Tag Archives: sal brinton

Sunak fails to back Sarah Olney’s call for free court transcripts for victims

Rishi Sunak today failed to back a call at Prime Minister’s Questions from our Sarah Olney, to change the law to give victims access to free court transcripts.

Sarah’s question was on behalf of her constituent, Juliana Terlizzi, who was drugged and raped by her then boyfriend in 2020. When Ms Terlizzi requested a copy of the court transcript to aid with her healing process, she was ordered to pay over £7,000 to access it. Ms Terlizzi, who was in the gallery for the question, branded Rishi Sunak’s response as yet more empty words, adding it was “a slap in the face” for victims.

This is not the only time this has happened One recent case involved a girl who was raped and sexually abused by her father, but whose family were then quoted £6,534 for the transcript of his trial.

Lib Dem peer Sal Brinton has proposed an amendment to the Victims’ and Prisoners’ Bill, scheduled for a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23rd April, which would tackle these costs being charged to victims. It would allow all crime victims to request a transcript of the court’s summing up and sentencing remarks, so long as the trial took place in a court where the proceedings are recorded. This would include all crown court cases where serious offences, including robbery, rape and murder, are tried.

Sarah Olney said:

No victim or bereaved family should be forced to pay thousands to access a court transcript that’s part of their own story. The Prime Minister could easily tackle this injustice, but his government’s continued refusal to do so speaks volumes.

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12-14 February 2024 – this week in the Lords

Whilst the Commons takes the week off, their senior colleagues down the corridor continue to work their way through the legislative process…

There were no Liberal Democrat Oral Questions last week, so of course Monday sees two. Dominic Addington has a question on Government plans what plans they have to ensure that all schools have the capacity to identify and implement a plan of support for the most commonly occurring special educational needs, a particularly topical question given the impact of such support on local government budgets. Tim Clement-Jones wants to know what …

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Sal Brinton “horrified” by lack of protection for disabled people during power cuts

We’ve seen how the storms currently battering the UK have left thousands without power.

This can have life-threatening consequences for disabled people, who need their electricity supply to power essential equipmen such as breathing machines.

The BBC spoke to one woman who reported being without mains power for 13 hours. Michaela Hollywood said that without her generator, she would not have been able to breathe:

I am incredibly lucky to have a generator – that is enough to power my equipment – so it gives a little bit of comfort for me, but that’s not the case for others,” she said.

No electricity, that obviously puts my life at risk, as well as other disabled people across the United Kingdom, and unfortunately we’ve been left to make our own crisis plans to make sure our lives are protected.

For me, it’s always about prioritising my equipment and trying to not panic even though you have that deep-seeded feeling of panic, of what are we going to do if this goes wrong?

It’s that fear of maybe not being able to breathe, maybe having to pull an all nighter and not sleep, which is very real and very dangerous.

This is something that has been on our Sal Brinton’s radar for a while. She has been pushing the Government to ensure that power companies were compelled to have a plan in place for disabled people at risk if the power supply was cut. She said she was “horrified” that the Government had decided not to do so and just to push the whole thing back to disabled people. She told the Disability News Service:

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15-18 January 2024 – this week in the Lords

Back for the second week in a row – and who said that I couldn’t manage that? – our (aspirational) regular review of the week ahead at the more genteel end of the Palace of Westminster.

After last week’s easing back into the routine, it’s a more normal week for the Peers, although there is one relatively unusual session included.

But Monday starts with the usual round of Oral Questions – there are usually four each day – and two come from Liberal Democrats. Malcolm Bruce opens with a question regarding Government plans to promote the end of absolute poverty through international development aid. I suspect that the answer might be a bit vague, given that “no” is far too honest. Jenny Randerson is asking about the possible introduction of a graduated driving licence for young and newly qualified drivers. The other two questions are about the use of engineered stone, given allegations of links to silicosis, and on what consultations the Government propose to have before the next renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter about news and current affairs programmes, in the light of cutbacks to Newsnight.

Day 2 of the Committee Stage of the Automated Vehicles Bill takes up the remainder of business in the chamber. So far, Sharon Bowles has been seeking assurances that automated vehicles will undergo suitable real-life testing before being cleared to use our roads, and that the impact on road environs, i.e. on pedestrians, will be considered. At this stage, most of the amendments are likely to be probing in nature, seeking reassurances that the Government have taken various factors into account, and Day 2 will see more of the same, as will Day 3, scheduled for later in the week (Wednesday).

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Sally Hamwee: “I feel contaminated by the Bill”

Many of us are watching the progress of the appalling Illegal Immigration Bill as it makes its way through the Houses. On Wednesday it reached the Lords for a second reading, and there were some barnstorming speeches from Lib Dem peers. Here are some extracts.

Brian Paddick moved an amendment that would have effectively killed the Bill immediately.

My Lords, Trevor Phillips recently wrote in the Times that, in 2000, 175 million people lived outside the country of their birth and that, by 2020, it was 280 million. He likened the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” to King Canute ordering back the incoming tide. He argued that we need to bring order to the flow, rather than focusing on the impossible task of locking the doors to keep asylum seekers out. We agree.

We have yawning gaps in our labour markets that refugees could fill. We believe that we should adopt the approach many other countries are adopting, that responsibility should be taken away from the Home Office and given to the Foreign Office or the Department for Business and Trade and that “Migration is no job for a home secretary”. Phillips agrees. We should be harnessing the power of the incoming tide, not refusing to accept that it cannot be stopped.

The Government talk about “pull factors”. We talk about “push” factors: the intolerable conditions in their home countries that compel asylum seekers to find sanctuary elsewhere in the world. Even in detention in the UK, you do not have to worry about where you are going to live, how you are going to survive without adequate food or water, or whether you are going to be killed or persecuted, or otherwise have your life endangered. Can the Minister say what evidence the Government have that the measures in the Bill will deter small boat crossings?

The Bill seeks systematically to deny human rights to a group of people desperately seeking sanctuary. It would breach our international obligations under the UN conventions on refugees, on the rights of the child and on the reduction of statelessness, and the European convention against trafficking. This is the first, but not the only, Bill that explicitly states that it does not have to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act is being revoked, one law at a time. The Bill would undermine the rule of law, with Ministers able to ignore the rulings of judges. At the same time, we are asking Russia and China to abide by the international rule of law.

I have one final thought. I studied moral philosophy at university. One of the acid tests of whether something was morally right was the question: “What would happen if everyone did the same thing?” Can the Minister say what would happen if every country adopted the approach outlined in the Bill?

This Bill is a low point in the history of this Government and we should not allow it to proceed any further. I beg to move.

Paul Scriven followed Alf Dubs, who was himself a child refugee, saved from the Nazis on the Kindertransport:

My Lords, what an absolute pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who is a living example of what happens when a country opens its hearts to refugees and how those people can then settle here and contribute to the future prosperity of the nation that they make their home.

As well as impractical and inhumane, the Bill is ineffective. It is built on the ridiculous premise that the only way to stop the traffickers profiteering is to criminalise their vulnerable victims and treat them in a subhuman way. The Bill undermines our commitment to international law and our obligations under the UN conventions on refugees and the child, and it degrades what it means to be British. It trashes our proud and long-held values and our record, dating back to 1951, on how we deal with those seeking asylum. It undermines our country’s international standing for upholding and abiding by international law.

Susan Kramer, the daughter of a refugee, was particularly scathing about the language used around this subject:

My Lords, I decided to speak today after reading the words of the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, speaking for the Government to Policy Exchange, demonising migrants and failing to recognise our responsibilities to refugees seeking asylum. He said that “excessive, uncontrolled migration threatens to cannibalise the compassion of the British public”.

“Cannibalise”—what a deliberate and demonising choice of word. He went on: “And those crossing tend to have completely different lifestyles … to those in the UK … undermining the cultural cohesiveness”.

It was deliberately divisive language and certainly not borne out by the UK experience.

I want the Minister today to show me the body of evidence and research that shows how British compassion has been “cannibalised” by asylum seekers and by people like my mother and me. I want to see his evidence of damage to cohesion that genuine asylum seekers, never mind migrants, have inflicted on the UK. I suspect that we will find it has no substance. He needs to show why diversity is a weakness not a strength. Ironically, if the Government continue to argue that migration creates such problems, it should never by its own logic return a single refugee to any country that already has a significant migrant population—and that eliminates most of Europe and indeed Africa, including Rwanda.

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Kira Rudik: The fuel we are living on is hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24 November 2022 – today’s press release

  • Government ‘must get a grip’ as asylum backlog soars to 143,000
  • Raab emails: Lib Dems write to Cabinet Secretary demanding investigation
  • Michelle Mone: Lib Dems table amendment to scrap VIP lanes
  • Richard Foord MP raises sewage report in Parliament after his son fell sick swimming in Devon river
  • Full Review in Social Services in Wales Needed After Logan Mwangi Report

Government ‘must get a grip’ as asylum backlog soars to 143,000

Responding to new official figures showing that the asylum backlog has risen to 143,377, with 97,717 waiting more than six months, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

The Home Office is a disaster zone, and it’s clear who is to blame. By their own admission, the Conservatives have broken our asylum system and shattered public trust in it.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been waiting months for a decision, banned from working or renting their own home. The Conservative chaos at the Home Office is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every day.

The Government must finally get a grip. It should take asylum cases away from the discredited Home Office and set up a new independent unit to make decisions quickly and correctly.

We need a fair, effective asylum system that treats everyone with dignity, and that everyone can have confidence in.

Raab emails: Lib Dems write to Cabinet Secretary demanding investigation

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Cabinet Secretary asking for an investigation into reports that Dominic Raab has been using his personal email for Government business.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain, who wrote the letter, commented:

The public deserve answers, not more cover-ups.

The drumbeat of allegations against Dominic Raab is relentless. From reports of bullying to allegations he has followed in the footsteps of Suella Braverman by using his personal email for government business, it is obvious that investigations are needed.

The Deputy Prime Minister cannot be relaxed about national security, especially at a time when Britain’s enemies are stepping up their cyber attacks. It is only right and proper the Cabinet Office investigate these reports and determine immediately if overseas enemies could have seen national secrets sent by Dominic Raab.

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Sal Brinton shortlisted for Anthony Nolan award

Last night the winners were announced for the Anthony Nolan Supporters awards. Amongst the nominees in the category for Political Supporter of the year was our own Sal Brinton, Lib Dem Health and Social Care spokesperson in the House of Lords and former President of the Liberal Democrats.

The citation reads:

Baroness Sal Brinton

Sal has been a committed parliamentary advocate for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people during the pandemic and has helped to raise the profile of Anthony Nolan with senior ministers and officials, enabling Anthony Nolan to take policy asks straight to government.

Congratulations to Sal on the shortlisting, and to Clive Betts MP on winning this category.

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Sal Brinton: Make sure Ministerial maternity leave bill includes everyone

Earlier this week, we reported on Liz Barker’s speech on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill, in which she compared the demonisation of transgender people today to the discrimination she and others faced during the 80s.

The Bill was a simple one – designed to give ministers leave when they have a baby, something that our Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott did not benefit from when they had their babies. There was a concerted effort by socially conservative peers to change the Bill’s gender neutral language. In the first of two speeches, Sal explained why it was important to be as inclusive as possible. It is good to see our peers arguing that extending rights to trans and non binary people does not diminish women’s rights.

My Lords, I too support this Bill, even though it does not go far enough in giving Ministers who are parents the same rights that other workers have now come to expect. As others have already said, these include adoption leave, sick leave and shared parental leave. The last is particularly important and affects any Minister who becomes a parent and who is still missing out on the rights to share in the care of their new baby with their partner. I hope the Minister will remedy this urgently.

There is one other parental benefit that has not yet been mentioned—statutory parental bereavement pay and leave. I worked with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for a number of years to win this right for parents, but it is omitted from this legislation for Ministers. I urge the Minister to ensure that it is added to the other forms of parental allowance and leave for future discussion. One hopes that it is never needed but it is vital to have it in place to cover such awful circumstances.

My former colleagues, Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott, both had their first babies while they were Ministers. No arrangements were made for them. They had to cover for each other without maternity pay at exactly the time when they were working in government for better rights for women and parents in the workplace.

I agree with my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece about the lack of equality impact assessments. We need to remedy this and to reflect on why, as a society, we have moved over the years to gender-neutral language. The gender-neutral language in this Bill is inclusive. Changing it, as many speakers have asked, would make it exclusive—perhaps not to many, but to some people for whom it matters a great deal. No one is trying to erase women but rather to accept that, over recent years, there have been advances in medicine. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for referring to trans men in Brighton. We also have to remember that non-binary and intersex people who were born women would be excluded. Both equality law and clinical care have kept pace with them and their circumstances. Medical care, in particular, has adapted in order to provide the best possible care for them in rare and difficult circumstances. That is why I would gently correct the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, in her reporting of the Brighton hospital trust introducing “chestfeeding” and “pregnant people” and removing “breastfeeding” and “women” from its documentation. It is not. Snopes, that excellent debunker of myths, explains this carefully:

“A maternity department at a U.K. hospital announced in February 2021 that it was expanding terms it used in maternity care to include, for example, ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘pregnant people’, in order to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary patients … To be clear, the NHS said that such language—like referencing ‘pregnant women’ and ‘breastfeed’—will not change for those who identify as such … Adding terms like ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘birthing parent’ was not intended to take away from women-oriented language already in use. Rather, the move was meant to be additional support that offers more inclusion for trans and nonbinary individuals.”

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Sal Brinton on Government “lie” on care homes and Covid-19

Lie is not a word anyone in politics uses lightly. But Lib Dems Lords Health and Social Care spokesperson Sal Brinton used it today in response to Michael Gove’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show .

On Friday, Ed Davey said that the Government had to “get a grip” on the crisis in our care homes:

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Lib Dem peers highlight problems with social care

The House of Lords debated how Covid-19 affected social care this week and Lib Dem peers made several contributions on such issues as DNRs being inappropriately proposed to local authority financing and the needs of charities helping seriously ill children and PPE in care homes.

Sal Brinton as Health and Social Care spokesperson summed up the Lib Dem stance on these important issues.

Here is her speech in full:

On behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I also thank all the staff and volunteers working across the wider social care and community sector. Frequently low paid but definitely not low skilled, these amazing people show us their professionalism and big hearts, day after day.

Back in mid-February, we on these Benches asked the Minister repeatedly about care. On 26 February, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said in Hansard that

“we are planning … a massive communications campaign on how to protect people, particularly vulnerable people, in our population.”—

The evidence of recent weeks shows that those most vulnerable in our communities and care homes have been seriously and tragically let down.

Others have covered plenty of the detail, which is symptomatic of the centralised way in which Whitehall, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the NHS have treated anything not in hospitals as a second or even third order of priority. My noble friend Lord Shipley explained the problems that have arisen since Whitehall took over the supply chain for the social care sector and then decided to create a separate system, known as Clipper, that we were told was due to come online on 6 April, but yesterday discovered is still three to four weeks away from going operational.

Worse, where providers and local resilience forums have ordered their own PPE, it has been confiscated by government and rerouted centrally for hospitals first, leaving community settings high and dry. This includes lorries being stopped at border ports and drivers being rerouted. Consequently, a lack of PPE and a policy of moving patients from hospital into care homes without any testing has meant that Covid-19 has spread rapidly in the social care sector.

I support my noble friend Lady Jolly’s call for clarity on DNRs and echo her concerns about GPs asking disabled and learning-disabled people completely inappropriate questions. It is very clear from the government advice, NICE advice and all good palliative care advice that the way in which this happened was inappropriate. I hope that this DNR factor will be examined as part of any inevitable public inquiry. It seemed to happen in groups. Were CCGs asking GPs to ring their patients and find out whether they wanted to go to hospital? To do it all in one conversation is completely inappropriate. For many disabled people, it was completely inappropriate to even ask them this, if they do not have the clinical frailty that my noble friend Lady Jolly spoke of.

However, the Government’s lack of understanding of the wide range of other disabled people, and extremely fragile people, living within our community extends ​completely in the opposite direction. As a result, people who have ventilators or tracheostomies, for example, have found that their care support is entitled to only the most simple and flimsy face masks, because they are regarded as exactly the same as the standard care in residential homes. The Government’s PPE for the social care sector is almost always designed for the elderly.

Matt Hancock said last week that health and social care workers should not overuse PPE. The gasp that went through the social care community when he said that could be heard across the country. Most community orders are receiving a tiny fraction of what is ordered and needed. My noble friend Lady Barker summarised well the problem between the department and local government.

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Sal Brinton writes…A final thank you

As my Presidency draws to an end on New Year’s Eve, I wanted to write to you with a final thank you for the extraordinary help that you have given the liberal cause over the last five years.

To have faced three General Elections and the EU Referendum during these five years – as well as the snap European elections this year – has been unprecedented, draining for everyone who has worked in them. Our candidates and teams, party staff and the many members and supporters who have continuously found that extra bit of energy and effort kept fighting the liberal cause.

Added to this, our local government teams, led by ALDC, have worked consistently hard in elections every year and their success has been rewarded with substantial growth in councillors and councils that we control or run jointly with others. And in Scotland our MSPs hold the SNP to account, and Kirsty Williams is a brilliant Education minister in the Welsh Assembly.

I have been really proud to campaign with colleagues across the UK over the last five years, seeing members building the party in their areas and I want to thank you for your warm welcome over my Presidency. In 2017 alone I covered over 4,000 miles, getting to every part of the country! I have also witnessed the party develop its use of online campaigning, not least honed on the Stop Brexit campaign over the last three years.

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Sal Brinton on the next steps for the Liberal Democrats

Party president Sal Brinton has emailed party members tonight to let them know what is happening with the general election review and leadership election.

The Federal Board discussed both yesterday.

We decided that everyone was knackered over the election and needed a rest over Christmas. The Federal Board meeting in January will look again at when to hold the leadership election but the feeling was that we aren’t in a massive hurry. The process takes around 9 weeks once it is kicked off.

I think this is a good idea. The 2015 leadership election was conducted when we were all still grieving after the result and was a pretty gruesome affair as a result.

We need to rest and recharge before we do anything.

Here is Sal’s email.

I want to thank you for all your hard work over the last six weeks. Everyone did everything they could in this campaign but the result has been deeply disappointing.

Despite Liberal Democrats gaining 1.2m votes and our share of the vote increasing in every region of the UK, we are now one seat down compared to 2017. Under a proportional system, we would now have 84 MPs.

In many contests, we achieved some of the biggest ever swings in election history. But in six tight races, we lost by just a few hundred votes.

For me, Jo missing out by just 149 votes was heartbreaking. In her time as Leader, she gave us hope about a new progressive politics. If you missed her moving speech you can see it here.

We also lost too many other exceptional MPs: Jane Dodds, Tom Brake, Stephen Lloyd, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Sarah Wollaston, Sam Gyimah, Philip Lee, Angela Smith and Antoinette Sandbach. Each had made their mark as outstanding MPs standing up for liberal principles. We will miss them all.

And of course, to see the Conservatives win a majority after their disgraceful campaign is appalling. As was Nicola Sturgeon’s awful reaction to Jo’s news.

Our task now is to learn and look ahead.

Under the Party Constitution, if the Leader loses their seat, the Deputy Leader in the Commons and the President jointly take on the role of co-interim Leader. Ed Davey and I are already working closely together.

I am delighted to say that Mark Pack has been elected as Party President from 1 January, and I will hand my share of that role to him then.

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17 November 2019 – the overnight press release

Lib Dems begin legal challenge against BBC for Swinson exclusion

The Liberal Democrats have instructed a legal team to write to the BBC in response to the public service broadcaster excluding Jo Swinson from their election ‘leaders’ debate’.

In the letter, the party’s lawyers warn that the exclusion of one of the leaders of the three main UK-wide national parties is “clearly unlawful”.

President of the Liberal Democrats, Sal Brinton, has said “voters of this country deserve to hear from a Remainer on the debate stage, not just from the two men who want to deliver Brexit.”

The Liberal Democrats have …

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16 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems announce proposals to fix broken immigration system
  • Lib Dems demand internal Tory enquiry amidst electoral fraud allegations
  • Bolton fire shows further action must be taken to ensure building safety

Lib Dems announce proposals to fix broken immigration system

The Liberal Democrats today unveiled their Plan for Immigration and Asylum. The plan sets out the party’s ambitious proposals for a fair, effective immigration system – part of the Liberal Democrats’ broader plan to build a brighter future.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto will outline plans to reform and strengthen our immigration system by:

  • Saving EU free movement and safeguarding the rights of UK and EU

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11 November 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Gwynne’s comments reveal Labour’s hand on Brexit
  • British Steel takeover an ‘alarm bell’ for Tories’ Brexit Britain
  • Lib Dems: Brexit to blame for ‘anaemic’ economic growth
  • Davey: Conservatives and Brexit party are now one and the same
  • Lib Dems file proceedings at High Court for judicial review of ITV debate
  • ERG and Brexit Party talks show Farage is now pulling the strings

Lib Dems: Gwynne’s comments reveal Labour’s hand on Brexit

Responding to comments by Labour’s Campaign Coordinator, Andrew Gwynne, that Labour would seek to create “reciprocal agreements with the EU27 that allow British citizens to enjoy some of the freedoms that they will …

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Sal Brinton complains to ITV about Jo Swinson’s exclusion from Leaders’ Debate

If you are incensed about the decision to exclude Jo Swinson from the ITV leaders’ debate due to take place on 19th November, sign our petition here

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are running scared of debating the woman leader of the strongest party of Remain.

The voters of this country deserve to hear from Jo Swinson on the debate stage, not just from two men who want to deliver Brexit.

Sal Brinton wrote to  ITV Chief Executive, Dame Carolyn McCall to raise an official complaint about Jo’s exclusion:

Here is her letter in full:

Dame Carolyn McCall
Chief Executive, ITV
2 Waterhouse Square
138 – 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2AE

Dear Dame Carolyn,

I am extremely disappointed that ITV are planning to exclude the Liberal Democrats from your General Election debate on 19th November.

Corbyn and Johnson both are pursuing Brexit and represent the two tired establishment parties. A debate between just them offers no real alternative and stifles the conversation.

The voters of this country deserve to hear from a Remainer on the debate stage, not just from the two men who want to deliver Brexit. They deserve to know that there is another way. That there is a Party they can vote for who will offer a real alternative. That the Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and build a brighter future.

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ALDE Party Congress – the Bureau election results

The election results were announced as the final item of business for the Congress, and were as follows;

President

  • Hans van Baalen

Vice-Presidents

  • Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Bulgaria)
  • Annelou van Egmond (D’66, Netherlands)
  • Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP, Germany)
  • Daniel Berg (Momentum, Hungary)
  • Sal Brinton (Liberal Democrats, UK)
  • Timmy Dooley (Fianna Fáil, Ireland)

Congratulations to them all.

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The Lib Dems have a new Chief Executive

Mike Dixon, currently Chief Executive of Addaction, a mental health, drug, alcohol and young persons charity, has been appointed Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats. He will start his new role next Monday, 21st October.

He was previously Assistant Chief Executive at Citizens’ Advice.

Mike said:

I’m delighted to take on this role. We’ve just had our best ever European election results and new members are joining all the time, taking us to record levels of membership. Millions of people want the country to stop Brexit and focus on things like the climate emergency, investing in schools and people’s mental health.

I’m looking forward to getting started next week. We’ve got a great team, inspirational political leadership and a thriving, inclusive party. If you want change, join us today.

Sal Brinton added:

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Sal Brinton urges us to THINK about our language

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent days about the language we all use in political discussion and debate.

Today, Sal Brinton has emailed all party members to urge us to play our part in being thoughtful and sensitive in what we say.

Here is her email, reproduced with her permission:

I chair the all party parliamentary group on bullying. We focus on helping young people and we know many schools now use the THINK acronym to teach good communication (Is it True; Is it Helpful; Is it Inspiring; Is it Necessary; Is it Kind?).

As a party, I think we need our own version of THINK:
Is it True
Is it Hurtful
Is it Illegal
Is it Necessary
Is it Kind?

Why am I talking about this now? Over the last few weeks and months, the tone and language of political discourse has become increasingly nasty, hurtful and – for too many politicians – dangerous. We have MPs (of all parties, whether supporting leave or remain) who have been targeted by trolls of the worst kind, who use language to harass and intimidate.

Women, people of colour, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities are particularly targeted and in a clearly hateful way. Diane Abbott is constantly trolled, Caroline Spelman has had to have police support and is standing down, and our own Christine Jardine was unmercifully targeted by SNP trolls.

As Liberal Democrats I hope we all abhor such behaviour. I am sure, like me, you believe that the language we use as Liberal Democrats speaks to our values. But we all need to check our own language because it is far too easy when insults are thrown at us, to respond in kind.

Two years ago, on behalf of the party, I appeared before the Committee for Standards in Public Life as they took evidence about the intimidation and harassment of parliamentary candidates in the 2017 General Election.

I was not there to tell of how many of our candidates had been on the receiving end of such intimidation and harassment – we had witnesses who spoke for themselves with shocking examples.

No, I was there to explain to the Committee what actions our party takes when we discover that a party member has behaved inappropriately, or worse, committed a hate crime. You can see the Committee’s report here. It is depressing reading. But, frankly, things are now much worse.

You will all have seen the debate in parliament last week which has forced us all to think about the language that we use in politics. And earlier this week, Jo Swinson was amongst party leaders who met with the Speaker of the House of Commons, and they agreed this declaration:

“Everyone is entitled to have a view – be they parliamentarian, journalist or a member of the public – and their right to safety cannot in any way be dependent on what that view is or the course of political action they take.”

It is important to remember that as members, under our members’ code of conduct, we have responsibilities as well as rights, and I would ask all of you to think carefully about what you say.

If you are on the receiving end of trolling often the best way to go is to say nothing at all – walking away could help you avoid making a mistake. Never post in anger!

There’s an old football adage “play the ball, not the person”, which is a good starting point, but we also need to think about the boundaries. Have you been upset by language used by an opponent? Is there anything that you have posted that could have been received in a way to upset the recipient, beyond the usual exchange of views? Or make them feel threatened? Or made them feel so worried that they need to go to the police because they fear for their personal safety?

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Party awards for Lizzie Jewkes, Roderick Lynch, Alice Bridges-Westcott and Bernard Greaves

One of the best bits of Federal Conference is that bit just before the Leader’s Speech (before the bit where they pass round buckets and demand all your money like you have any left at the end of Conference) where the Party President announces the winners of the Party Awards.

It was great to see some fantastic people honoured this year:

First up was the Patsy Calton Award, awarded by Liberal Democrat Women in honour of Patsy Calton, our much loved MP for Cheadle who died in 2005.

Sal said:

The winner has been a party activist, parliamentary candidate, and member of a number of party bodies, including Lib Dem Women.
She has achieved what few do. She challenged UK government policy in relation to tax, through her speeches and work in the Liberal Democrats.

At one conference she spoke about the potential to lift ordinary men and women out of poverty, by changing the income tax threshold, persuading Conference to make it party policy, and it was also in the 2010 Manifesto.

David Cameron famously mocked the idea until, in coalition, the idea was taken up through meetings with Conservative Ministers, who eventually agreed to make the change.

For ordinary people, particularly low-paid women, this has been an amazing and effective way to help families and part-time workers.

For her outstanding contribution, the nomination for the Patsy Calton Award is made to the amazing Lizzie Jewkes.

The Harriet Smith Award is open to any member who has never achieved elected office, but has served our cause with excellence and commitment.

I was thrilled to see Roderick Lynch, Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality win.

This year the winner of the Harriet Smith Award is a nationally recognised businessman/entrepreneur and was nominated by many people this year due to his tireless work fighting against racism. .

He reaches out to diverse communities that are under represented and has successfully launched a black history month campaign that went viral, passed diversity conference motions and transformed our party’s approach to race equality.

Described by those who nominated him as a man of integrity and candour who works very hard. He is a man with infectious passion, a role model for members of colour, and particularly for future MP’s. One person described how he is ‘helping others flourish and find their path in the party as a black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic person’.

Our winner is the Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality. So Conference please, welcome to the stage Roderick Lynch.

The President’s Award went to someone who has arguably done more than anyone else to establish us as the party of LGBT rights.

Here is how Sal introduced him:

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Sal Brinton’s speech to Conference

This is Sal Brinton’s last speech to Conference as Party President. It contains joy, celebration, tributes, challenges and report.

And here is the text in full.

Well, hello Conference and hasn’t everything changed since we last met in March!

Wow! Just wow! 

We asked you to all go on the Stop Brexit march on 20 March to make it clear we are the strongest Remain party. 

You did that. 

It was my privilege to help lead thousands and thousands of Liberal Democrats along with Vince Cable at that march that had over a million people on the streets of London. 

We asked you to go out and give us the best results ever in the local elections. 

You did that. 

We made over 700 gains, and now control 18 councils. We’re still making gains in by elections too.

We  then said please go out and campaign for our best ever European Elections results, in a snap election, with very little time. 

You did that. 16 MEPs.

I’ll say it again. 

Wow! Just wow! 

And then we said (after all of that!), please go and help Jane Dodds and our Welsh colleagues in Brecon and Radnorshire. 

So you did that too! 

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Irish Travellers deserve our respect – just like any other ethnic group



(Above) #DontTeachHate short video from The Traveller Movement

I was very struck by this quote from Chris Baughurst of the Gypsy,Roma,Traveller Police Association (Thames Valley branch), speaking at the Green party Summer Gathering in Reading last Saturday:

We are the only ethnicity in this country where it is openly acceptable to denigrate us, people to say things, and no one bats an eyelid.

I recently dug through the Twitter archive relating to a recent event (which I will not specify, as it is now sub judice) and found over 100 separate incidents in the last week alone where Twitter users were (in arguable contravention of Twitter’s own rules) “abusive or harmful” in ‘directing hate towards a protected category’, in relation to Irish Travellers (a UK government registered ethnic group).

Most of the relevant tweets used a grossly derogatory word beginning with “p” or an abusive word beginning with “g” and ending in “o”. Some of the worst tweets combined those words with the word “scumbag”, the word “vermin” or a slang word for excrement. All made generalised remarks about the grouping and some expressed the view that drastic action should be taken against that group, in contravention of their basic human rights. (I have reported 90+ incidents to Twitter and I am now having to deal with a blizzard of emails from them asking for further information). The short video above gives even more graphic illustrations of such routine abuse, collated by the Traveller Movement.

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Sal Brinton writes…Tell us who you think deserves Party Awards

Do you know someone special who deserves to be recognised by the party?

Yes, it’s party awards time!

Every year at Autumn Conference we hand out prestigious party awards to members who have done some of the most outstanding work in the party. Going above and beyond the call of duty time and time again.

But, as always, we need you to nominate the people that you think are blazing the way in the party.

The deadline for nominations has been extended to 31 July and the nomination form and submission details are on the party website 

There are four awards announced by me as President.

The President’s Award is open to any party member elected to public office and who has demonstrated excellence and commitment over the years.

The Harriet Smith Liberal Democrat Distinguished Service Award is open to any member never elected to public office who has demonstrated longstanding and outstanding service to the party.

For both these awards, the panel will be looking for outstanding commitment and service to the party. We are seeking people who deserve recognition for their hard work, long service & demonstrable dedication to the party at any level.

The Belinda Eyre-Brooks Award is given to recognise and celebrate the efforts of people who work for our elected representatives in their local areas – from local party employees, to political assistants to council groups, to people working in MPs’ constituency offices.

The Dadabhai Naoroji Award is presented to the local party that has done most to promote BAME participants to elected office as councillors, Assembly Members, MPs, MSPs or MEPs. Please note – this award is to a local party, not to an individual, so please think about those local parties that are making a great effort to involve different communities in their work. Regions and State Parties nominate local parties, so tell them about a local party that should be nominated.

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19 July 2019 – live from Brecon, today’s press releases…

  • Lib Dems bring forward legislation to protect EU citizens
  • Lib Dems: Govt must provide urgent clarity on teachers’ pay
  • Lib Dem legislation to protect victims of crime passes second reading
  • Davey: Govt must fund police pay rise
  • Umunna slams economically incompetent Tories
  • Swinson: This is a time for cool heads in the Gulf

Lib Dems bring forward legislation to protect EU citizens

Today, the Liberal Democrats have brought forward a bill to safeguard EU citizens’ rights.

The Bill brought forward by Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates would provide a guarantee that, regardless of the outcome of Brexit, the rights of EU citizens and other EEA nationals living in …

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29 June – 1 July 2019 – the weekend and overnight press releases

Labour leadership tone deaf to a People’s Vote

Responding to Len McCluskey’s comments on the Andrew Marr show this morning, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokespeson Tom Brake said:

No matter how loudly some in the Labour party demand that the leadership change its position on Brexit, it is clear it is still falling on deaf ears.

It is insincere to only offer a People’s Vote if it’s a Labour deal on the table. Any Brexit plan must go back to the British public.

Any Brexit deal, whether negotiated by Theresa May, Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn will be bad for our country. It will damage

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Sal speaks on the momentous steps forward for the Lib Dems

In her monthly column on the Lib Dem website, Sal Brinton talks about how far we’ve come in the last month!

One thing is evident: the high calibre of our councillors and MEPs. We are back with a campaigning zeal and will be able to fight for residents, our country and against Brexit. I certainly plan to keep campaigning until we stop Brexit so they can stay there for the full five years until 2024 and I know you will too!

And on Friday we welcomed Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, to the Liberal Democrats. He has worked with us over the last three years to help fight Brexit, and defeat the Government. He recognises that we are the pro-European, liberal, centre-ground party and I am delighted he has made the decision to join us. He’s already working with his local Liberal Democrats!

I also want to welcome to the more than 20,000 new members of the Party this newsletter is going to for the first time!

She talked about our very clear message and how this has helped us cut though.

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WATCH: Unleashed – the Lib Dem campaign to stop Brexit

This morning, my family’s postal votes arrived. I’ve had a postal vote ever since I didn’t vote in the 1997 election because I was too busy helping in a target seat. I suspect Mrs Pankhurst would have approved, but I was determined that I would never again fail to have my say.

Never has that vote felt more precious. I want this country to say very clearly on 23 May that we want to stop Brexit, that we want to stay part of the remarkable institution which champions peace, human rights and democracy.

Many other postal votes will have landed on doormats today. So it’s pretty convenient that the Lib Dems kicked off their European campaign with a staggering display of both passion and competence.

People woke up this morning to a bloody good write up in the Guardian.

Buoyed by strong results in last week’s local council elections, and unencumbered by the nuance of Labour’s position, Cable insisted the Lib Dems were the best-equipped party to challenge the message of Nigel Farage at the poll later this month.

“We are clearly the best organised, we have been leading the People’s Vote argument for three years and we’ve been the pro-Europe party for 50 years. We are credible and people recognise our unwavering clarity and commitment.

“We are taking it very seriously, we have a high-pressure social media campaign where we are doing more than Farage’s people,” he said, adding, “we are out of the traps early, and expect to do well.

And he outlined why we are the best place to deliver the maximum remain vote.

He has faced criticism for failing to make the media impact of his predecessor, or improve the Lib Dems’ poll ratings. But he hailed last week’s strong local election results as evidence that a steady approach of rebuilding the party from the bottom up is finally paying dividends.

“Infrastructure and organisation really does matter,” he said. “The lesson for other parties is you can’t function without that. There is no future sitting in London sending out messages.”

The manifesto launch tonight was brilliant. Four speeches. All passionate and delivered with heart. Sal Brinton talking about how the Lib Dems had stopped the Tories using Brexit legislation to undermine the NHS.

Ed Davey talking about the importance of stopping Brexit so that Britain can be a powerful force in the EU in the fight against climate change. I actually got a bit sad when he was speaking because he did so much to combat climate change in government and then the Conservatives, left to themselves, have unravelled so much of it.

He also spoke about the importance of co-operation across the EU to tackle crime. Why, he said, do Brexiteers like criminals so much.

Jo Swinson gave a totally heartfelt speech about a visit to Bucharest. Her wonderful dad, Peter, was there to help the Romanians prepare for EU membership. She told how he had taken her to the People’s House, an outrageous structure built as a vanity project by Romania’s dictator while so many of his people lived in destitution and absolute poverty.  She talked about the role of the EU in bringing peace across Europe, in Northern Ireland, bringing former enemies together.

The EU has been at the forefront of promoting human rights, liberal values and democracy, she said. The EU is the hope that made once warring countries work together and which is the cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement. In a time of “strong men” leaders, now is not the time to be turning our back on European leaders who share our liberal values.

There are more relaxing ways to spend your 76th birthday. I thought Vince was actually going to cry when the audience sang Happy Birthday to him, but he went on to deliver a fantastic speech highlighting the clear Stop Brexit message that is driving the Lib Dem campaign. He said that nobody, not even the most ardent Brexiteers, were doubting that we would be worse off if we left the EU. The only thing is that these Brexiteers weren’t going to be the people who paid the price. It would be people much poorer and more vulnerable than they were.

The Lib Dems, he said, will be unapologetic about backing the four freedoms. The right we have to work and live across Europe was championed by Mrs Thatcher. The current Conservative Party has moved so far to the right that they are disowning the single market Thatcher created.

He said that while the Lib Dems will campaign to stop Brexit, this election is about returning a group of Liberal politicians from across Europe who will lead the fight against populism.

He highlighted the crucial EU role in making the likes of Google pay their taxes.

We won’t solve the Trump problem, he said, by grovelling to him and throwing him lavish state visits, but by standing up to him as part of the EU.

He set out our unique pitch – as the biggest and best organised of the Remain parties who has been fighting for for EU values for 50 years.

Watch the whole thing here

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Conference Extra published – see all the amendments and awkward questions

The Conference Extra, containing details of all the amendments selected by Federal Conference Committee, the motion on Europe which will no doubt be hopelessly out of date by the time it’s debated on Saturday and all the questions put to Federal Committees, has been published.

The Europe motion is amendable – you need to get your changes in before Friday at 1 pm. Even though the website at the time of writing says Thursday.  I know conference motions are supposed to be a bit circumspect and detached but I am left cold by it. Not that it necessarily says anything wrong, but, really, at this point, I want it to saying that “Conference is bloody livid that the country has been lied to, cheated, sold a pig in a poke and has a Government that has turned can-kicking into its only competence. Conference resolves to put a stop to this farce as soon as possible.”

The process for the votes on the Supporters’ scheme constitutional amendment and business motion reminds me of the song “The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede” from The Singing Kettle. If you try to consciously re-enact it, you’ll do yourself an injury, but if you do it instinctively and just listen to the session chair, you’ll be fine.

There are some well and truly awkward questions to Federal Committees, too.

So now you have everything you need to plan your speeches.

What are you waiting for? And here’s the thing. You can submit your speaker’s card online. 

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Shaping the future: Making a difference

Many of us came into politics to change the way things were and are.

For me, like many others, the woman who encouraged me into politics, was Shirley Williams. She was an inspirational figure, able to reach out to those, like me, who were new to the idea of activism and afraid that we wouldn’t fit in.

Shirley was of course famous. But my political apprenticeship didn’t stop with her. Other women, such as Lesley Abdela who founded the 300 Group, taught me a huge amount.

Learning from those who had experienced the ups and downs of politics, fought discrimination and went on to make a difference, was amazing. They brought us in, inspired us, taught us and gave us the chance to speak and express our opinions. They are remarkable, inspirational women.

But, progress, encouragement and opportunity has carried on, not stopped with them. The future builds on the past, but doesn’t rest there!

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Liberal Democrat Women and four constituency parties: Richmond, Sutton, Kingston and Merton, are holding a special conference:

Shaping the Future; Making a Difference

This will be a unique chance to hear from some truly inspirational women from within the party and beyond.

But it will be more. In the afternoon there will be a series of practical workshops focusing on women in community activism, politics, public life, business, tech, creative industries and also explore strategies for encouraging women to participate.

The event is being jointly sponsored by Lib Dem Women and the local parties in the London Boroughs of Richmond, Kingston, Sutton and Merton.

Among our keynote speakers will be:

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