Tag Archives: Wales

13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable:

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12 December 2018 – today’s press releases

So, another day when much has happened, but little has obviously changed. It’s a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’, in that Brexit is supposedly coming, but never actually seems to turn up…

  • Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions
  • Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams
  • Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply depressing’

Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions

Responding to the reports that the Prime Minister will face a vote of confidence in her leadership, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Theresa May’s deal is a total mess and is the latest backdrop for yet another Conservative meltdown over

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6 December 2018 – today’s press releases

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle…

  • Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal
  • Mental Health Review must lead to more investment
  • Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal

Responding to the Department for Exiting the EU’s policy paper on Citizens’ Rights, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Ed Davey said:

The Government has finally admitted that free movement of labour won’t end this March.

The fact they tried to sneak this out shows yet again that people can’t trust anything this

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1 November 2018 – today’s press releases

We’ve got a veritable torrent of press releases today, starting with an example of the Party being rather more radical than Labour…

Cable: £1.3 billion for higher-rate payers should be used to reverse welfare cuts

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will be voting against the Government’s plans to raise the higher-rate tax threshold to £50,000.

The policy – announced in Monday’s budget – will cost an estimated £1.3 billion pounds next year, money which could instead be used to reverse cuts to Universal Credit or end the benefits freeze a year early.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince …

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31 October 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s Halloween, and the Press teams on either side of Offa’s Dyke are still working away…

Don’t Let Down Welsh Farmers – Welsh Lib Dems

Following the closure of the Welsh Government’s Brexit and Our Land consultation, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to carefully listen to the views of farmers and ensure farmers are not let down as they begin to consider their response.

The Welsh Government’s proposed model for supporting farmers and land managers after Brexit involves removing any aspect of direct support and instead focusing on promoting economic resilience and public goods.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat response to …

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Jane Dodds writes…Loneliness in Wales

The Welsh Government has just announced a consultation on a Strategy to address loneliness in Wales. We know that 17% of the population in Wales are lonely, with 54% saying they have experienced loneliness at some time in their life. Research shows that loneliness is harmful to our health, and increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%. 

Loneliness affects many parts of the population; single parents, those suffering from depression and anxiety, the homeless, young people and the elderly. Studies have found that loneliness peaks in the experiences of young people and then again in older people. For young people, we have seen severe cuts to youth services in local authorities in Wales, and loss of grants to Young Farmers Clubs.  For older people, cuts to services such as day centres, and the Third Sector results in further isolation.  .

Loneliness should be treated as a health issue, and integrated with our approaches to healthy living. For the Strategy in Wales, I would like to see funding targeted to ensure public transport is subsidised, if not free, to target groups, and that rural transport, particularly bus services, are not cut.  This element should work in parallel with an integrated transport plan for Wales.  We need to embed long term funding of community services, particularly from the Third Sector, and ensure that there are befriending services to young people and the elderly.  Finally, Wales needs a new approach to staff and personnel working in this field. It is a  scandal that those who look after our young people, elderly and vulnerable are treated so appallingly. For too long, the care and social sector has been seen as a ”twilight” service with zero hours contracts, poor working conditions and the minimum wage being paid. We need to see this valued group of workers having a more significant profile in our communities. 

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WATCH: Jane Dodds on why Welsh Lib Dems are campaigning for a #peoplesvote on Brexit deal

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been out and about at the Llanfair Caerinion Show with their Brexitometer and their campaign for a People’s Vote on the deal.

Leader Jane Dodds explains why this is so important for Wales

Their Brexitometer tells an interesting story given that Wales voted so emphatically to leave in June 2016. The tide is certainly turning.

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Jane Dodds on the Welsh Lib Dems vision of hope and optimism to tackle today’s giant evils

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds set the party in Wales a mission at their Conference at the weekend. She wants them to find ideas to tackle the issues that provide the modern equivalent of Beveridge’s giant evils. Here’s her speech proposing the motion that kicks the process off.

Conference, I’m excited to begin the process today of shaping our vision for our party and for Wales. One thing I made clear during my campaign to become leader of our party was that I wanted to re-capture not only our radical, Liberal roots, but the idea that politics should offer hope.

That’s what I want us to do.

I want to rekindle the optimism and the hope that politics once offered by setting out an aspirational vision of the Wales we want to see.

I want us to start a conversation about what it is we want to achieve – a story and an ethos that will help us in shaping stand-out signature policies for the elections ahead of us.

In truth, much of my vision is informed by the vision of another Liberal a little over 75 years ago.

In 1942 William Beveridge published his report, a report that captured imaginations and transformed society. Dryly titled the ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services report,’ Beveridge’s work went on to transform British society and establish the welfare state as we know it.

It was a promise of a better, brighter future.

It was a promise that each and every one of us would have the opportunity to get on in life; to be healthy, to be well educated, to have a place to call home, and that there would be a safety net for when the going got tough.

Beveridge identified 5 giant evils: squalor, want, disease, ignorance and idleness.

Far from having disappeared, the challenges facing society in 1942 have only changed.

We no longer simply talk of a poverty  – or want – of “physical efficiency” – the minimum amount to simply feed ourselves; we talk about the number of households and children living in working poverty, turning to foodbanks, with opportunity out of reach.

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In full: Jane Dodds’ Leader’s Speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference

Here is Jane Dodds’ keynote speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference this weekend. She said that the Welsh Lib Dems had an aspirational, optimistic vision for Wales. She went on to praise Kirsty Williams, the party’s Education Secretary. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader kept calling her the best education secretary in Britain.

Jane talked movingly about the impact of poverty and homelessness and outlined what the Lib Dems were all about:

The party of the progressive and pragmatic that offers an exciting and inspiring vision.

The Party of Ideas, taking forward meaningful policies that speak to people’s everyday concerns.

The Party of the Green Agenda, committed to protecting our environment, cleaning up the air we breathe, and harnessing the power of our environment.

The true party of equality, fairness and freedom and with a vision of a Wales that offers everyone a place to call home, free from discrimination and intolerance in all its forms.

Here’s the whole thing:

Cynhadledd, conference

Thank you all for being here this weekend as we look to the future and the role we want our party to play in creating a hopeful and successful Wales.

It’s been great to see so many old friends, but also to welcome so many new members to our family – croeso.

My Leadership

Conference, it is an honour and a privilege to be delivering my first speech as leader of our party. I feel very humbled and am grateful for your support.

There’s no denying that we’ve had a difficult few years and have a fight ahead of us.

I’ve spent a lot of time since the election visiting local parties, speaking to members, and attending events right across the country

what strikes me is that whilst the wounds of the last few years are still visible, we’re fighting.

Let me be clear –

we may be reduced in numbers in Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but the Welsh Liberal Democrats haven’t gone anywhere,

we are not going anywhere.

We are a team, working together with a shared mission of putting Welsh Liberal Democrats back at the heart of Welsh politics.

Vision 

But,

we have much to do.

Starting with who we are and what we stand for.

Earlier today we voted to move forward with a project to engage members, the public, frontline staff and experts in setting out a hopeful, optimistic, and aspirational vision for Wales.

A Wales that gives people the opportunity to get up on their feet, and to get on in life.

A Wales that gives us each the freedom, the opportunity, and the security to shape our own destiny,

to take risks, and to achieve our potential.

A Wales that has a strong, resilient, and inclusive economy which harnesses individual potential, creates opportunity, and offers each of us a decent standard of living

A Wales where we celebrate the value of our communities, our diversity, our heritage, our culture and our Welsh Language.

And a Wales that is compassionate and caring– the open and tolerant Wales we know.

To do that we need Welsh Liberal Democrats back at the heart of Welsh politics.

Because Wales needs us.

Challenges facing Wales 

Education

Just look at what we’ve achieved with just one Welsh Liberal Democrat in government.

  • A fair and effective student finance system – the first in Europe to provide equivalent support for part-time and post-graduate learners.
  • Wales’ first ever rural schools strategy
  • Investing more than £350m in helping our children get ahead.
  • Building 20,000 new affordable homes.
  • Improving mental health services in our schools.
  • £40m for a small grants scheme for farmers.

This is real politics.

Meaningful change – creating opportunities for our children and young people.

Kirsty has shown what the Liberal Democrats mean when we talk about everyone having the opportunity to get ahead, and have a fair chance of having a seat at the table.

Thank you, Kirsty.

The challenges facing us in realising our vision of a fair Wales, where people have the opportunity to succeed in life are huge.

Don’t underestimate that – or how much harder it will be to realise that vision in the years ahead.

So I want to spend some time talking about those challenges and our priorities –

Homelessness

Rising homelessness.

Young people, people who have mental health difficulties, users of alcohol and drugs, girls and women who are open to exploitation and sexual abuse.  And over the last 4 years in the UK, at least 230 homeless people have died on our streets.

And as the nasty party in Westminster doggedly pursue deeper cuts in public finances, we see vulnerable people scraping by to survive, without access to public services – with no hope for their future.

Conference, we need to give them that hope. Starting with urgent hostel places with no strings attached.

Give them the hope of owning their own home by building 20,000 new affordable homes across Wales;

Introducing the Rent to Own scheme to make it easier to get on the housing ladder,

or introducing the Housing First model so people feel safer when they fall on hard times.

These are Welsh Lib Dem ideas in action, changing people’s lives.

Work and jobs

Access to well-paid work is crucial to ensuring that we all have the freedom to grasp opportunity, to shape our own destiny, and achieve our potential.

The challenges of technology and a vulnerable economy, makes it even harder to ensure that we can all enjoy work that gives us the opportunity to live fair and free lives.

But we can either embrace the future, or bury our heads in the sand.

We can either be bold, be brave, look at new ideas and harness technology to create an innovative and sustainable economy – or we can shirk our responsibility to future generations.

There are projects quite literally on our doorstep ready to go – if only the Conservative Government had the same aspiration as us.

The Swansea Tidal Lagoon should have been given the go-ahead long ago.

Let’s imagine this.

A network of tidal lagoons in Cardiff,

Newport

and Colwyn Bay

powering our nation, creating well-paid jobs, harnessing our environment and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

For us, conference, it’s a no brainer.

Jobs, a tourist attraction, green energy provision and a badge that says “we are innovative, positive and open for business”.

We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again –

the Tories cannot be trusted to protect our environment,

to create opportunity for our communities,

and they have abandoned their right to call themselves the party of business.

It is us, the Welsh Liberal Democrats that have the aspiration and drive to create a sustainable economy that creates opportunity for all.

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Donna Lalek goes from 5th to 3rd and increases vote share in Alyn and Deeside by-election

We don’t often see Tuesday by-elections, but the Welsh Assembly’s Alyn and Deeside by-election took place yesterday.

The result was a solid one for Liberal Democrat candidate Donna Lalek.

She moved the party from 5th to 3rd and put on 1.8% in vote share.

And the numbers:

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Jane Dodds writes….Wales has a by-election and we need your help

There is a by-election for the Welsh Assembly in the North Wales constituency of Alyn and Deeside on February 6th.

This is an opportunity for the Welsh Liberal Democrats to begin their revival and renewal after a challenging time.

The election is being fought in difficult circumstances following the suicide of the Labour politician, Carl Sergeant in November, and his son has been selected as the Labour candidate in the by-election.

We have a brilliant candidate in Donna Lalek, who joined the party just over a year ago, was born and brought up in the constituency,is a founder member of the Liberal Democrat inspired “Everyone Matters” movement and is a community councillor.

This is a plug for your support as we desperately need more help in every part of campaigning.  Sal Brinton has been to support us, and Vince Cable comes up at the end of January.

You will be warmly welcomed if you can make it up to North Wales, so please think if you can join us.

The by-election is not only an opportunity for us to build capacity as a party, but is the first opportunity in a constituency election to consider how issues such as how the Brexit negotiations are beginning to impact on an area that voted out. 

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Welsh Lib Dems’ Leadership: Jane Dodd writes “I want to lead a party that is radical and reforming”

I have to start by saying that I am not that happy to be standing against Liz Evans, a colleague for whom I have enormous respect.  My only comfort is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will have a Welsh speaking woman from mid-Wales as their next leader.

I believe that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the talent, the drive, the enthusiasm and the ambition to start winning again, but we need to rebuild the party.  We need more members, more councillors and to win seats in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 and in the next Parliamentary elections.  The Welsh party needs to work with the Federal Party to forge a relationship that helps us to transform ourselves.  And Wales needs the Welsh Liberal Democrats to offer real, meaningful, and Liberal solutions to the deep seated inequalities people face.

Progress has been too slow.  As a social worker, I have seen at first hand the inequalities in our society and the hardship suffered by people as they face a lack of good quality homes and a paucity of well-paid and full time employment. People in Wales have health services which are well below the standards in England, and we need improved access to mental health provision.  We need to sustain our support to our Education Cabinet Secretary in Kirsty Williams as she continues to deliver progressive policies to improve educational standards for Welsh children.

We need an economic plan that breathes life back in to Wales, and to put green policies and renewable energy developments at the forefront of our strategy. We need to be an outward looking Wales – welcoming refugees and helping those in need, as well as joining Vince and all other Liberal Democrats in challenging Brexit.  

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LibLink: Kirsty William: It’s not about whether we charge tuition fees. In Wales, we’ve found a third way

The one Liberal Democrat left in national government, Kirsty Williams, has written an article for the Guardian in which she sets out what she is introducing in Wales – a plan to help students with living costs which will support part time and postgraduate students too:

The new support package in Wales will cover those who start their course in 2018/19, wherever in the UK they choose to study. Every student will be entitled to support equivalent to the national living wage. This means that eligible full-time students will receive maintenance support of £11,250 if they study in London and £9,000 per year elsewhere if they live away from home.

This will be delivered through a mix of loans and grants, unlike in England where zero maintenance grants are available. Very small, limited grants are available in Scotland, but they too are currently reviewing the system.

Welsh students from the lowest household income will receive the highest grant – £8,100 in their pocket, and more in London. Our estimates suggest that a third of full-time students will be eligible for that full grant.

Furthermore, our data shows that the average household income for a student in our current system is around £25,000. Under the new system such a student will receive around £7,000 a year in their pocket.

However, potentially the most radical element of our reforms is to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate students. Wales will be the first in Europe to achieve this. For the first time, part-time undergraduates will receive similar support for maintenance, pro-rata to their full-time counterparts.

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Where next for the Liberal Democrats in Wales?

 

The 2017 General Election was a strange one for the Liberal Democrats. Up in seats, down in votes, another leader now out the door. The state of the party in Wales, however, is less questionable. We are in a bad place. Losing our remaining MP in Ceredigion, losing ground in other seats, hammered into third in Cardiff Central.

The party has been in decline for some years now and, unlike in England and Scotland, where seeds of recovery are more evident, here in Wales things don’t seem to be getting any better. Decline is not inevitable, but neither is our continued existence. It is all very well saying liberal values are needed now more than ever (they are!), but the question is how do we make them relevant to the people of Wales and what do we need to do in Wales to have any chance of regrouping.

Firstly, we have to resist the temptation to become a party that only talks about local things. The challenge between promoting a national liberal vision and community politics has been a question for decades (one Jo Grimond wrestled with, in fact). But there is nothing particularly liberal about working hard locally. From canvassing in multiple recent elections there can be no doubt that people respect our hard work on the local scene. However, when it comes to a national election they vote differently. We must make sure we are consistently promoting a liberal vision at a national level, alongside local work, or we will not rebuild.

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Eluned Parrott selected to fight Cardiff Central

Former Welsh Assembly member Eluned Parrott has been selected to fight the constituency of Cardiff Central which, until 2015 was held by Jenny Willott.

Eluned fought the seat for the Welsh Assembly last year and came within 1000 votes of victory.

From the Cardiff Lib Dem website:

The Lib Dems are odds-on favourite to win Cardiff Central (at 4/6 with Betfair on Monday morning), and have been endorsed by pro-EU newspaper The New European as the clear choice in the fight against a hard Brexit.

Eluned Parrott said:
“I hadn’t intended to come back into politics, but Brexit changed everything. I can’t simply stand by and let our country be ripped apart by hatred and division.

“I want to represent Cardiff Central in Parliament to fight Theresa May’s divisive Hard Brexit, both for the majority here who voted Remain and the many who voted Leave but want to stay in the Single Market.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party isn’t providing Britain with a real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government. That’s why people are turning to the Liberal Democrats in droves – as you can see by the dozens of by-election wins we have had across Britain, including one right here in Cardiff.

“The choice in Cardiff Central is clear: Corbyn’s Labour party who rolled over to back the Tories’ Hard Brexit, or the Liberal Democrats who will fight for an open, tolerant and united country.”

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Lib Dem Lords vs the Article 50 Bill: Jenny Randerson: Wales will lose from Brexit

The Lib Dem Lords have made some cracking contributions to the debate on the Article 50 Bill. Ahead of its next Lords stages, we’re bringing you all the Lib Dem contributions over the course of this weekend. That’s no mean feat. There were 32 of them and cover more than 30,000 words. You are not expected to read every single one of them as they appear. Nobody’s going to be testing you or anything. However, they will be there to refer to in the future. 

Our Lords excelled themselves. Their contributions were thoughtful, individual, well-researched and wide-ranging and it’s right that we present them in full on this site to help the historian of the future. 

Christine Humphreys talked about the impact of Brexit on Wales, on the loss of EU funding unlikely to be replaced by our low tax economy. She also challenged the government on their idea that we should all just line up behind them and meekly tug our forelocks as they choose our destiny for us, saying: “The first steps to unity can come from the Government accepting that voters have the right to be part of the decision-making process.”

My Lords, although our country has voted, albeit by a comparatively small majority, to sever our links with the EU, many voters continue to voice genuine concerns and questions about the future—concerns which have been echoed eloquently by noble Lords—about the impact on our economy and on voters’ living standards; the position of EU nationals working in our communities and paying their taxes to support our services; the position of UK nationals living and working in the EU; and how our departure will impact on Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar.

Many are deeply concerned that our departure will precipitate the break-up of the EU itself and about the potential for new turmoil in a continent which has been ravaged by wars for hundreds of years but which has lived in comparative peace for the past 70. And, yes, they want to know exactly what a hard Brexit will mean, and they need clear answers to their questions and responses to their concerns.

There is certainly now a deeper understanding of the benefits that access to the single market has brought to the UK, and a more acute awareness of the loss that could await us when we depart the EU. The single market is, and has been, of great value to Wales—so much so that the majority of parties in the Welsh Assembly, while respecting the Welsh vote to leave the EU, have called for “full and unfettered” access to it. It is a market vital to our economy: 68% of Welsh exports go to the EU, as compared to just over 40% of the exports of the UK as a whole. Securing replacement markets is likely to be a slow and cumbersome process which could damage our economy—certainly in the short term. Those parties and the Welsh Assembly have also called for a “balanced approach” to immigration which would link migration to jobs and, crucially, they advocate the introduction of properly enforced employment practices that protect all workers.

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Kirsty Williams on building last year’s elections and building an education system that inspires pride and confidence

Kirsty Williams has been speaking to the South Wales Argus about her role as Education Secretary in the Welsh Government. She has great ambitions for the role.

I want to have an education system that the profession are proud of and parents and learners have confidence in.

That is quite a high bar, and she wants to work in partnership with those groups, unlike a certain former English education secretary whose tenure in office seemed to alienate everyone.

I am confident that by working together we can achieve my ultimate goal, which is to have a first-class education system for Wales and one which people around the world will want to come and look at, what were the changes we undertook and what were the reforms we put through that led to that system.

But I can’t do it on my own. I can only do it in partnership with parents, learners and educators.

What was it, though, that inspired Kirsty to get involved in politics as a young woman?

Growing up in Llanelli, Ms Williams cited watching family members working in the steel industry lose their jobs and seeing a lecture by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Roy Jenkins, later a Lib Dem peer, as one of the biggest influences on her political development.

“I just remember listening to the lecture and thinking ‘I can’t say it in the same words he can but that’s the kind of community and society I want to live in’,” she said.

Being brought up in a family where politics was discussed and debated sparked her interest:

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What do you do when you want to distract from your party driving the country off a cliff?

Well, if you’re Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies, you point out to anyone who will listen that Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Secretary voted in accordance with Liberal Democrat policy in the Article 50 debate in the Senedd as if this should be some sort of issue.

Labour AMs were whipped to vote for Article 50 to be invoked.

Davies argues that this broke cabinet responsibility. The BBC has the story:

The Liberal Democrat AM voted with Plaid Cymru against Article 50 despite the Labour group opposing the motion.

Mr Davies suggested some Labour AMs were “sore” over the Senedd vote.

Mr Jones’s spokesman said it was recognised the Lib Dems were in a different position on the matter.

Article 50 of the European Union Lisbon treaty is the trigger that would allow UK ministers to start the process to leave the EU.

The UK government wants to set Article 50 in motion by the end of March.

Mr Davies himself campaigned for Vote Leave at the referendum last year – his group joined Labour and UKIP in voting against the Plaid Cymru proposal in the Senedd on Tuesday.

Only 10 AMs supported the motion to oppose Article 50 being triggered without assurances over the single market, versus 46 against.

The vote if passed would have been advisory and would not have affected the process.

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Cadan ap Tomos on Visit my Mosque day: We must bridge divisions in our communities

Today is Visit My Mosque Day, a chance for people to build links between communities.

Welsh Equalities Spokesperson Cadan ap Tomos has been doing exactly that, visiting the Dal Ul-Isra mosque in Cardiff.

He made a short video afterwards:

He added:

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Former Cardiff City Council leader Rodney Berman aims for Council seat in May

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats ran Cardiff with 35 of the 68 seats on the Council. In May 2012, they lost more than half their seats, mainly due to a backlash against the UK coalition government. Then Council leader Rodney Berman lost his seat.

There are signs of a reversal of fortune, though. In September, Robin Rea saw a huge increase in the Lib Dem vote to win a by-election in the city’s Roath ward.

Every council seat in Wales is up for election in May and Rodney has just been selected as the candidate for the Penylan ward.

He told Wales Online:

It’s a much better campaign picture for us than it has been for a number of years. We have been winning council by-elections up and down the country, we had a remarkable victory in the Richmond Park by-election and at the same time support for Labour is dropping.

“When you go out there you have people who are not impressed by Jeremy Corbyn and the way Labour is fighting nationally and locally. I think there’s a great opportunity for us, particularly as we’re the largest opposition party at the moment and we’re the only party that’s ever held leadership of the council.

“It’s not just the national impact of Labour but it’s the local impact of infighting. People are despairing at the local councillors.

“We have never had so many resignations from a ruling group and so many councillors deciding they’ve had enough.”

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Kirsty Williams: Under no circumstances will Wales see an expansion of grammar schools

Kirsty Williams 2There’s a lot of talk of the return of grammar schools in England.

In Wales, however, there is no chance of any expansion. Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams had this to say on the matter:

Wales’ Education Secretary Kirsty Williams ruled out a return to grammars in Wales and said: “It seems that some terrible ideas just won’t go away.

“The Tories in England and Wales seem determined to bang this tired old drum. For them, this is all about dogma and doctrine, rather than looking at what actually works for our young people.

“The facts show that grammar schools do nothing to improve social mobility. The Sutton Trust found that less than 3% of grammar school pupils were on free school lunches, compared with 20% across the country.

“ The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all, which is why under no circumstances will Wales be seeing an expansion of grammar schools.

“As Education Secretary, I will be guided by evidence so that we have a schools system that is modern, innovative and rooted in optimism about the potential of all our children.”

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Congratulations to the Welsh football team

So Wales did not get beyond the semi finals in Euro 2016. Or rather; Wales got through to the semi finals of Euro 2016. An awesome performance which highlighted real teamwork and courage. They had tenacity in the face of people expecting so little of them. They believed in themselves and gave it everything.  They stood out as a team who felt privileged to be in the contest, wanted to make their mark and will come home to Wales with their heads held high having made it to the semi finals. Llongyfarchiadau Cymru/Congratulations Wales.

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Lord Martin Thomas writes…The Red Army

I am six inches taller this week. Wales smashed Russia in Toulouse! Russia was our heroic ally during the war but for most of my adult life, we were living under the threat of a huge looming Stalinist empire.

I grew up with soccer, as we used to call it. Saturdays were school rugby in the morning, and the Boys’ Enclosure at the Wrexham Racecourse soccer ground in the afternoon. Tunnicliffe thunders down the wing, crosses to Les Speed in the centre who puts the ball in the net. At our end, the amiable Ferguson tries to keep his knees together in goal – he famously let one through his legs at Stoke in the FA Cup. Soccer was simple then.

Then Hungary with Pusckas put six goals past England in 1953 and the world turned upside down. Russia invaded Hungary  and Pusckas fled to Real Madrid. Soccer became Football. What you have to do now is  stroke the ball to each other in your own half, send it back to the goalie and back again –  intricate patterns of play with the only hope of a goal to wake up the crowd from a penalty, corner or free kick. 

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Kirsty Williams on supporting teachers, pupils and students: her vision for Welsh education

Kirsty Williams has been talking to Wales Online about her plans on education secretary. Here are some of the best bits:

On supporting teachers

She used tact and sensitivity, unlike some education secretaries in Whitehall. You are not going to get anything done in schools without getting teachers onside.

“I think there is some excellent practice,” said Ms Williams.

“I think that there are schools and other education institutions that are doing amazing work and children that are having a great education experience, but my concern is that it is not universal.

“There are too many variables between schools – even between schools that find themselves in the same local authority.

“What I want to do is focus on making sure that good practice, that undoubtedly exists within the system in Wales, is shared and adopted by all schools so all of our children, regardless of where they live, have access to the very best education.

“What I have been struck with in recent weeks is that the profession in many areas does not feel valued and I want to raise the status of the teaching profession.

“We are going to be asking a lot of them, it is they that will make the difference to school standards in Wales, not me in an office in Cardiff Bay – so we need to support them to do the job that we expect of them.”

Curriculum reform

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My highlights of the Hay Festival

Living in mid Wales, we are able to pop along to the Hay Festival, and take in a day of culture, politics and new ways of thinking.

On Saturday June 4th, I did 4 contrasting bite size chunks of life – past and present. The day started with Erwin James, a convicted double murderer, sentenced to life imprisonment 32 years ago, and former Guardian columnist. He started his session by saying that for the first 12 months of his sentence, he was locked up for 23 hours a day, which forced him to think about whether he was made to be a criminal or life had made him that way.  He produced no conclusions, save that he had a good childhood to 7 years old, and after his mother was killed, his life careered down the path of criminality, culminating in his conviction. He has chosen never to speak about his crimes in detail,  respecting the families of the victims, and a constant theme in his talk was that he will never be able to make up for taking the lives of two people.  He has a book out (as do most authors at the festival) called Redeemable, a title chosen because he feels all prisoners are redeemable. He even had a good word to say about Michael Gove, a Justice Minister who has commented on how society needs to value prisoners more and see them as assets to society.

Moving on to the next session and definitely not a good word to say about the Conservatives, nor any government of the past 20 years; Refugee Tales told the stories of refugees in the UK, experiencing multiple dawn raids, a dispassionate asylum system, and shocking treatment of children detained ( and we still do lock up child asylum seekers with their families in a place called Cedars – please don’t think that as Liberal democrats we have stopped this practice as this report explains.) A comment from a Welsh GP in the audience produced many nods when she stated that successive UK governments have aimed to have an asylum system that is as difficult and as incomprehensible as possible to deter people from seeking sanctuary.  The aim of this session was to raise the profile of a campaign to limit the detention period of asylum seekers – currently indefinite – to 28 days – just as it is for any other UK citizen.

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Holding Kirsty to account

When set against the backdrop of our worst performance in a National Assembly election, Kirsty Williams’ elevation to the Welsh Cabinet is nothing short of remarkable. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most powerful Assembly Members in the Senedd Chamber; she may be a lone Welsh Lib Dem voice, but the power to make or break the Welsh Government is hers.

With Kirsty’s support the Welsh Government can command 29 votes, the same as the opposition (less the presiding officer and deputy). A tied no confidence vote results in the presiding officer voting in favour of the status quo. Simply put, Labour’s First Minister Carwyn Jones loses his insurance policy if he doesn’t keep Kirsty onside.

The Welsh Party overwhelmingly endorsed the agreement at a special conference by more than 4 to 1. It is a huge, huge gamble, but it has nothing left to lose. With a Cabinet post comes profile, coverage and exposure that a sole backbench Lib Dem would never have. If you think the Party struggles to get coverage at the UK level, our Welsh coverage is next to nil outside of an election. Frankly, it gives the Welsh Liberal Democrats relevance in Welsh Politics when we should, according to our vote share, be irrelevant.

Without an Assembly group from which to take counsel, or to hold her to account, it also places Kirsty in a very powerful position in her relationship with the Party. With the Party’s endorsement under her belt, she can effectively operate as an independent and take decisions as she sees fit. So what measures will she be judged against, and who will hold her to account?

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+++Breaking: Welsh Special Conference to debate whether Kirsty Williams should enter Cabinet as Education Secretary

Kirsty Williams 2We knew last weekend that Kirsty Williams was talking to Welsh Labour about accepting a Cabinet position and now we know what it is and what she will be bringing to the Cabinet table, subject to the approval of the Welsh Party at a Special Conference on Saturday.

From the Welsh Liberal Democrat website:

Kirsty Williams and the First Minister have reached a Progressive Agreement between the two parties to work together in Government.

The First Minister has invited Kirsty Williams to serve as Cabinet Secretary for Education and subject to ratification by the Welsh Liberal Democrats this weekend, she has accepted.

The agreement enables the implementation of key Welsh Liberal Democrat policy priorities that the party campaigned on during the recent election, ensuring that:

Infant class sizes are reduced to a maximum of 25;
There are more nurses, in more settings, through an extended nurse staffing levels law;
20,000 extra affordable homes are funded;
A new ‘Rent to Own’ housing model is introduced;
Mental health discrimination is ended.
Members of the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be asked to endorse this agreement at a Special Conference will take place this Saturday (21 May).

Commenting on the invitation to be Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams AM said: “Government in Wales has entered a new era. Where there is common ground, we must have the confidence and ambition to work together for the good of its people.

“The test of our new approach is not the warmth of our words, but our commitment to get things done.

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How Mark Williams intends to revitalise the Welsh Liberal Democrats

In his first interview as Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, for Wales Online, Mark Williams talked about how the party would rebuild following the shattering defeat in the Assembly elections.

He seemed to cast doubt on the wisdom of concentrating campaigning in 4 constituency seats, saying the party needed to reach out to liberals across Wales:

He said: “There are huge swathes of Wales where we did not campaign at all, and that’s what we need to change.

“There are groups of Liberal activists around the country that need to be supported build strength on the ground.”

Mr Williams said election efforts had been concentrated in Brecon and Radnorshire, Cardiff Central, Ceredigion, Montgomeryshire – only the first of which was won.

Adamant there are many potential supporters in Wales, he said: “There’s a lot of people out there, maybe who were disaffected by the coalition experience, who we need to draw back into our party.

“Whatever the percentage was on Thursday, there are far more Liberals, people of Liberal thinking, out there.”

He looked to history to show that the party would recover:

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LibLink: There’s no way to deny it, the Lib Dems are on the rise again

Last week’s election results show that, overall, the Liberal Democrats are fighting back argues Tom Brake in an article for the Huffington Post.

Our party made the most gains in the English local elections, increasing our share of seats more than any other party, now having 45 more, passionate Councillors working hard for their communities.

We strengthened our support in the liberal heartlands of Eastleigh and Cheltenham. We dominated the results in Southport, Cumbria and in Watford, where we took control of the council. And we gained seats in cities like Hull, Rochdale and Manchester thanks to my fantastic former colleague John Leech, who will provide the only opposition to Labour there.

Up and down the country we’ve seen the green shoots of liberalism grow up in communities disillusioned with an impotent Labour party dubbed as the worst ever Government opposition, and a heartless Conservative Government imposing ideological cuts to valued public services.

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Could Kirsty Williams end up in the Welsh Cabinet? Should she?

After Wednesday’s fun and games in the Welsh Assembly, it has emerged that Kirsty Williams has been approached about possibly taking a seat in the Welsh Cabinet.

From the BBC:

BBC Wales also understands Mr Jones has discussed appointing Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams as a cabinet minister.

Meanwhile the Welsh Tories suggested they will not support Leanne Wood for first minister again without a deal.

Neil Hamilton, UKIP assembly group leader, called on the smaller parties to “stick together” against Labour arrogance.

The Plaid Cymru leader was backed by the Conservatives and the seven UKIP AMs, as well as her own party,

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