire shape – the loss of our Queen, a lacklustre government, the economic downturn, energy and cost of living crises, strikes, ongoing Brexit consequences – maybe even the return of some COVID variant. Public support for Ukraine under these difficult circumstances must also be maintained.

This is the moment for the Lib Dems to show Britain that we have policies to deal with these critical issues. The answer could be a Special Lib Dem Conference on the Winter Crisis, as permitted by our constitution, to be held in November, just at the onset of winter, in substitution for our lost Autumn Conference.

The Federal Board and Federal Conference Committee rightly decided that the Autumn Conference could not go ahead at a time the country was in mourning. But what was unexpected was a single all-encompassing decision to completely cancel the conference rather than reschedule.

We cannot be absent ourselves from the political scene at this critical moment. The two main parties are proceeding with their conferences. The Trade Unions have postponed and will have theirs later. The FCC suggested that our parliamentary spokespersons could cover this off. But we need to take decisions and only the party membership can authorise policy through a fully-fledged decision-taking conference.

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How to get a refund for Advance Train Tickets to Conference

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

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

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