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

Testimony gathered by the Observer reveals the policy’s impact. Sammy’s father, Chris, was deported to Jamaica last year for a non-violent criminal offence. The 17-year-old found out the day before, when she arrived home from school and her mother told her to quickly pack a bag to take to the detention centre. Sammy was given five minutes to say goodbye.

“I felt numb and I still do. It feels like he’s died, really,” she said. “I wish people would imagine what it must be like for him. He’s all alone with nobody around. He can’t even give us a hug or pick us up from school.” Sammy says she never had the opportunity to tell the court how his deportation would affect her.

The Sunday Times has an interesting article (£) on the future of the House of Lords, which could be a useful indicator on the source of scrutiny that Boris Johnson’s ethics-free government could go after next. Basically they think he will abuse its processes to the point where it loses all credibility. Liberal Democrats have always wanted to see the revising chamber fully elected and tried in vain to get the job one when in coalition. You need a Chamber to scrutinise and sense check legislation and hold the Government to account, especially when the electoral system for the Commons fails to deliver the Parliament that people ask for. On less than half the vote, the Government can do pretty much what it likes with a majority of 80.

US election geeks will be excited by the Georgia run-offs which are happening on Tuesday. Caused because no candidate for either of the state’s senate candidates secured 50% of the vote in November, Democrats Jon Ossoff (a mate of our Alistair Carmichael’s) and Raphael Warnock aim to unseat the two Republicans, one of whom is a full blown Q’Anon conspiracy theorist. It’s on a knife edge. The outcome will determine whether Joe Biden is able to do anything of consequence when he takes office in just 17 days time. Surely it must be a good sign if, as The Independent reports, Donald Trump is on the warpath saying that the process is illegal?

Mr Trump’s attack on the election came as he falsely tweeted an incorrect claim that the state legislatures were  “not in any way responsible for the massive changed made to the voting process.”

This is an argument that Republicans and right-wing commentators have unsuccessfully made to try and invalidate Democrat election wins in battleground states in November.

So that’s my pick. What have you been reading?

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Jan '21 - 11:53am

    “Boris Johnson would lose majority and seat in election tomorrow – poll”

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/02/poll-predicts-a-uk-general-election-now-would-wipe-out-tory-majority

    “According to the survey of more than 22,000 people, conducted by the research data company Focaldata, using the multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) method that is said to be more than accurate than conventional polling, the results would leave the Tories with 284 seats and Labour with 282 – an increase of 82.”

    “Results in Scotland would see the Scottish National party achieve a near complete sweep, winning 57 of the 59 Scottish seats. The poll also predicts the Liberal Democrats would be reduced to just two seats – in Bath and in Kingston and Surbiton – down from the current 11. One in four voters who supported the Lib Dems in 2019 said they will switch allegiance to Labour.”

    So good news for the country, but bad news for us:

    “Labour is marginally ahead of the Tories on 37.7% of the vote, with the Tories on 35.6, the Lib Dems on 8.7% and the Green party on 6.9%.”

    The local elections and the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections will be very interesting. They will be virtually a country-wide referendum on Johnson’s first two years.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Jan '21 - 12:35pm

    That Poll looks interesting but while it should be more “accurate” because of the numbers polled it is way out of line with all the previous polling. Either something has changed very quickly or This Poll has gone badly wrong.
    For example the 7% for the Greens looks ridiculous.
    I would suggest that for now we assume that all the other Polls are broadly Right with Tories & Labour level around 39%, Libdems on 7% & Greens around 4%.
    Of course its very unlikely that there will be a General Election before 2024.

  • Thank you for this, which I found very interesting.
    The key message for me is that almost all of drug users who died came from childhood trauma.
    I know the causes for any human condition are complex, but one where the connection is clearest is poverty.
    I do not feel the party gives enough argentions to this. We need a coherent policy to eliminate poverty and we need to show we mean it.

  • @ Paul Barker “For example the 7% for the Greens looks ridiculous.”

    I assume you refer to England, Paul. The Scottish poll quoted by Mr Cox confirms the position at Holyrood where the Lib Dems continue to be the fifth party behind the Greens, indeed the gap is expected to widen in May.

  • @ Tom Harney “I do not feel the party gives enough attention to this. We need a coherent policy to eliminate poverty and we need to show we mean it”.

    Completely agree, Tom. I hope you will give support to the motion calling for a ‘Beveridge 2 Plan within a Social Contract’ (hopefully) being put to the next Conference by Katharine Pindar and Michael Berwick-Gooding.

    A thorough reading of the Alston Report should convince everyone on this. Here’s a link and evaluation by Bristol University :

    2019: UN Rapporteur: Final Report | Bristol Poverty Institute …www.bristol.ac.uk › poverty-institute › news › un-rapp…
    22 May 2019 — “The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, undertook a mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain

  • Peter Hirst 4th Jan '21 - 11:46am

    I’m not convinced there is a direct relationship between drug abuse and childhood trauma. These are probably retrospective surveys and so it’s challenging to show causation rather than association. Anything from the past stays there unless it is brought into the present by our thinking, possibly resulting from questioning. Most of us have some childhood trauma if we want to label it as such.

  • Laurence Cox 4th Jan '21 - 12:29pm

    @David Raw

    You are wrong. It is not a Scottish poll; it is a GB poll (pollsters usually ignore NI). A better comparison is with the Politico poll of polls (last updated Dec 22)

    https://www.politico.eu/europe-poll-of-polls/united-kingdom/
    Lab 39%, Tory 38%, Lib Dem 6%, SNP 5% (54% in Scotland), Greens 5%.

    It looks like the SNP and the pro-independence Scottish Greens have got their act together with the SNP at 54% in the Holyrood constituency seats but only 43% in the list vote according to Politico, while the Greens have 1% and 10% respectively. Tactical voting can work even in PR electoral systems it seems.

  • Quite right, Mr Cox, but the Scottish figures still stand.

    As for outcomes, as Squiffy used to say, you’ll have to ‘Wait and See’ until May

    I’d advise to keep quiet about a Mega Airport in Alex Cole-Hamilton’s seat…… and remember the Lib Dem MSP’s are hedging their bets by being on the regional lists.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Jan '21 - 7:45am

    The seat prediction methodology of the poll that would leave us with just 2 seats is flawed:
    https://owenwntr.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/whats-up-with-the-sunday-times-mrp-projection/
    Having us lose both Richmond Park and Twickenham, despite a loss of just 3 percentage points in nationwide support from the last GE, in a putative election that would see the Tories lose their majority and Johnson lose his seat seems a very contrived scenario.

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