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LDV’s Sunday Six – 17 January 2021

Here’s my hand-clicked pick from this week’s Sunday newspapers. What have you been reading today?

An article in the Observer shows that those in the Red Wall seats stand to lose most from the Tories ending the £20 per week Universal Credit top-ups. Will any of the red wall MPs be tempted to vote for a Labour amendment to extend it? Or will the fall for Rishi Sunak’s idea to give families half as much?

In the same paper, Patience Akumu writes about the election in Uganda which saw the incumbent leader returned to power, despite the desire for change among many Ugandans.

There was once a time when the free world was a powerful ally in such matters but now it seems it has too many problems of its own to bother with yet another developing country grappling with a leader who will not relinquish his grasp on power. Following difficulties in getting election observers accredited, both the EU and US chose not to send any.

Perhaps the west feels that, with its own perceived failures, it does not have the moral authority to lecture Africa. Museveni and other African leaders love to hang on to this particular lifeline. Museveni, in a CNN interview, retorted that while Ugandans may have electoral problems at least they are not dying (of coronavirus).

As we prepare for an inauguration which many fear will see outbreaks of violence in the US, Scotland on Sunday takes us back 150 years to when Abraham Lincoln was sworn in, telling the story of how his life was saved when a Scottish detective uncovered a plot to kill him.

The Sunday Herald has some uncomfortable truths about Scotland’s role in slave trade and how our towns and cities benefitted from its profits.

But it was not just those who were directly involved in slavery who benefitted. The wealth derived from unfree labour in the plantations – including compensation – turbocharged the post-union Scottish economy, funding key infrastructure such as canals and waterworks and creating thousands of jobs.

“Slavery and its commerce also had wider effects; powering the Scottish Industrial Revolution and providing large scale employment in cotton mills from 1778, funding philanthropic initiatives in universities, schools and hospitals, as well as the repatriation of wealth to families of lower rank in wider Scottish society,” Mullen says.

The Mirror highlights how a Conservative MP’s company failed to pay casual workers the national minimum wage.

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LDV’s Sunday Six – 10 January 2021

Welcome to another selection of interesting articles from this week’s Sunday papers. It’s been a dramatic week, but we start off with something a bit closer to home:

The Observer has an article about how the huge number of elections due to take place in England could be run:

Measures such as switching to postal votes or extending the time in which ballots can be cast are regarded as logistically impossible in England.However, election officials are looking at simple measures to reduce transmission, including a publicity campaign asking that voters bring their own implement to make their mark.

“Voters can bring their own pen or pencil to vote,” said Craig Westwood, the Electoral Commission’s director of communications, policy and research. “While you can do that in any election, it’s another measure to help keep safe. Voters will be hearing these messages from us, and others, in the weeks leading up to the polls.

“We are focusing a lot more on the voting options that people will have, including postal and proxy voting, and making sure that polling stations are safe places to vote. We’re comfortable that local authorities can make them safe, with support from voters in following the advice they’re given. This will all be similar to what we’re already experiencing in our daily lives, in terms of social distancing, hand sanitiser and masks.”

They ruled out extending the time for voting. It would perhaps be sensible to have the voting over a weekend rather than just a Thursday.

Liberal Democrat guidance is to assume that the elections are going to go ahead in May regardless of any speculation to the contrary. That means that we continue to campaign in Covid-safe ways and if we have to go on for longer, then we’ll be in really good shape to do so.

In the Independent, Jim Moore urges Keir Starmer to look to Stacey Abrams, who has done so much to level the playing field in Georgia where Republican voter suppression had given them so much of an advantage. Her work at making sure people were registered to vote has been credited with both Joe Biden’s victory in the state and those of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to take control of the Senate. Moore argues:

So to Sir Keir. The Tories have been increasingly using the same language adopted by the Republicans when it comes to voting, despite the UK’s Electoral Commission stating in 2019 that there remains no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.

For the record, there were more than 32 million votes cast in the UK General Election that year, but just 161 cases of fraud reported to the police and only a single conviction.

As in the US, enforcing voter ID in Britain looks very much like a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. But if it can swing you a few constituencies – and it might do that because poorer, and younger, voters who are less likely to have ID are typically more likely to vote Labour – then hey, why not.

These are the sorts of things that have been raised time and again by Liberal Democrat MPs and peers. It would be really helpful if Labour got their act together and really started pushing against the Government’s plans which so transparently follow the Republican voter suppression 101.

A distressing interview in the Sunday Mirror with a nurse shows the pressure that NHS staff are under.  She was speaking after four patients she was caring for had died in two days.

Given the pressure on her, it was really worrying to see that when she is not at work, she can’t sleep because of the nightmares she’s having.

She begged people to follow the rules to avoid catching Covid.

Her message to anti-lockdown groups is simple: Get real.

Ameera said: “They don’t have any medical qualifications yet feel it’s OK to make unfounded comments.

“When will they realise what’s really going on? Will it be when they lose someone they love? We can have a day where patients are dying all day long and you are having to quickly wash them and zip up a body bag.

“None of the people from anti-lockdown groups will ever zip up a body bag in their lives.” Doctors and nurses are risking their lives to treat patients, day in, day out.

Back to the Observer and Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich gives us a long list of people who should pay the price, along with Donald Trump, for the events this week.

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LDV’s Sunday Six

Welcome to the first Sunday of 2021.

Here are six hand-picked items from today’s media to inform, amuse or provoke you.

As Scotland records the worst drug rate death in Europe, costing the job of Joe Fitzpatrick, the Public Health Minister last month, a senior lawyer, Ian Smith of defence firm Keegan Smith backs decriminalisation, according to the Herald.

He said: “Most of the people I know that take heroin and almost all of the ones who have died, have come from childhood trauma. Heroin, drugs and alcohol, are a way for them to deal with that.

“There needs to be a shift in society from seeing these as deaths of ‘junkies’ to deaths of abused, traumatised kids who turned into adults.

“That’s why I’m an advocate of decriminalisation. If you take the criminal element out of it, you take the stigma out of it, take the labelling out of it and recognise that they’re people who need help.”

This is something Liberal Democrats have been calling for for years and it could become a key issue in the Scottish elections this year. The SNP Government cut drug and alcohol rehab services early on in this term. Although the funding was later reinstated, the consequences in terms of homelessness and deaths were serious.

Support for assisted dying is growing and the election of more progressive MSPs could make it possible to introduce legislation after the next elections, scheduled to take place in May. Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton is quoted in this Scotsman article:

We wouldn’t want to launch a bill unless we were confident that we had the numbers.

But every successive Parliament has a seen a shift towards this to the point that we are at the tipping point into majority. We just need a few more like-minded progressive MSPs to join our ranks.

This is a dignity that we should be affording to Scots at the end of their lives.

Fans of Russell T Davies’ writing will be interested in this article he’s written in the Observer to coincide with his new tv drama, It’s a Sin, about when AIDS first became prevalent in the 1980s, with the heartbreaking impact of not only the disease but the prejudice and stigma which was allowed to grow up around it.

But me? I looked away. Oh, I went on marches and gave a bit of money and said how sad it was, but really, I couldn’t quite look at it. This impossible thing. There are boys whose funerals I didn’t attend. Letters I didn’t write. Parents I didn’t see. Late last year, I bumped into the father of a good friend who’d died in 1992. We chatted, politely, hopelessly, and I flailed around, wondering how to apologise after all this time for not going to the funeral. But then I realised it hardly mattered. No one went. The shame had been so great that they only had 25 people for a lovely, lively lad, dead by 28.

They were comparatively lucky to have had a funeral at all. Back then, there were undertakers who refused to handle the bodies. Crematoriums that turned people away in case their staff were contaminated. Some lonely funerals happened at night, so no one could see.

Families split up by the Home Office’s harsh deportation policy speak to the Observer

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