Tag Archives: floella benjamin

LibLink : Floella Benjamin : Ministers should seize the baton and get serious on child obesity

As noted this morning, Floella Benjamin had an Oral Question in the House of Lords today on the subject of childhood obesity. On a day when Simon Jenkins is suggesting that obesity is a greater threat for millennials than cannabis (add your own comment there, I suggest), the question of the health of our children is a live one.

In a piece for The House Magazine, Floella, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for a Fit and Healthy Childhood, notes;

From day one, we’ve said that if we are to defeat the obesity

Posted in LibLink and News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Floella Benjamin on trouser suits, pioneering pregnancy at work and fighting for gender and race equality

As recently as 1981, Floella Benjamin was a trailblazer at the BBC. It wasn’t the done thing to be pregnant and be a tv presenter. She did it. In a fascinating speech in the Lords on Monday, she talked about her life and various careers and campaigns. I actually can’t believe where she started off her working life. Enjoy.

My Lords, I rise to speak in this important debate and declare an interest as a woman who, like other noble Baronesses speaking here today, has had a long journey to reach this Chamber. Many of us, as we stand on the summit of life’s mountain looking down at the valley of experience, think, “Who would have thought?”.

In 1966 I started my journey as a lowly clerk in the chief accountant’s office of Barclays Bank, a place dominated by men in grey suits and bowler hats. At that time it was my ambition to become the first black woman bank manager in the country. Sadly, it did not take me long to realise that there is a difference between ambition and fantasy. I did, however, cause uproar when I dared to go to work wearing a trouser suit instead of the obligatory skirt. Many of my female colleagues soon copied me, much to the consternation of our male counterparts.

In 1981, at the height of my career as a regular presenter on BBC children’s programmes, getting pregnant was considered a serious error of judgment. In those days it was almost certain that it would be the end of your career, as you were expected to disappear gracefully, with babe in arms, to a life of wifely domestic servitude. Pregnant women were certainly not to be seen below the waist on television when their pregnancy started to become evident. Fortunately for me I had a visionary producer, Cynthia Felgate, who at one time was in the Guinness book of records for producing the most television programmes in the world. She allowed me to continue working and presenting until I was eight months pregnant. This was unheard of and made national and international news. I was seen by millions of viewers fully pregnant, and once I even stopped mid-dance to declare, “I can feel the baby kicking”—the children watching loved that moment. Other female presenters were grateful for this pivotal moment, because they, too, could become pregnant and carry on working onscreen throughout their pregnancy.

It was around 1968, living through the civil rights movement and the race riots here in Britain, when I started to become conscious that more women’s voices were needed in politics. So I organised political meetings and events for fellow Caribbeans in London who felt excluded from society—something that the legendary Claudia Jones had earlier fought against by establishing the West Indian Gazette and the creation of what we all know now as the Notting Hill Carnival. Because of these influences, over the years I began to speak out more and more: I wrote letters to political leaders and campaigned on issues such as seat belts on school ​buses, diversity in publishing and in the media, and, for 20 years, for a Minister for Children—until we finally got one. It is such a shame that that position has now been downgraded from a full ministerial post. I hope that the Government will reconsider this change and correct this short-sighted mistake.

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LibLink: Floella Benjamin on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Floella Benjamin has written an article on Huffington Post titled: Let’s End Discrimination in All Its Forms

She writes:

I have been dealing with the issue of diversity all my life and professionally for over forty years. That started when I asked a television producer why we couldn’t have a more diverse portrayal of professional black characters, such as lawyers and accountants and he dismissively told me ‘that is not realistic’!

I knew it was blatantly not true because my family were all high professional achievers and I was surrounded by ambitious and successful people from minority groups.

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Do you agree with Floella Benjamin on mandatory sugar reduction targets?

Here’s a bit of controversy to liven up a Wednesday evening.

Floella Benjamin has written for Politics Home’s Central Lobby arguing in favour of mandatory sugar reduction targets. It’s another of these issues that you can use liberal principles to argue both for and against:

Many overweight children grow up to be obese adults and there are often serious health consequences for those affected, leading to tremendous pressures on the NHS, through the dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes, heart problems, some cancers and a wide variety of other conditions that require treatment. High sugar consumption is resulting in early tooth decay and is by far the highest cause of hospital admissions amongst 5-to 9-year-olds.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 45 Comments

LibLink: Baroness Floella Benjamin: Positive role models can break cycle of despair

Baroness Floella Benjamin has written for the Voice website about what the government is doing to help young black people find jobs.

More than 30 million people are now in work and since the 2010 General Election, the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits has fallen by 566,000. This is great news and my party, the Liberal Democrats, have worked hard in government to achieve success stories like these, listening to people’s concerns and ensuring the right support is being put in place.

But disappointingly there’s no denying that unemployment is still disproportionately high amongst young black people, especially men

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Tim Farron writes… Join the Lib Dems YES! to Fairer Votes campaign

Tim Farron launches the Lib Dem YES! campaign

This morning I launched the Liberal Democrats’ Yes! To Fairer Votes campaign in Manchester.

Over 100 local members and supporters came along to hear speeches from Simon Hughes, John Leech, Gordon Birtwistle and Floella Benjamin about how monumentally essential it is that we win this Fairer Votes referendum.

As Nick Clegg has already argued, this is “a battle between reformers and conservatives” and this is our chance, our one opportunity for genuine electoral reform.

By winning this referendum …

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LDVideo: A fairer, more democratic, greener, liberal country

Posted in Lib Dem TV | Also tagged , , and | 9 Comments

LibLink: Floella Benjamin – I want to be judged on my actions in a political place

Today’s Independent on Sunday features an interview with Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham – Floella to the rest of us – which ranges over a variety of topics, from Floella’s childhood, her work on stage and TV, her charity and campaigning work, to her future ambitions.

Some of the stories featured in Floella’s recent maiden speech in the House of Lords, but there are some unfamiliar ones, which she has included in her new book about her teenage years Arms of Britannia:

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Baroness Floella Benjamin’s maiden speech

In recent months, LDV has been bringing its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Today, Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent, made her maiden speech in the House of Lords, during a debate on the role of the charitable sector in strengthening civil society. Her words are reproduced below.

My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to address this House for the first time, in a debate that is very close to my heart—I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for initiating it. I also thank all noble Lords. It is an honour to sit with you in this House.

My family motto is, “Who would have thought?”, because you never know where life’s twists and turns will take you. Mine have taken me on a spiritual journey. I was born in Trinidad and came to Britain as a 10 year-old child 50 years ago. I was spat on and told to go back to where I came from, but how differently things have turned out. I believe that I am now the first Trinidadian female Peer and I follow humbly in the pioneering footsteps of another “Trini”, the late Lord Learie Constantine. I will always remember that memorable day when I was introduced to the House, my family watching over me. I thank my sponsors for being part of that day—my noble friend Lady Scott, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia for his continued support and guidance. I thank noble Lords for welcoming me with such warmth and affection and the numerous members of staff who work so diligently and have taken care of me so efficiently.

I love being part of this establishment, and as I wander round the maze of corridors, soaking up the rich symbolism, I think to myself, surely I have reached the summit of life’s mountain, the zenith of a career stretching over four decades. Like the coat worn by the Garter King of Arms, my life has been a rich tapestry of experiences which have led me to a lifelong mission of ensuring that children’s well-being is at the heart of society’s thinking. That has not always been easy but my philosophy is to keep smiling and never give up. Like other noble Lords I have had to face adversities, but I have used them to make me stronger and more resolute.

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LDV survey: who Lib Dem members want to be the party’s candidate for Mayor of London

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of the early race for the party presidency, the London mayoral selection, Trident, and the Labour leadership. Over 400 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

LDV asked: The following names have been suggested as possible contenders to take on Boris Johnson for the elected position of Mayor of London. Who would you like to see stand as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London?

  • 12% – Lembit Opik
  • 11% – Brian Paddick
  • 15% –

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , , , and | 14 Comments

Who will be the Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor?

Yesterday London Region chair Jonathan Fryer outlined the timetable for selecting the party’s London Assembly and Mayor candidates. But who will be in the running to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London?

As previously covered, Lembit Opik has publicly declared his intention to go for the selection. Regular readers of this site will have seen how controversial that is amongst many Liberal Democrat members (along with other commenters on this site). He has some keen fans along with many ardent critics. The number of fans of his Mayor selection bid page on Facebook has moved up only …

Posted in London and Selection news | Also tagged , and | 38 Comments

Floella Benjamin – through the round window and into the Lords

On the 28th June 2010 I was introduced into the House of Lords. As I gazed around and soaked up the richness of the symbolism, tradition and magnificent surroundings I thought to myself surely I must have reached the summit of life’s mountain, the pinnacle of a career stretching back over forty years. And as I looked back into the valley of life I couldn’t help thinking of my journey. Like the coat worn by the Garter King of Arms, my life has been a rich tapestry of experiences, some good, some bad, but all significant. I believe that every …

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Why vote Liberal Democrat? Book review

If you go to Amazon searching for “Why vote Liberal Democrat?”, edited by Danny Alexander and just published  by Biteback, you may be surprised to find yourself being presented instead with a book of the same title from 1997, written by William Wallace. The new book is misfiled by Amazon under the title “Why vote Lib Dem?” but actually the 1997 volume provides an interesting contrast with the 2010 version.

The 2010 book is one of a series, covering also Labour, Conservatives, SNP, Plaid and the Greens. All the others are single person authored books (with the exception of …

Posted in Books, General Election and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 19 Comments

What links Colin Firth, Ken Macdonald, Brian Eno, Gurkha veteran Madan Kumar Gurung, Pam Giddy, Floella Benjamin and Duwayne Brooks?

Well, all six of them have contributed to the soon-to-be-published opus, Why Vote Liberal Democrat?, published this Thursday. To pre-order your copy from Amazon, please click here.

Here’s the party press release blurb:

Actor Colin Firth, former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald QC and musician Brian Eno have all contributed to a book entitled ‘Why Vote Liberal Democrat’. The book, which goes on sale on Thursday, covers topics as varied as fair taxes, gay rights, looking after our armed forces, political reform and the fight against climate change.

Other contributors include Gurkha veteran Madan Kumar Gurung, political reform

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[email protected] – bumper edition


I am agog to hear the podcast of last night’s LDV fringe event (hint), but in the meantime, some snippets of news from the jumping-up-and-down-on-the-sidelines school of conference reporting.

First, David Howarth is plugging away the civil liberties message in the Guardian:

…I am still profoundly unconvinced by the Tories’ conversion to the cause of freedom.

First, Tory proposals have a tendency to smack of too little, too late. For instance, its surveillance proposals looked oddly similar to those to be found in the freedom bill. Scrapping ID cards? Getting rid of the ContactPoint database? Reining in councils’ investigatory powers? It’s

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Conference: what to watch out for on Saturday

Running rather against the modern trend of reorganising events to suit the media, this autumn’s Liberal Democrat conference is starting and finishing a day earlier. With a Saturday start and a Wednesday finish, that means one weekday (better for media coverage) has been sacrificed for one extra weekend day (worse for media coverage, but more convenient for party members to attend).

What to expect on this Saturday of conference then?

Highlights are likely to include:

  • The Real Women policy paper debate in the afternoon, which includes proposals related to the airbrushing of women in magazine photos and the like. That particular aspect of

Posted in Conference | Also tagged and | 1 Comment
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