Tag Archives: sal brinton

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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Highlights of 2018

As you are inclined to do on Hogmanay, I was looking back at the year. 2018 was far from a great year but there were some fantastic moments. Here, in no particular order, are six of mine.

Gabriel in the Commons

 

One of my favourite moments was seeing young Gabriel Hames in the chamber of the House of Commons. Earlier, his mum, Jo Swinson, had taken part in the debate on proxy voting. A few weeks’ earlier, Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis reneged on a pairing arrangement with her on a key Brexit vote that the Government won by a handful of votes.

Jo’s speech was very candid about the realities of working with a young baby:

She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.

Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.

She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.

She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.

The People’s Vote March

It doesn’t get much better than being amongst 700,000 like minds on a beautiful hot Autumn day. As someone said at the time, marches like this are rarely on the wrong side of history.

It was an amazing atmosphere. Not far off three quarters of a million people peacefully and with great humour, coming together to make their point.

And there’s young Gabriel again.

Radical Kindness

Another highlight was the fringe meeting we held at Conference, trying to inject some kindness and warmth into a horrible atmosphere which developed in the media surrounding  rights of transgender people.

Barely a week goes by without some ill-informed attack on trans people or the charities supporting them. However, in an hour in Brighton, Emma Ritch from the Scottish feminist organisation Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance talked about how the atmosphere was so much better in Scotland and how feminist and LGBT organisations worked together in an inclusive way. The meeting loved the concept of “radical kindness” which underpinned their dialogue. You can read all about the meeting here

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LibLink: Sal Brinton; The NHS can’t work without a sustainable social care system

As the NHS turned 70 this week, Sal Brinton looked back at the development of social care policy and outlined the Government’s failings:

… since 2015, the new Conservative Government has dithered and delayed, repeatedly promising that they would sort out the social care funding problem.

We still await the Green Paper promised in the Conservative 2017 Manifesto – with a side skirmish of the Dementia Tax, a form of inverse Dilnot, which so outraged voters it was dropped mid election.

Councils have faced massive cuts to all services, including making £6bn savings in adult social care since 2010. They are still being

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Lib Dems are very clear about the rights of transgender people

Embed from Getty Images

Once again transgender issues are making media headlines – sadly for all the wrong reasons. Arguments are being made that are based on misunderstanding and fear, rather than facts and tolerance.

As a party the Liberal Democrats are very clear about the rights of transgender people. We had a debate, and passed party policy on this, at conference in September 2015. The motion starts:

“The transgender and intersex communities are too often marginalised, with little or no emphasis on their needs from government or third sector organisations. Transgender and intersex individuals experience similar levels and types of discrimination within society, including but not limited to hate crime, health discrimination, and difficulty obtaining documents in the correct gender.

Legislation concerning the transgender population often does not fully advance – and sometimes actively hinders – transgender equality. Transgender and intersex people are at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicidal ideation than the general population and the rest of the LGBT+ population, especially among BME transgender and intersex people.”

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Pauline Pearce: People can still knock on my door if I become Mayor

Our Pauline Pearce is running an energetic campaign to be Mayor of Hackney.

On Monday night, she appeared at a hustings, outlining her plan to cut knife crime – an evidence based Violence Reduction Unit which has been successful in Scotland. She also emphasised that she really is at the heart of her community. From the Hackney Citizen:

Pauline Pearce, who is also standing in Brownswood ward, said: “I have no mass of qualifications, but what I do have is common sense.

“Everyone out there who knows Pauline knows they can knock on my door. And if I become mayor, nothing will change. That door is still always open.

Pearce, who has put knife crime at the top of her camaign, said: “I’m here because of passion, because I care.

“I have to be here to stand up for those who are disenfranchised and need a chance to have a voice that speaks out for them. So please consider me on the third of May.”

Sal Brinton has been to help her campaign:

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In Full: Sal Brinton’s speech to Welsh Conference – Welsh Lib Dems are here to stay and here to win

Sal Brinton seems to spend April each year in perpetual motion, travelling around the country lending support to election campaigns. She is so good at boosting morale on the ground. In between the campaigning, she went to Welsh Conference this weekend and will be in Aviemore for Scottish Conference next weekend.

In her keynote speech in Cardiff, she praised Kirsty Williams’ work as Education Secretary, improving things for the poorest children and young adults. She spoke highly of Jane Dodds, highlighting her life’s work of fighting for the oppressed and vulnerable and her passion to make life better for them.

She talked about how the Lords would do their best to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill, her frustration that Parliament was not getting to tackle other issues.

She had a message of hope for a party which has had a tough few years, highlighting the by-election wins that show that we are back in the game.

Here’s her speech in full:

I want to start with the overnight news that Theresa May has ordered air strikes on Syria. I absolutely agree with Vince’s call last week that she could and should have recalled Parliament, to seek a mandate from the representatives of the British people, and hear the debate both for and against.

Liberal Democrats stood ready to assess the evidence and objectives for any action and, if it were properly planned and justified, to support a military response.

At this moment our thoughts are with British and allied troops. But the Government’s decision fatally undermines the integrity of this mission. It shows a weak UK Government putting short term political expediency before democracy and in so doing further diminishing the standing of Britain in the world.

It is fantastic to be back in Wales, and to see you, our Welsh members so upbeat and positive. There’s no denying that here in Wales you have been through a rough time – perhaps even more than the rest of us across the UK. But it is important that we celebrate your spirit, determination and commitment to fighting back, and I’m convinced you’ve also achieved an enormous amount, despite the challenges.

Here in Wales we are in Government – the only place in an Assembly or Parliament in the UK where we are able to enact liberal policies, through the fantastic work of our Welsh Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams.

Kirsty is leading our national mission of education reform to give our young people the best start in life by reducing the attainment gap and raising standards across our schools, wherever in Wales they are.

From cutting infant class sizes and investing more money in raising the aspirations of our least well-off children, to delivering a fair funding arrangements for university students and Wales’ universities – Kirsty is proving the Welsh Liberal Democrats to be the party with the ideas and drive to get things done. She remains a real inspiration to me, and I know, to many of you too!

And I know that Kirsty would be the first to say that so many of you have been working immensely hard over the last two years to revive our Party’s fortunes in Wales, and we are now on the brink of a fantastic opportunity.

And I absolutely agree with her!

Here in Wales, your next Assembly elections coming up in 2021. Now that may seem far away, but look at the electoral fortunes of UKIP. That flash in the pan party has plummeted in support. Just two years after the last assembly elections, they are a spent force, and they’re not coming back. They are fielding so few candidates, that they aren’t entitled to a parliamentary party broadcast, only contesting just over 10% of the seats up for election and not even bothering to stand in many of the seats they currently hold.

Meanwhile we have a Tory Party which is still – forty years on, still riven by the EU. I mean, who ever thought that ‘Having your cake and eating it’ was ever a serious proposition from senior cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson and David Davis. But they both prattle away about it, as if it is realistic and possible. More damagingly, let’s be generous here and call it self deceit, rather than deliberate, is lurching the UK towards a hard Brexit disaster, whilst they sing loudly with their fingers in their ears and with blindfolds on.

But it isn’t just the Tories – there are the splits in the Labour Party, perhaps best typified by the Welsh Leader completely at odds with its Westminster Leader, and plagued by internal rifts, and even the nationalists Plaid Cymru riven with factionalism, unsure about what Wales’ future holds.

That Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’ seems to be with us in abundance!

Contrast that to our Welsh Liberal Democrat vision for Wales:

a Wales proud of its heritage,

* Committed and optimistic for the future,

* committed to our young people,

* committed to maintaining our international ties both within Europe and beyond.

All of us are united around that vision. All of us are committed to a revival in this, the land of liberalism. We aren’t looking back to the grand old days of Lloyd George (although his Liberal heritage of care for our land and care for our people still lies at the heart of our values).

We are confidently looking forward: striving to make a better future for Wales, a more Liberal future for Wales.

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LibLink: Sal Brinton: Ministers must protect our NHS against privatisation

This week, Sal Brinton and others argued in the House of Lords that action was needed to ensure that Brexit didn’t open the door to privatisation of the NHS.

She wrote about the issue for The House magazine:

If you asked most people what effect Brexit would have on our health service, regardless of how they voted in the Referendum, I suspect they will cite that large red bus from the Leave referendum campaign stating the EU costs the UK £350m per week, which on leaving could be invested in the NHS. Not only was this untrue, but there are now figures to show that the cost of leaving to our economy could be equal to £350m per week. And, at a time of unprecedented pressure on the NHS, it needs urgent and real investment to prevent it crumbling.

However, one of the lesser known pillars of protecting our NHS is also at risk with Brexit. With more and more parts of its services being put out to tender, the NHS has been protected by the EU Directive on Public Health Procurement. This directive governs the way in which public bodies purchase goods, service and works and seeks to guarantee equal access and fair competition for public contracts in the EU markets. It was approved in 2014 and includes protection for clinical services and more legal clarity on the application of procurement rules.

She also looked at some of the wider impacts on the Health Service that Brexit will have:

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Sal Brinton talks of being stuck in House of Lords as peer refused to move to let her past

The House of Lords debated the proposed works to the Palace of Westminster this week.

Sal Brinton took advantage of the opportunity to make a plea for the refurbished Parliament to be properly accessible. She highlighted some of the ways in which the current set-up fails disabled people. She also spoke of an experience where one peer wouldn’t actually let her past to leave a Lords debate, making her late for a meeting.

My Lords, in the wonderful elegance of parliamentary language, we have talked much already about “patch and mend”. The restoration and renewal of the buildings and the facilities in the Palace of Westminster are vital and urgent and I believe that we need to use much franker language given the neglect of the past. I support the Motion and oppose the amendment. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that 20 years ago I was bursar of Selwyn College, Cambridge, when we needed to renew and restore our main court that had seen little—frankly, virtually no—maintenance and progress since it was built a century before. Student rooms still had gas and electric fires and the electric cabling was on its last legs, with much of the urgent work not visible or easily accessible. Does this sound familiar?

Since Selwyn was the poorest college and had very little resource to invest over the years in the buildings, the “patch and mend” approach was clearly failing us. We knew we had to do the work in one go, no matter how disruptive it was. We were also clear that we had to ensure it did not happen again, and that maintenance must be built into the future life of the buildings. This is also true for the Palace of Westminster after this major work. What steps are being taken to ensure that detailed maintenance costs of the building, and not just the ordinary life of the building, are being built into the baseline budget and then ring-fenced? The future of this historic and important building is just too important to get wrong.

When my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who cannot be in her place today but I hope will soon be able to rejoin us, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, she spoke for many of us who face accessibility issues in the Palace. I am grateful that the Joint Committee has taken the evidence on accessibility from a number of people, but I seek reassurance that there really will be a step change under the full decant option. It is not a “nice to have” option, and now is the best time to do the core work. So I am pleased to see in paragraph 7 of the Motion that there will be,

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Lib Dems mark #vote100

Today, Lib Dems marked the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote.

Vince put 16 and 17 year olds at the heart of his comments:

Today we celebrate 100 years since partial extension of the franchise to women.  It is shocking to think that another decade had to pass before votes were offered on a fully equal basis.

The causes both of gender equality and real democracy in the UK still have far to go.  A century on, we still see unjustifiable gender pay gaps, and sexism remains a scourge in the workplace and throughout society.

Parliament itself remains unrepresentative of society and of political opinion.  The next historic battle for democratic rights in the UK is to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, and reform our broken electoral system so that every vote counts and all voices can properly be heard.

Sal Brinton said that at current rates of progress her baby granddaughters, 2 this Summer, would be in their 9th decade by the time there was gender quality in the House of Common

In the last 100 years there have obviously been massive changes for the role of women in society. We are more equal, we are treated more fairly, and we face fewer obstacles in our lives. But the job is not yet done. As women we are not yet truly equal, we are not yet treated fairly, and we still face obstacles in our lives.

We are still behind in our politics and change must be led from the top. My granddaughters will be two this summer. At the current, glacial, rate of change they will be in their ninth decade before we have parity in the House of Commons. That is not good enough.

Willie Rennie tweeted:

In Wales, Jane Dodds found herself on the telly – and as the only woman on the panel discussing women getting the vote.

And there is a fabulous video and, of course, call to arms, from Jo Swinson:

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Sal Brinton’s call to action on women’s representation – and tales of BBC bad practice and great Liberal women

On Monday there was a debate in the House of Lords on Women in Public Life timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote. There were many Lib Dem contributions and we’ll be putting them all up over the next few days.

First up is Sal Brinton. Her wide ranging speech included tributes to fantastic Lib Dem women like Nancy Seear and Shirley Williams, horrifying stories of appalling employment practice at the BBC and fond memories of her family member who had been on the Mud March as a 16 year olds and was a passionate suffragist.

Enjoy!

The debate took place before she started her 24 hour fast for Hungry for Democracy:

My Lords, I declare my interest as a director of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which has given grants to, among others, WASPI, Make Votes Matter, and other organisations that have been mentioned already during the debate, as well as ​to many other political reform campaigns. I congratulate the noble Baronesses, Lady Williams and Lady Vere, for introducing this debate. We have had the most extraordinarily unified views about the success over the last 100 years, but also recognise that there are many problems.

I want to move back well over 100 years ago to John Stuart Mill. My favourite quotation from him is:

“The most important thing women have to do is to stir up the zeal of women themselves”.

He said that in a letter to Alexander Bain in 1869. A lot of the rest of his political life was spent helping women to be able to do that.

The woman who stirred up my own zeal was Baroness Stocks of Kensington and Chelsea, who started life as a Brinton and was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Norton. She had an extraordinary life. I did not know that—I knew a doughty old lady who came to lunch on Sundays. She was principal of Westfield College, just around the corner from where I lived. My Conservative father, though not an MP at that time, won every argument at the dinner table, except when Mary was there. She taught me, by my watching the way in which she debated and engaged, that it was perfectly possible for women to do what they wanted. I can remember her saying to me on one occasion in the late 1960s, when I was still just at secondary school and so a bit behind the revolution that was going on around me, “You know, you can do exactly what you want to do. You just have to set your mind to it”. This woman did set her mind to it. She did an extraordinary range of things, as did many of the other women who were suffragists and suffragettes. They took that into other parts of their lives. But her passion and deeds started early. In 1907, aged 16, she was on the Mud March, one of the first big marches of the suffragist movements. I quote her voice at that time from her autobiography, My Commonplace Book:

“I carried a banner in the 1907 ‘mud march’ at the head of which walked Mrs Fawcett, Lady Strachey, Lady Frances Balfour, and that indomitable liberty boy, Keir Hardie. As we moved off through the arch of Hyde Park Corner we met a barrage of ridicule from hostile male onlookers. ‘Go home and do the washing,’ ‘Go home and mind the baby’ were the most frequent taunts flung at us. As we proceeded along Piccadilly it was observed by some of the marchers that the balcony of the Ladies’ Lyceum Club was crowded with members looking down from their safe vantage. Some of the marchers looked up and shouted: ‘Come down and join us.’ I do not know whether any of them did.

It was a great adventure for a sixteen-year-old; and on returning to school on the following Monday I was uncertain how my public exploit would be regarded by authority. I need not have worried. All the mistresses were suffragists, as indeed were all salary-earning professional women”.

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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. 

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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.

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Sal Brinton writes: Hungry for Democracy?

Next Tuesday the UK will commemorate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote and we will be marking the contribution of the commitment of suffragettes and suffragists over years to achieve it. I am sure, however, that many of them would be very concerned about the fault lines in our democracy one hundred years on.

The democratic deficit in our country is stark. First past the post denies representation to millions: in the 2015 General Election, the Lib Dems, Greens, and UKIP got over 24% of the vote, but won a mere 1.5% of the seats in Parliament. And in 2017 the Conservatives and the DUP received 43% of the votes between them, but hold a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.

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German and Brinton stand up for victims on Worboys release

The release of serial rapist on parole after serving just 10 years has shocked many. Marina Hyde put it particularly well in the Guardian:

In technical terms Worboys has “paid his debt to society”. And yet, that doesn’t feel like quite the right analogy. I prefer to think that he’s been permitted to declare himself bankrupt to avoid paying said debt, and will be trading again in haste most unseemly to his creditors.

Merely out of interest, I wonder which sex offender treatment programme Worboys could have undergone inside in a manner that would have satisfied the parole board? I mean, I don’t want to put a downer on his X Factor journey here, but the main one used in England and Wales was scrapped last year after prisoners who had completed it were more likely to offend again than those that hadn’t. Well … there you go.

Yesterday a statement was made in the House of Lords Mike German replied for the Liberal Democrats:

My Lords, I too express great gratitude from these Benches for the Statement from the Government today, which gives an absolute expression of sympathy for those who have been affected by this case. Because there has been an obvious breakdown in the structure and systems of criminal justice which we are talking about, I wonder whether an apology on behalf of the Government would have been more appropriate at this point.

The Statement we have just heard raises a significant number of issues, many of which link back to legislative processes and rules which have developed over recent decades. Therefore, an understanding of the scope of the review will be necessary to give confidence to the many people who are feeling pain, misery and disgust at what they have seen in recent days. If we are to assuage them and to bring appropriate satisfaction to much of our society, we need to look carefully at the scope of this review.

As the Statement itself expresses it, we are told that the review will answer issues in these two areas: first, transparency in the process for parole decisions and, secondly, how victims are appropriately engaged in that process. This is indeed a focus of public concern at present but behind it lies a set of deeper and wider issues which have been thrown up by this case. We need to ensure that we see a review that touches all these issues if we are to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion to a much deeper issue than that reflected in the Statement. An example which has been thrown up by this case is indeterminate sentences. Nine hundred people were expected to get indeterminate sentences, but by 2012, when they were abolished, 6,000 people had received such sentences. Will the Minister tell us whether there is pressure on the parole system to clear this backlog which has affected the way in which it has dealt with these cases? We need some reassurance on that, not just those of us in this Chamber but the public as well.

Public confidence in the justice system has already been alluded to, particularly in the CPS and the role it played in reducing the number of cases brought to prosecution. It is essential that the public know why that was the case and the impact it has had on the victims and alleged victims who have been so hurt in recent days.

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Sal Brinton writes…How the party is addressing members’ concerns over harassment complaints

The Federal Board of the Liberal Democrats has met to discuss the concerns expressed by members of the party over the last few days. We considered what action should be taken to address these concerns, and also to let members know about changes that are in progress already.

I want to start by thanking everybody who has spoken up about harassment and sexual assault over the last few days. I know, from personal experience in the media when I was younger, that it is insidious, pervasive and demeaning and the effects never really leave you. Vince Cable and I remain very clear that there is no place for harassment and sexual assault inside the Liberal Democrats and we must have a zero tolerance approach to it.

That is why the serious allegations made by some members relating to rape and assaults in a case that is currently under investigation are very serious. Because the case is under way at the moment, the party cannot comment. However, we can look at some of the concerns raised by the complainants about where the process may have failed. That is urgent, and the Board recognises this.

Early in 2017 the Federal Board asked Lord Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, to carry out a review of our current disciplinary processes for two reasons. Firstly, following the Morrissey Review the party constantly reviews its processes, but the Board was also  concerned to hear that some cases appeared to take too long, and that some processes were inconsistent. Ken was asked to think radically about a new process that would be seen as independent, fair, faster and accountable. The snap General Election halted the evidence he was taking, but the report is now nearing conclusion and will be presented to the Board in December, published to the party in January and then changes presented formally to Spring Conference.

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Vince’s email to party members: Lib Dems will work across parties to stamp out sexual harassment

As the Sunday papers are published this morning, there are yet more disturbing stories about sexual harassment in Westminster, in Holyrood, and in politics more widely.

Harassment of this kind is absolutely unacceptable under any circumstances, and Liberal Democrats will work across parties to stamp it out.

I want to see a political system in which everyone is represented, and political institutions – from Parliament down to every local authority – that reflect the society they serve. It is absolutely crucial to this ambition that everyone feels they are in a safe and professional environment when they get involved, stand for political …

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Question Time is going to be worth watching tonight

Most often these days, I can’t even force myself to watch Question Time and I’m interested in politics. It’s become such an unbalanced, thoughtless shouting match which rarely yields intelligent observation. The liberal viewpoint is rarely represented and the frequent presence of the most unpalatable voices from the right wing tabloids or extreme right wing politics just makes me want to weep.

Tonight, though, we are in for a treat.

Not only are we going to get our amazing Sal Brinton, but also on the panel, fresh from Strictly, is the one and only Reverend Richard Coles. He will no doubt bring a bit of good humour and thoughtfulness to the proceedings.

Lisa Nandy was one of the editors of The Alternative, the book advocating a progressive alliance.

We might see a spat between brexiteers Chris Grayling and Tory Peer and Next CEO Simon Wolfson, too. Wolfson isn’t showing any sign of “bregret” but he has been critical of the Government’s approach to Brexit. 

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Sal Brinton receives apology from Transport for London after being denied access to bus

You would think, by now, that bus drivers would not be so crass as to refuse to ask someone with a buggy to make way for someone in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Party President Sal Brinton found out on Monday.

She later spoke to the Evening Standard about this:

Transport for London has apologised to Baroness Brinton and launched an investigation.

She told the Standard: “The bus was fairly empty, but regardless – if the wheelchair goes in first you can fit both a buggy and a wheelchair in the space… In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I boarded another bus afterwards.

“I couldn’t see the parent, and the driver did not put down the ramp and said they were not prepared to ask the parent to make space so it made it impossible for me and so I had to wait.”

She added: “It made me very angry, and even more so because this is not the first time this has happened… When this happened to me two years ago, I spoke to TfL and they said they would make sure bus companies trained drivers so that this would be avoided. Clearly that was not the case.”

Well done to Sal for highlighting her experience.  She’s previously written about the frankly appalling way she and others have been treated on the railways.

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Nick Harvey appointed as Lib Dems’ interim Chief Executive

Former North Devon Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey has been appointed as the Liberal Democrats’ interim Chief Executive following the departure of Tim Gordon earlier this month.

Nick has wide-ranging experience in PR, human resources, management and delivering change.

He comes from a City background, having been an account director at Dewe Rogerson, and worked at Profile PR and Westminster Consortium. He will take up his new role next week on the back of recent experience at Global Partners, where he was an adviser on Egypt and Jordan. He has also been seeking to widen access to the law as chair of Lawthority, while also chairing the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (a role he will step back from while serving as interim chief executive).

He was a campaigning and dedicated constituency MP for North Devon for 22 years. During this time (1992-2015) he served on the House of Commons Commission where he drove through reforms to modernise how parliament works. He was chair of campaigns for the Liberal Democrats in the late 1990s, including for the breakthrough 1997 election.

Nick said on his appointment:

I am greatly looking forward to supporting Vince Cable as our new Leader, and hope that working closely together we can further revive Lib Dem fortunes. The party has shown great resilience. Now we have a real opportunity to begin the process of moving forwards again.

British politics has never been in greater need of the Liberal Democrats. There is a major gap which only we can fill, not least on Brexit. This could have a dramatic impact on people’s jobs, the health and care system they depend on, and the schools and colleges which enable everyone to succeed in life.

We must boldly promote our liberal values, at home but also with partners abroad – not fighting them, but working to find international solutions to global security and environmental challenges.

The party has many talented, experienced and innovative people, as well as legions of new members. Together we can get things going again.

Vince Cable said:

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Housing fire safety a civil emergency – Brinton

Sal Brinton, who sits on the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group has said that the Government should declare a civil emergency over fire safety in tower blocks and compensate those who had been evacuated. During the flooding damage in 2015, the Government extended a Council Tax discount to help those who had been badly affected. Sal said that those evacuated should have their Council Tax suspended:

This is a civil emergency. The government must guarantee funding for local councils to do everything necessary to keep people safe and compensate those who have had their lives disrupted.

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Sal Brinton and Rebecca Hanson meet health workers in Copeland

Party President Sal Brinton has been to Copeland to campaign with our by-election candidate Rebecca Hanson. They met with local health workers to hear about their concerns.

From the News and Star:

Mrs Hanson said that the meeting – held at Keswick’s Quaker Meeting House – also allowed the health leaders to truthfully express their own opinions on the situation in Copeland.

They don’t get heard on any of this because they’re suffocated with people from elsewhere trying to impose structural change on them that won’t work and won’t make any sense in any way,” she added. “I’d created sessions specifically because I know this spirit and I know it could emerge and it was just lovely to see.

“They were going into some really technical detail about the kind of schemes they’re trying to get approval for that would improve and lead to better training for multi-skilled consultants.

She knew some of the people and bodies that they’re working with, so she was able to make a connection and will be talking to those people, including Norman Lamb.”

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4000 new Lib Dem members in a month

The Liberal Democrat figures for January are out and they are impressive – 4000 members in the month, 2000 of them  in the last 10 days and 1000 since Tim Farron led the opposition to Trump’s travel ban and called for the offer of the state visit to be withdrawn.

Party President Sal Brinton said:

Reaching 82,000 members is the highest membership in over two decades. With more than 4,000 new members having joined us in January and more than 1,000 joining since Trump’s Executive Order on Friday, people are responding to the politics of hatred by joining the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government and it is great to welcome so many new members.

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Liberal Democrat membership tops 80,000

Sal Brinton, the Lib Dem President, has announced that party membership has topped 80,000, with 1000 people joining the Liberal Democrats since Theresa May’s speech announcing that the Tories are going for the most extreme, hard Brexit that they can. 500 people have joined in the last 24 hours since Jeremy Corbyn signalled a 3-line whip for Labour MPs to vote for the triggering of Article 50.

Sal said:

The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government and it is great to welcome so many new members.

For those who oppose Theresa May’s plans to rip Britain out of

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Victory for Liberal Democrats in fight to strengthen Victims’ Code

The Government has agreed to back Sal Brinton’s calls for a strengthened Victims’ Code following a hard fought campaign by our Party President.

During ping-pong of the Policing and Crime Bill the Government made concessions on the principles of Sal Brinton’s amendments which put the discretionary Victims’ Code on to a statutory footing. The current situation sees thousands of victims let down every day because of inconsistent and unenforced practice by those in the criminal justice system.

The Government has now agreed to a review of support for victims reporting back within six months, including consultation with victims groups and others. It also agreed to strengthen, through legislation, anything necessary for the agencies dealing with victims to ensure they fulfil their duties, are appropriately trained and monitored in the delivery of their support for victims.

Sal Brinton said:

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LISTEN: To Sal Brinton on Any Questions

Sal Brinton Sal @ Crohns & Colitis Rec _2 CROPPED Nov 13At last, there was a Liberal Democrat on a political programme panel on the BBC last night. It was such a welcome relief after the recent rightwash on all of these programmes.  Sal Brinton did us all proud.

I lost count of the times she was cheered rapturously by the audience. This was not just polite applause, but real, vocal agreement as she gave great, clear answers on all the questions. The best, I thought, was on the daft idea of private schools wanting money to offer bursaries. Excellent comprehensive education is the answer, she said loud cheers.  She said that all the evidence suggested that the most disadvantaged families wouldn’t apply for these sorts of schemes because they thought it wasn’t for them. The bit I found most moving was when she talked about her friends being separated at the age of 11, something which “really mattered to them.”

This took place in Norfolk, a place that voted Leave in massive numbers, yet the most popular person on the panel was the Remain supporter who offered a say on the final Brexit deal.

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