Tag Archives: sal brinton

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

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:

Posted in News | Also tagged | 11 Comments

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,

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

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:

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

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”.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

The #Hungry4Democracy fast begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first vote and why I’m still #hungry4democracy

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

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

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

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

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



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 21st Apr - 1:28am
    Tamir, we didn’t “overall do a lot of good”. We overall supported a lot of bad things while doing a few good things which either...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 21st Apr - 12:38am
    @ nvelope2003 Your earlier post was a general attack on providing particular services and paying Councillors allowances. I am glad to read that you do...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 20th Apr - 7:38pm
    Anyone who thinks air strikes will change things in Syria should think again. Why can't Assad be charged with war crimes? We should be freezing...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 20th Apr - 7:34pm
    From 2001 to 2009 I was a County Councillor member of the Lincolnshire Police Authority before standing down in favour of another Lib Dem colleague....
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 20th Apr - 7:34pm
    At least The House of Lords is providing a voice for those who feel the present direction of travel of Brexit needs reassessing. If it...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 20th Apr - 7:30pm
    Regarding the motion on cervical screening it would be good if we sometimes looked at the cost effectiveness of different types of screening, the impact...