Tag Archives: featured

Let’s celebrate another amazing Highland Lib Dem GAIN

Great news this morning which I’ve been unable to share with you until now because I’ve been at work.

There have been a few Lib Dem gains in the Highlands in recent years – Carolyn Caddick in Inverness South, Jean Davis in Aird and Loch Ness and Trish Robertson in Culloden and Ardersier. Today they were joined by Denis Rixson in Caol and Mallaig. This is a bit of Charles Kennedy’s old seat turned gold again and taken from the SNP.

I’ve been hearing from Lib Dems on the ground that it felt good, but I’m not sure anyone actually expected us …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 3 Comments

It’s Transgender Day of Visibility – why it should matter to every liberal

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility. This afternoon, I’m heading into Edinburgh for the Trans Pride Scotland event and I’m really looking forward to seeing the stalls, workshops, talks and meeting lots of lovely people.

Today really matters to me. As a liberal, I instinctively strive for the rights of people to be able to express who they are without fear. When I was at university, so many of my lesbian and gay friends weren’t out. When I went to uni in 1985, technically homosexuality had only been legal for five years in Scotland. Homophobia still exists, but we have come a long way since then and we have a job of work to do to maintain and continue that progress.

While rights and recognition of transgender people have  improved in the last couple of decades, there is so much more to be done. Recent efforts to simplify the gender recognition system have inspired a bit of a transphobic backlash. Open any right wing tabloid these days and you’ll find scaremongering inaccurate bile which makes life so much more difficult for transgender people.

Imagine how you would feel if your very right to exist and be accepted as who you are was called in to question? Imagine how that must feel if you are a child or young person struggling to come to terms with your gender identity.

As a cisgender woman and a feminist, I’m not prepared to stand by why anyone is discriminated against and attacked. The words of Martin Niemoller are never far away from my mind and my love for my transgender and non binary friends is never far away from my heart.

The bottom line is that everyone should be able to express who they are, something very individual to them, as they see fit. They should be accepted and welcomed. For me, that’s a basic part of a liberal society.

I have been in total awe of my transgender friends these past few days. They have been under sustained attack on social media and have dealt with it with resilience, patience and humour. The bile and unpleasantness coming in their direction has been awful to see. That’s why I will always stand with them.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

We’ve given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations


Embed from Getty Images

As Lib Dems we have campaigned long and hard for curbs on the government’s power to snoop on our internet data.

Yet, most of us (not all) have personally given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations – namely Facebook and Google.

I know, I have checked on my data held by Facebook and Google. You can do it too. Facebook had all my photos, posts, friends etc etc going back to February 2007. The data was 354 megabytes in size. That’s equivalent to 71 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

Review: Read Towards a Liberal Future by David Howarth and Bernard Greaves

In his conference speech, Vince Cable talked about having a party “fizzing with ideas.” But to be able to present a liberal vision with liberal ideas, you have to have a clear understanding of liberal values and of how they should be applied in every area of our lives. In Towards a Liberal Future, David Howarth and Bernard Greaves set out their view of what liberalism is all about. They look at how the party has failed to practice and communicate its core values and set out how we can fix this. I’m very excited to say that they have allowed us to share their book with you here.

The authors have a long history in the Party. It’s nearly 40 years since Bernard Greaves co-wrote “The Theory and Practice of Community Politics” and 10 years since he co-wrote “The Theory and Practice of Community Economics.” David Howarth is a former Liberal Democrat MP and Councillor who has returned to the academic life since he stepped down from Parliament. More recently, he’s developed the idea of Core Vote Strategy with Mark Pack and it’s no surprise that that plays a part in the book’s strategy for our recovery.

Vince seems to take the implied criticism in their analysis of how we got to where we are on the chin in his foreword to the book:

It starts from the proposition that the party has ‘lost its way’ producing an incoherent mixture of ‘local champions and national pragmatists’ (the latter, presumably including me, being the people who went into Coalition).

It seeks to revive the party’s long term vision and, in my view, does so brilliantly.

The authors don’t merely blame the coalition for our demise. That, they argued, started with the concentration purely on winning local elections without a national over-arching vision.

From where it all went wrong, Howarth and Greaves take us through a definition of liberal values and some examples of how we could translate them into various policy areas. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 21 Comments

Lloyd: Government must delay “horror” changes to mortgage support

Support for Mortgage Interest is a benefit given to people claiming Universal Credit or certain other income-related benefits who have a mortgage or who have taken out loans to make repairs to their home. It pays for the cost of interest on up to £200,000 of a person’s mortgage in order to prevent claimants from defaulting on their mortgage.

From next month, SMI will be replaced by a loan of the same value, which is repaid (with interest) when the property is sold.

It’s pretty cheap, as benefits go, costing the Government around £300 million a year. It is certainly about 3.5 times cheaper than letting someone’s home be repossessed and then having to pay housing benefit to put that household in the rented sector.

Apart from the whole principle being flawed, the implementation seems to have been botched as only around 10,000 of the eligible families have taken up the loan. Some people haven’t even been sent the information about it so that they can make an informed choice about whether to take the loan.

Our Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said the whole thing was a horror and called for implementation to be delayed.

Every month we seem to be hearing yet more examples of this Conservative government being both mean-spirited and unintelligent; this mortgage interest benefit change is a classic example. It will force some homeowners into even more debt, and will force others to sell their homes putting themselves at the mercy (and cost) of their local council’s housing department. Which, naturally, will cost the taxpayer more in housing benefit than keeping them in their own house by paying mortgage interest payments. An absolutely ridiculous decision.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

The party’s immigration consultation: Liberalism deserves better

Liberal Democrat Immigrants exists to represent those members of the Liberal Democrats who have chosen to come to live in the UK from elsewhere. It also seeks to represent the interests of immigrants to the UK in general and to highlight those issues that disproportionately affect immigrants.

The challenge for Liberal Democrats should not be “how do we make a broken and inhumane system work a little bit less badly?”, but how we discard the broken system and in its place build something better, so that Britain can reclaim the reputation of an island of hope and welcome.

As you may have seen, the party is asking for members’ opinions on immigration. As Lib Dem Immigrants, we are fully committed to a liberal immigration policy. This should have been great news.

Sadly, on reading the consultation document, all that excitement faded, to be replaced with frustration at the nitpicky, timid mess of leading questions.

  • Expecting current policy and structures to be made fit for purpose with the barest of tweaks.
  • Failing to distinguish between actual problems and perceived problems — and naively assuming that addressing perceived problems with more “robust” policy will somehow placate tabloid-fuelled xenophobia. (hint: it won’t).
  • Focusing almost entirely on the benefits of immigration to the host country and barely at all on the benefits to the immigrants and their families.
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 92 Comments

Martin Horwood writes…The real issue about Trump, Facebook’s ‘data breach’, why The Observer missed the point and Liberals should care

The Observer‘s front page today lays into Facebook for a massive ‘data breach’ in which 50 million Americans’ data were harvested by the infamous Cambridge Analytica and used with great effect to target Trump messaging at US voters. They “built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons” their whistleblower Christopher Wylie is quoted as saying.  It was a powerful tool for a campaign based on fear and paranoia.  Little surprise then that Cambridge Analaytica is also being investigated by the Office of the Information Commissioner and by the Electoral Commission in the UK in connection with their work on the Brexit referendum.

But the main Observer story oddly misses the point. It focuses on how long it took Facebook to own up to the ‘breach’ and suspend Cambridge Analytica’s access to the service.  It describes the accessing of the data itself as “one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches”.

But it wasn’t.  And that’s not the importance of this story.

Anyone can harvest data from the web.  I harvest it when I can’t remember someone’s birthday or their kids’ names.  The Lib Dems harvest it indirectly when they use targeted Facebook advertising.  My engagement team in a previous job harvested it using smart algorithms to find possible engagement targets, ironically, to promote better data, openness and transparency.  The point is that all this information is out there and – a point confusingly referred to in the Observer piece – platforms like Facebook don’t regard it as their data but their users’ (“it may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided”).  Facebook’s suspension of CA appears to be because of technical breaches to their terms of use, particularly the sale of data to third parties.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

ALDC’s Local Elections appeal

Victor Chamberlain, standing as a candidate in the Borough and Bankside ward, Southwark Council in this May’s local elections, tells us why ALDC’s appeal needs your generous support.

The challenging set of elections taking place across the country on Thursday 3 May provide a fantastic opportunity to put the Liberal Democrats back on the map in local government.

As a candidate, I wanted to help promote ALDC’s Local Election Appeal, knowing first-hand how important this financial support is for teams fighting to win this May.

HOW YOUR DONATIONS WILL HELP

In Southwark, we’re up against a well organised Labour party who can call on more activists than we can. As a result, we need to do everything to ensure our supporters’ voices are heard and we know they’re far more likely to vote if they have a postal vote.

Most residents in my ward lead very busy lives and are rarely in when we call round to speak to them. And the majority live in blocks of flats that we struggle to gain access to.

This is where ALDC’s Local Election Appeal is helping to overcome these problems by targeting postal voters in key battleground wards across the country.

HOW YOU CAN DONATE:

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

Vince talks to Voice Part 3: A message of hope that Brexit can be stopped

As you know, I managed to grab 10 minutes with Vince, his wife Rachel and some delicious sandwiches just after his speech on Sunday.  You can also read Parts 1,  and 2

I asked him what he wanted to have accomplished by the time we gather in Brighton for Conference in September.

Well I think there are some very specific areas where good work has been initiated – learning accounts, medical technologies, taxation. that will be some meaty stuff to talk about.

But Brexit is going to be the big thing….

We will have a greater understanding by September of exactly where we are in the Brexit cycle. Hopefully the message of hope that this can be stopped will be clearer but even if it isn’t totally clear we will then have one month to stop it and October may be the crucial month so people need to be prepared that this is the time for the big push and to back up what’s happening in the party and at conference with stuff on the streets. That’s crucial.

We are the only party that is mobilising people to argue back with street campaigns. We need to build up the tempo on that working with other campaigning groups. We’ve already started that. It doesn’t stop at the local elections. It needs to keep going over the Summer as the key decisions will be made in the Autumn. I hope that people’s confidence that this is doable is fortified by some victories in the Spring. If we can get the Government defeated on the customs union, that’ll be a start. It’s not the end but it’s certainly the start.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Vince talks to Voice Part 2 – The message to young people – I’ve got your backs

Another snippet from my chat with Vince on Sunday.

He talked a lot about young people in his speech, showing that the Liberal Democrats have a lot to offer the younger generation who stand to lose so much from Brexit. I observed that he seemed to be saying to young people: “I’ve got your backs.”

Exactly. That partly reflects the new membership in the party – as you know it’s doubled and most of the new members are young and they came into a party that’s relatively old. But the average is now lower than the Labour Party and the Conservatives, which is good.

We see that as positive. I was very struck with the polling data that says that 25-30% of young people are considering voting for us and there’s a much bigger majority amongst young people and it’s reinforced whenever I go round universities. Despite that there are some tricky issues for us at universities as you know, actually the reception is very good, lots of people with an open mind.

I think the Brexit issue is probably number one on their list of priorities and we are the only party that’s giving them what they want and thinking about their future. I’d say that for many of those, things like climate change and environment are way up there and we are the only one of the major parties with a strong green message.

One of the other things that polling showed was that Remain vote has huge subset hasn’t yet forgiven us for the coalition. How do we get over that?

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

Vince talks to Voice Part 1: Open primaries

Twenty minutes after Vince finished speaking yesterday, I was sitting in a room with him,  his wife Rachel Smith eating delicious egg sandwiches.

We only had a few minutes to chat, but we covered a fair bit of ground.

I did the geeky party hack thing and started by asking him about his ideas for the party. I mean, he was talking about open primaries, wasn’t he, when he said this?

Our sister Liberal Party in Canada, under Justin Trudeau, leapt from third to first in a ‘first past the post’ system every bit as unforgiving as ours.

I have turned to them for advice on modernisation on how we can apply their successful model here.

The Canadian liberals engaged all their registered supporters – their voters – as well as their members in leadership elections and candidate selection.

They became a new party; a movement.

Building on our own traditions, we must address how we in the Liberal Democrats can become a movement for those who are alienated by the Conservatives and Labour.

He reckons it’s worth a try to connect with more people:

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

Vince explains his ‘blue, white and pink’ remark

Vince Cable was on robust form this morning, being interviewed by John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme. He commented on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” regarding the country’s deficit.

Vince acknowledged that the government is roughly in balance on its day-to-day spending. He said, however, that the government would be very foolish to assume that they have turned the corner and that there’s no need to worry about the country’s finances. He added that the government should take advantage of its low lending rate to invest in the economy.

Vince explained his speech in Southport yesterday. Humprhys focussed on this statement from Vince, referring to Brexit voters:

Too many were driven by nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

Wera Hobhouse presents Bill to outlaw upskirting

Lib Dem MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse, has introduced a Bill which would make upskirting illegal in England. It is high time that the disgusting practice of secretly taking a photo up a woman’s skirt without consent and, sometimes, publishing it on the internet,

A couple of weeks ago, Wera asked a Government Minister if the Government would legislate on this. The answer was reasonably positive, so we need to push the Government to support Wera’s Bill.  You would hope that nobody would try to defend the practice which has been illegal in Scotland for almost a decade.

From the Bath Chronicle:

Wera Hobhouse presented her private member’s bill to make the practice illegal in the wake of a public campaign calling for a change in the law.

If passed into law, her bill would make upskirting a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

LibLink: Vince picks out Shirley Williams as the female parliamentarian that he most admires from the last 100 years


Embed from Getty Images

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK, House magazine have done an article where prominent MPs pay tribute to the female parliamentarian they most admire from the last 100 years.

They have the Speaker, John Bercow, paying tribute to Eleanor Rathbone. Andrea Ledsom writes about Nancy Astor. Cheryl Gillan and Emma Little-Pengelly talk of Margaret Thatcher. Baroness Smith and Angela Raynor pay tribute to Ellen Wilkinson, while Kirsty Blackman extols Winnie Ewing and Lord Fowler describes Baroness Swanborough (Stella Isaacs – the first female member of the House of Lords).

Vince Cable writes eloquently in tribute to Shirley Williams:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 15 Comments

Conference to debate new disciplinary process – how you can find out more

This weekend, Conference will get a vote for my proposals of a new disciplinary process for the Party. This is the culmination of a series of consultation phases, and has been designed with members’ feedback at the forefront of our minds.

You can read my report here, and paper copies will be available at Conference. I will also be holding a Q&A session during the Saturday lunchtime fringe slot in the Marine Suite at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Southport. If you are attending Conference you are very welcome to attend and ask me any questions you may have, ahead of the debate which will take place that afternoon from 5pm.

I have been clear from the beginning: the only way members will be well-served by a disciplinary process is if it is simple, transparent and efficient. It needs to be a stand-alone process, and it needs to deal with complaints promptly with clear lines of communication. It also needs robust guidance on how to care for all those who may find themselves trying to navigate the process, be they complainants, witnesses, those complained against, or those sitting on the panels.

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

Lib Dems at 30 – let’s be bold, confident and radical

It’s a wee while since I hit 30 but I’ve been thinking a lot about how I felt at that time in my life.

My twenties had been pretty turbulent in many ways and had taught me quite a bit about the world and how it works and where things needed to change.

By the time I hit 30, I not only felt surer of myself, I felt more impatient even than I had at 16 to change the world. Why? Because so little had changed. Because we were still having the same arguments about power being concentrated in the hands of too few white men. Because opportunities for progress were being missed.

It’s a bit the same for the party. When it hit 20, it had 63 MPs and was in many ways at the height of its powers. Charles had been right on Iraq, Vince had been right about the financial crash which was only just starting to unfold. Actually, Paddy, our leader for the first 10 years had been right on social justice, right on Kosovo, right on Hong Kong.

As we hit 30, we are still right on the big issues of the day – housing, Brexit, inequality, climate change. We are much smaller in terms of MPs and councillors, but we have more members than we had 10 years ago. We had about 75000 members around the time Nick Clegg won in 2007. We broke the 100,000 barrier last year.

It is not easy being a third party in a bonkers electoral system that is built for two who want to keep it that way.  It wasn’t until our 10th year that we broke through, doubling our number of MPs to 46. It wasn’t until our 11th year that we had nationwide representation in the European Parliament. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Radical, distinctive and quite possibly the start of something big

How do we get off 8%? We’ve been at or around that figure in the polls since well before the 2015 election, and despite our very clear and principled stance on Brexit, we’re still stuck.

Maybe we just need some ‘events, dear boy’. We’ve had precious few parliamentary by-elections, which were the lifeblood of the party’s momentum in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and we haven’t had the kind of Iraq War issue that puts us on the right side of public opinion and leaves the Conservatives and Labour on the wrong side. But do we just wait for such an event to arise?

No, we have to grasp the nettle and do something, and if you’re going to be in Southport for the Lib Dem conference, please come to a fringe meeting that involves doing just that. It’s only for an hour, and at 6.15pm on the Saturday night before the alcohol starts flowing. But it’s aimed at starting the ball rolling towards the party finding a handful of policies that can define us as a caring, distinctive and radical social force in British politics.

Entitled ‘Radical Liberalism – defining what we stand for’, it builds on a paper Paul Pettinger and I wrote in the autumn, and which was the subject of a piece we jointly wrote on LDV on 27 October. Many of the responses from LDV readers were very helpful, and have helped shape the meeting we’re organising in Southport in association with Social Liberal Forum and Compass.

The two central thrusts of that paper – which are also the two thrusts of our meeting – are that we need to be defined in policy terms, not in relation to other parties, and we need to frame our policies so others who support what we stand for in elections where we can win (and their preferred party can’t) feel able to vote Lib Dem. There is also an implied willingness to work with people of other parties who have a similar mindset to ours, be it pre- or post-election, public or behind-the-scenes. As elections get closer, the media will try to present a Lib Dem vote as a closet vote for another party; we will find it easier to rebut such coverage if we can say ‘We’re clear what we stand for – if you agree with it, just vote for us!’

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

Why you should think about submitting an amendment to a Conference motion

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference takes place in Southport in just two and a half weeks’ time. Party members will be discussing policy motions on the NHS at 70, party strategy, housing, Brexit, education and rural communities.

You might want to take note  that the deadline for submitting amendments is 1pm on Tuesday 6th March so you have a whole 13 days to put your amendment together, find 9 people to agree with you and submit it to the Federal Conference Committee.

I bet virtually everyone who has been to Conference has been in the hall and realised that the motion under debate would have been so much better if it had made an additional point or said something slightly differently.  Failure to read your conference papers ahead of time could have you kicking yourself that you didn’t take the opportunity to make a motion better or to spark a lively debate.

Amending a motion can make for a very interesting debate. If a motion submitted by members is deemed a bit too radical by the leadership, they’ll often submit an amendment to make it a bit more on message. They don’t always win the day in these debates either.

Sometimes members feel that a motion submitted by the party’s Powers that Be is not sufficiently radical for their liking so they will submit an amendment that beefs it up a bit.

We Liberal Democrats are pretty good at having high quality, passionate debates on controversial topics. Twice recently we’ve debated nuclear weapons and the tension in the hall has ensured some really high quality speeches. Similarly, one of the high points of the Bournemouth Conference last Autumn was the debate on Brexit strategy. There was all the high drama of suspending standing orders to change the agenda to have a proper debate rather than a consultative session and then a challenging and passionate debate on the substantive issue.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 2 Comments

ALDC’s Kickstart Weekend: my experience attending as a newbie

Adam Bambrough, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Clock House, Bromley Council in May’s local elections, has shared his experience of attending November 2017’s Kickstart Weekend.

I am fairly new to the party and I’ve been fast-tracked to be the candidate in May for the Bromley Council seat of Clock House in Beckenham. I have always been full of determination and drive, but before attending Kickstart, I was unsure whether my instincts in this new environment were correct. I also lacked the knowledge, strategy and technique to win my ward.

However, the training delivered everything I had hoped for and more. I left the weekend feeling more enthused than ever; knowing that my hard-work could now be channelled in the most effective ways.

I learnt to trust my instincts, which I have begun to do, and it helped me write my ward’s campaign plan and develop a coherent message to send to voters. The weekend also taught me to know my ward, which although seems obvious now, I had neglected a little at the time and have spent the months since getting to know every road!

My two mentors were so knowledgeable and went above and beyond the call of duty to help me and my team. I also met so many lovely fellow attendees over the course of the weekend. People I will be friends with and support for a long time.

I cannot speak more highly of my time on the course and I’ll certainly be recommending that other people from my local party go along this year. So don’t delay, if you have elections in 2019 and beyond, book on today to ensure your campaigns have the best chance of being successful.

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

Jonathan Marks writes…muddled thinking over the EAW threatens our security

Yesterday in the House of Lords we discussed a report from the European Union Committee entitled ‘Brexit: Judicial Oversight of the European Arrest Warrant’. I regard this as a warm-up to the debates we will be having over the course of the Withdrawal Bill when we return from recess.

I rose to agree with the Prime Minister. Well, when she was Home Secretary in 2014 she recognised that losing the European arrest warrant would turn the UK into “a honeypot for all Europe’s criminals on the run from justice”. It seems that in the intervening period she has suffered some sort of memory loss and is now toying with the idea of pulling out of all of the most important crime-fighting tools we have with our European partners.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Why it’s time to follow Jo’s lead in tackling sexist behaviour

When John Humphrys and Jon Sopel mocked the whole BBC gender pay gap controversy in the wake of Carrie Gracie’s resignation last month, they weren’t really held to account. There was no great show of remorse from them. The BBC could have taken them off air for a couple of days to underline that they were unimpressed with their behaviour. They and their sense of entitlement were pretty much left untouched.

Until today.

Jo Swinson was interviewed by John Humphrys about the new procedures to tackle sexual harassment and bullying in Parliament. At the end of the interview, this happened:

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

Clever question from Vince shows Brexit threat to NHS

Theresa May’s non-answer to Vince Cable’s question at PMQs today about whether a future trade deal with the US will safeguard the NHS could end up as being one of the turning points of the Brexit debate.

One of the huge advantages of the EU is that you have a lot more clout if you approach a protectionist like Trump with 27 of your mates rather than if you show up on your own.

Watch the exchange here:

The text is below:

Sir Vince Cable

The Prime Minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to do business in the NHS. Will she give an absolute guarantee that the NHS will be excluded from the scope of those negotiations? Will she also confirm that she has made it absolutely clear to President Trump in her conversations with him that the NHS is not for sale?

The Prime Minister

We are starting the discussions with the American Administration, first of all looking at what we can already do to increase trade between the US and the United Kingdom—even before the possibility of any free trade agreement. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what the American Administration are going to say about their requirements for that free trade agreement. We will go into those negotiations to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.

The BBC’s Norman Smith felt that this would not be the end of the matter.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 9 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes…Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders isn’t enough to fight discrimination

Editor’s Note: Out this month is Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s book Equal Power. Here she writes about the battle for equality and you can get her new book yourself from Amazon, Hive or The Guardian bookshop.

With rampant sexual harassment at a corporate charity dinner, the BBC accused of breaking equal pay law, and Easyjet’s new male CEO admitting he was offered £34,000 more to do the same job as his female predecessor, you don’t need to look far to find gender inequality in the news. And that’s just stories from one week.

When I was the Liberal Democrat Minister for Women, I learned that many seemingly different issues – the gender pay gap, violence against women, workplace discrimination, body image, division of caring responsibilities, gender stereotypes, women’s under-representation in politics – are all different parts of the same fiendishly difficult jigsaw. Tackling the problem of gender inequality means chipping away at all of these issues simultaneously because together they reinforce the entrenched power imbalance between men and women.

The backlash in the letters page of the Financial Times last week showed what we’re up against, as writers bemoaned the FT even covering the issue of sexual harassment, and referred to the women groped in their workplace as “silly young girls”. When I spoke out on television – albeit colourfully – against the everyday sexism and misogyny that sees schoolgirls sexually harassed, I was called a “little missy”.

It should be a core mission for us as liberals to challenge concentrations of power, including the power hoarded in the hands of rich, white men.

Gendered assumptions are everywhere. While women bear the brunt of these injustices, rigid cultural expectations about gender also harm men, not least in terms of their mental health. Men are also undervalued in their role as fathers, something I started trying to change with the introduction of shared parental leave.

Our party is not immune to the sexism that permeates through every part of society, but we can all act – individually and collectively – to be part of the solution. We need to recognise the nature of the problem: it is structural and ingrained in each and every one of us, absorbed from the surrounding culture. Changing it takes constant attention and proactive effort. Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders when few women ‘come forward’ won’t cut it for our party in 2018.

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

The #Hungry4Democracy fast begins

As I wrote yesterday, I’m joining Sal Brinton, Stephen Kinnock, Natalie Bennett, Polly Toynbee and a few hundred others in fasting for 24 hours. It’s organised by the Make Votes Matter campaign and it’s to highlight that our democracy is broken and how badly we need Proportional Representation at Westminster.

Just before 8pm, I finished my meal of Macaroni Cheese and oven chips (going for the carb loading there) and that’s it until 8pm tomorrow. Unlike the brave women of the early 20th century  who went on hunger strike and endured unspeakably cruel force feeding, I doubt I’ll get to the end of the day without some significant whinging. It is very not like me to go without food for any reason. I expect I’ll whinge a lot less if some of you contribute to the fundraiser that’s going alongside it. The funds will be split between Make Votes Matter, the Fawcett Society and the food bank charity, The Trussell Trust.

So why am I doing it? Well, I’m lucky. My vote has elected someone to Westminster. Once. in 30 years and 8 elections. That’s just not good enough. In most of the country, the result of any election to the Westminster Parliament is a foregone conclusion. It first struck me as a teenager back in 1983 when there was less than 2.5% between Labour and the Liberal/SDP Alliance, yet Labour got 209 seats and we got 23.

We might all have a vote, but we really don’t get the Parliament we ask for. Channel 4 did an analysis after last year’s election of what the House of Commons might have looked under first past the post, the alternative vote and two PR systems. It’s a game changer. I don’t think it actually reflects how people would vote in those circumstances though, because there would be less need for polarisation. People would be able to freely vote for the party of their heart, or at least the one that comes closest.

Unlike a woman born 100 years before me, there was never any doubt that I would be able to vote. I’d like all my votes to count, though. As a Scot I am lucky enough to cast my local election vote by Single Transferable Vote and my Scottish Parliament vote has a top-up Additional Member System list.

Sadly, I’m being short-changed on my Westminster vote. It doesn’t work as well and it’s time for that to change. There haven’t been many governments that actually command the majority of the voters. In fact, Thatcher’s mammoth 1983 win gave her huge amounts of power that she didn’t deserve. She had a whacking great majority in parliament on less than half of the popular vote. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

My first vote and why I’m still #hungry4democracy

I can’t remember if it was February or October 1974 but I do know that it was grey and cold. I was either  6 or 7 and I was walking up Tomatin Road in Inverness heading to Hilton Church Hall where my parents were going to cast their votes. That instilled in me that voting was something that was important to do. I didn’t really understand the issues, but I knew it was important that we were able to choose the Government.

Fast forward a few years to the weeks running up to the 1987 General Election. Although I was away at university at that time, I had decided to have a postal vote as I was keen to vote for Robert Maclennan, the SDP MP for Caithness and Sutherland for whom I had actively campaigned.

As I opened the envelope containing my ballot and, with due solemnity, cast my vote, I reflected that 70 years earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to do so. In fact, even 60 years earlier, I wouldn’t have had that chance. I would have been excluded from the electoral register purely because I was a woman (in 1917) or a young woman with no property (in 1927).  I thought about the women who had fought for my right to vote in different ways. Many had given their lives and liberty and were subjected to appalling treatment by the state as they fought for the right to vote. Their sacrifices made me determined to use my vote on every occasion. I only failed once, but I suspect that both Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst might have approved. I was working in the target seat of Chesterfield and had been there all week. I simply didn’t get a break from door-knocking to enable me to go home and vote. From that point, I have had a postal vote for every election.

On Tuesday, it will be the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act which gave around 40% of the women in the country, as well as all men over 21, the vote for national elections. That and further extensions of the franchise don’t mean our democracy is in healthy state, though. Our antiquated First Past the Post system doesn’t give people the Parliament they ask for and it is the worst system for equality of  representation between men and women.

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

Lord William Wallace writes…Britain’s deepening political confusion

Anyone who thinks that they know what British politics will look like in 3 months’ time is a fool.  The opinion polls, it is true, have hardly moved since last year’s general election; most voters, it seems, have been disengaged since then.  But among the parties, things are moving, in a very confused and uncertain fashion.

The Conservative Party is in the most extraordinary position.  Here is a party which had over a million members when I was a Young Liberal, which does not challenge the statement that its individual membership is now around 70,000.  It is sustained by large donors, mostly from the financial sector but with some prominent businessmen, which give the central party the funds to manage campaigns from the centre – as we learned, to our cost, in the last two elections, as centrally-funded mailings poured into LibDem target seats.  And it is politically supported – and pulled to the right – by a number of highly effective think tanks, many of them substantially funded by offshore donors and foreign sympathisers. (The advantage of contributing funds to think tanks which promote right-wing ideas, offshore donors are told, is that they remain anonymous and avoid the checks the Electoral Commission requires on party donations.)  The Legatum Institute is openly funded by a Dubai-based New Zealander; the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and most other Conservative-oriented think tanks do not declare their sources of income.  The right-wing media, above all the Telegraph and the Mail, provide a direct link to older voters, though they do not reach many of the younger generation who read news on line.  These papers combine with think tanks like Civitas to denigrate the BBC as ‘biased’, meaning that it puts out a range of opinions that are beyond Conservative control.  

Posted in News | 7 Comments

How to be liberal, Christian and gay

 

 

Recently, for better or for worse, Tim Farron has decided to make his theological opinions (not his faith) front and centre of his public persona as an MP. His decision recently to speak out on gay sex being a sin, yet again, this time to correct what he said on national television during the election campaign last year, has prompted me to want to tell the other side of the story.

I’m a Christian. I have been for over 13 years. It’s part of who I am and it’s what makes me a liberal. I read the bible and I read of a God who stands up for the oppressed; who loves all equally. He calls us to do the same – to love justice and hate inequality. As Christians it is our job on this earth to act out that love for all, to stand up for the oppressed and to do so justly, no matter who they are or where they are from. To treat others the way God treats us – in full acceptance. That’s why I’m a liberal: I believe in the value of each individual.

I am also gay. Which means I know that all too often, Christians don’t stand up for me or accept me as I am, in the way God does.

Let me be blunt: God is not two-faced. God does not judge me on the one hand and fight for me on the other. He doesn’t love me unconditionally, but tell me I’m not accepted as I am. That wouldn’t be the God defined by the perfect love described in 1 Corinthians 13. That’s not my God. Anyone who feels that they can truly stand up for my rights while believing that there is something fundamentally morally wrong with my being is kidding themselves if they believe they are acting coherently.

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes…On #timetotalk day tell Government to deliver on equal treatment for physical and mental health

Imagine you have the misfortune to be diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps you have already faced this devastating illness, experiencing first-hand the distress, fear and uncertainty that comes with it. A small comfort for many is that, under NHS waiting time standards, cancer patients have the right to fast access to the best possible evidence-based treatment – a right which is fiercely defended by politicians, the media and the public.

But now imagine you are told that you won’t be given the treatment you need. Services are under-funded and under-staffed to the point where the full package of care isn’t available. You are told that you will only receive a shortened chemotherapy cycle; that you can only have chemotherapy when what you need is a combined course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy; or even that you won’t receive the full package because you are over the age of 35.

In short, you won’t get the treatment that will dramatically improve your chances of recovery – the treatment that you should be guaranteed under standards of care enshrined in the NHS constitution.

This would never be tolerated in the NHS, and rightly so.  Yet this is the reality for thousands of people with severe mental health problems, who are experiencing their first episode of psychosis but are being denied the standards of care they have the right to expect.

When the Liberal Democrats were in government, one of the most important steps we took towards achieving ‘parity of esteem’ in the NHS was the introduction of the first ever access and waiting time standards in mental health care. This included a guarantee that from April 2016, at least 50% of people with psychosis would receive a high-quality, NICE-approved approved package of care within two weeks of referral.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 19 Comments

Sal Brinton writes…Transgender rights are core to Lib Dem values

Following some problems in the Labour Party over whether transgender members can be treated as women for the purposes of all women shortlists (AWS), a number of members of the Liberal Democrats have asked me where the Lib Dems stand on transgender rights, including on AWS.

As a party we voted at Federal Conference in March 2016 to use all the powers available to us under the guidance to political parties under the Equality Act 2010. Helpfully, this also links to our clear and long term view about the rights of an individual in our values, best summarised in our Preamble to the Constitution:

‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full….

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely.’

Under the Equality Act 2010 we are able to have all women ppc shortlists (AWS) & all disabled shortlists (ADS), as well as to reserve places on a ppc shortlist for LGBT+, BAME, women & disabled approved candidates. Our definition for those who are eligible for AWS is based on the self definition of candidates when they ask to go on to the approved candidates list (which can be updated if their circumstances change by sending a formal request to the candidates office to change their equality and diversity form).  We respect the view of the individual as to their gender – it is core to our values – and we’ll continue to do so. 

Posted in Op-eds | 34 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarVenetia Caine 14th Aug - 11:49am
    I've asked before, but have not had a response. But I wish you would ensure that when your posts appear under your name on Facebook,...
  • User AvatarNeil Sandison 14th Aug - 11:48am
    Cllr Jonny Tepp Couldnt agree more it is technically feasible brown field sites and existing housing land where proerties are no longer fit for purpose...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 14th Aug - 11:47am
    Peter Hirst: Like they did not expect us to abolish tuition fees
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 14th Aug - 11:47am
    Innocent Bystander Now that Miliband then Corbyn have taken all those voters back and scared all the “right leaning LibDems” into voting Tory the LibDems...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 14th Aug - 11:44am
    We need a range of radical clear policies that sound interesting to the electorate such as land value taxation, abolition of SATS and that property...
  • User AvatarMike Drew 14th Aug - 11:39am
    The reason why we were able to build so many houses after WW2 wa because we had so many demopped soldiers and industry did not...