22 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems table King’s Speech amendment to “rescue social care” as half of care homes lost in some areas
  • Lib Dems demand clarity on IT outage impact on patients
  • Rennie calls for Swinney to head off bin strikes

Lib Dems table King’s Speech amendment to “rescue social care” as half of care homes lost in some areas

  • Lib Dems have tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech to rescue social care and call for a cross-party commission
  • Ed Davey says that “people and their loved ones simply cannot wait any longer” after the Conservative Party “broke social care”
  • Number of care homes in England has fallen

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Cameron Thomas’s maiden speech

As is traditional, Liberal Democrat Voice is covering the maiden speeches of our new MPs as they happen. In Thursday’s King’s Speech debate, Cameron Thomas, MP for Tewkesbury, made his first Commons speech, the first from our 2024 cadre:

It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) and his impassioned words. If I may address him directly — if you will oblige me, Mr Deputy Speaker — as well as other Members staking their claim to Britain’s best curry, it would be an honour on behalf of

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19-21 July 2024 – the weekend’s press releases

  • IT outage: Government urged to call COBRA meeting
  • ICJ opinion: UK should recognise the independent state of Palestine
  • Incoming government must recognise Palestine and redouble efforts for peace
  • Rennie files parliamentary motion on schools’ access to Microsoft programs
  • Rennie presses government over implementation date for Children Care and Justice Act provisions
  • Mayor of London questioned over summer preparedness plans

IT outage: Government urged to call COBRA meeting

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to hold a COBRA meeting to coordinate an urgent response to the IT outage causing major disruption including to airlines, railways and GP surgeries.

Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said:

The government must call an urgent COBRA meeting to address the chaos being caused by these IT outages across the country.

The public needs to be reassured that the disruption to their travel or their desperately needed GP appointments will be minimised.

Getting critical infrastructure up and running again must be priority number one. The National Cyber Security Centre should also be working with small businesses and other organisations to help them deal with the outage.”

This once again lays bare the need to improve our digital infrastructure and truly modernise our economy in order to prevent the incidents from happening again.

ICJ opinion: UK should recognise the independent state of Palestine

Responding to today’s advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

This decision is a wake-up call. Liberal Democrats have always championed international law and the independence of the courts.

The only way to give Palestinians and Israelis the security and dignity they deserve is through a peace process and a two-state solution.

The UK should lead that push by immediately recognising the independent state of Palestine.

Incoming government must recognise Palestine and redouble efforts for peace

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has backed calls for the incoming Labour government to uphold international law and support efforts towards a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine, including the recognition of a Palestinian state. Signing Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran’s parliamentary motion, Mr Carmichael warned that with the election past, now was the time to renew efforts for a ceasefire in Gaza, while welcoming the government’s announcement today of the restoration of funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the agency which supports aid for Palestinians.

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Observations of an ex pat: Despair

My overwhelming emotion in the wake of the attempted assassination of Donald Trump is despair.

My crushing depression is not caused just by the attempted assassination. It has been triggered by the host of events that led up to and followed the shooting in Pennsylvania.

It started with the Republicans thirst for power at any price. Between 1933 and 1995 they were the minority party in the House of Representatives for all but four years.  Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich had the answer. He embraced wedge politics by unjustifiably labelling Democrats as “traitors,” “communists,” or “un-American”. Republicans were “patriots,” and the only “true Americans.”

It worked. Republicans have held the majority in the lower house for 22 of the past 30 years.

Then in 2009 along came the Tea Party with its demands for lower taxes, a reduced national debt and federal budget and decreased government spending.

The Tea Party was followed in 2015-16 by Donald Trump. He married wedge politics to the populism of the Tea Party. At first the Republican old guard opposed him. Then he started to win with a mixture of wedge rhetoric, scapegoating, and dangerously over-simplified answers to complex problems.

After winning the presidency in 2016 he set himself up not as the leader of the Republican Party but as THE Republican Party. If you wanted to secure the Republican nomination for an elected office you first had to pledge fealty to The Donald and his increasingly right-wing policies. If you refused you were branded a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and destined—in many cases—to fail at the first hurdle.

Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 should have been the end of the cult of Donald Trump. It wasn’t.  He kept it alive by donning the mantle of victimhood and claiming– without a shred of evidence—that the 2020 election was stolen by Biden and that he was the real winner. On January 6, 2021, a mob incited by Trump’s lies and rhetoric stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power.

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Lib Dem Lords’ valedictory speeches: Judith Jolly on health

Here at Liberal Democrat Voice, we’ve made a point over the years of covering maiden speeches of new Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians and, with a huge new cadre of MPs elected on 4 July, you can expect a lot of those in the coming weeks. But, at the other end of the building, there are retirements and, as part of the arrangement for a retiring peer, there is an opportunity to make a valedictory speech. On Friday, Judith Jolly made hers after more than thirteen years in the Lords, having served as a Government Whip in the final years of the Coalition and then as our Frontbench spokesperson on Defence and then Health between 2015 and 2019…

My Lords, the last year has seen health and social care rise up the agenda of the country. Most of my professional life was spent in the far south-west of England. I taught maths for over 15 years and became an early champion of IT in schools. In 1997 I was appointed as a non-exec director of a NHS primary care trust. I was a lay inspector for the Commission for Health Improvement and I was proud to be first chair of the Committee for Community Nursing. In the 1990s I was appointed to the board of an NHS trust providing community services across north Cornwall.

Now we are fortunate to have both local authorities and the NHS working together to provide health and care. Despite legislation introduced in the last 15 years, we need to take a close look at the state of care for older people and for those with a learning disability. I undertook the role of chair of Hft, an organisation working all across England that cares for people with a learning disability. Of all the roles I have had, this was the most rewarding. I made many friends from the Hft board and I am grateful for the insight I had into the world of adults with a learning disability.

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The ICJ Advisory Opinion on the illegality of Israel’s continued presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

On 30 December 2022, the UN General Assembly passed resolution A/RES/77/247 in which it asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to opine on two questions:

First, what are the legal consequences arising from the violation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination by Israel’s prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 (OPT),  including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?

Second, how do these Israeli policies and practices affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the UN from that status?<

On 19 July 2024, 20 years and 10 days since the ICJ rendered its Wall advisory opinion, the world court delivered a bombshell. All ICJ judges agreed that the above questions fall with the court’s jurisdiction and all but one of the 15 judges (Vice-President Sebitunde) decided that the court should comply with the request for an advisory opinion (given it has discretion whether to do so). The same resounding majority found that ‘Israel is under an obligation to cease immediately all new settlement activities, and to evacuate all settlers from the OPT’ and that it ‘has the obligation to make reparation for the damage caused to all the natural or legal persons concerned in the OPT’.

A smaller yet significant majority, 11-4 (Vice-President Sebitunde joined by judges Tomka, Abraham, and Aurescu) found that ‘Israel’s continued presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is unlawful’ and that it ‘is under an obligation to bring to an end its unlawful presence in the OPT as rapidly as possible’. The court reached this conclusion in light of the violation of two key principles of international law: the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force and the right of peoples (in this case, the Palestinian people) to self-determination. The aims and realities of the settlement project in cementing Israel’s presence in the OPT rendering the occupation’s temporariness a façade, and in instituting a discriminatory regime whereby two populations, Israelis and Palestinians, living in the same occupied territory, are subject to different legal regimes, played a crucial role in the court’s determination that the entire Israeli presence in the OPT has become illegal.

When it comes to the responsibilities of other states, by a 12-3 majority (Vice-President Sebitunde joined by judges Abraham and Aurescu) the ICJ found that

‘all States are under an obligation not to recognize as legal the situation arising from the unlawful presence of the State of Israel in the OPT and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by the continued presence of the State of Israel in the OPT’.

They also found that:

‘international organisations, including the United Nations, are under an obligation not to recognise as legal the situation arising from the unlawful presence of the State of Israel in the OPT.’

Finally, they found that:

‘the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly, which requested this opinion, and the Security Council, should consider the precise modalities and further action required to bring to an end as rapidly as possible the unlawful presence of the State of Israel in the OPT.’

This advisory opinion is ground-breaking: by ripping the mask of temporality off the face of Israel’s prolonged occupation, by identifying the settlement project as its core ongoing harm, and by highlighting the critical role the international community (can and must) play in bringing the unlawful situation to a rapid end.

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ALDC By-Election Report – 18th July

The first principal council by elections since our amazing General Election result too place this week. Four elections were held. We stood a Lib Dem candidate in all 4 and moved forwards in a number of places.

We had a tough defence in Argyll and Bute Council, in Kintyre and the Islands ward. We had finished 3rd and picked up a councillor in the ward the 2022 local elections. This time, despite increasing our share of first preference votes, we were unable to hold the seat. Thank you so much to Douglas MacDonald for standing for us here. The SNP gained the seat in the fifth round of counting.

Argyll and Bute Council, Kintyre and the Islands
SNP: 728 (45%, +15%)
Conservative: 322 (19%, +9.5%)
Independent: 322 (19%, new)
Liberal Democrats (Douglas MacDonald): 281 (17%, +1%)
Freedom Alliance: 25 (1%, new)

There were two by-elections in Newham LBC on Thursday, and we moved forwards in both.

In Little Ilford ward we finished an impressive 3rd place and increased our vote share as all other parties (Conservative, Labour and Green) saw their vote share fall. Well done and thank you to Akm Rahman for standing for us in this election and improving our performance.

Thank you to James Alan-Rumsby for standing in Beckton ward, which we did not contest in the previous election. A great effort to stand a candidate and make sure Lib Dem votes are counted.

Labour held both seats, despite a strong challenge from a local residents party.

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Watch Josh Babarinde talking about his bungee jump

Ed Davey was not the only politician to throw himself off a crane, held only by elastic bands around his ankles.

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18 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Covid Inquiry Report must be a moment for change
  • Chamberlain tables two child benefit cap parliamentary motion
  • Sadiq Khan refuses to back removing the two-child benefit cap
  • Cole-Hamilton: Scotland badly let down by SNP Government’s pandemic planning

Covid Inquiry Report must be a moment for change

Commenting on the first Covid Inquiry Report, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

Today’s damning findings confirm in black and white what we unfortunately already knew.

Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones during the pandemic, yet sadly these findings of systematic and political failings will provide little comfort for thousands of grieving families.

Today must be a moment for change. The country was badly let down during the pandemic and this new government must ensure that lessons are learnt swiftly.

The Liberal Democrats called for an inquiry in 2020, and we will continue to demand that the full facts are known about every aspect of this catastrophic failure.

Chamberlain tables two child benefit cap parliamentary motion

Wendy Chamberlain MP for North East Fife, has tabled a Parliamentary motion calling on the Government to remove the two-child limit on social payments in the first Budget.

Statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions state that 1.6 million children are affected by the two-child benefit cap. The cap also imposed employment barriers on parents who have less income available for childcare costs as a result.

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Ed Davey at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry

As I write Ed Davey is appearing at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry. You can watch him here:

 

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Early Bird registration for Conference extended to 31st July

Planning for the Autumn Federal Conference this year has been fraught with difficulties. First, there was a real worry that it would coincide with an intensive General Election campaign, and arrangements were made for a shorter version of the event. Then, when the July election was announced, planning was put on hold until after polling day.

It is now back to normal and running for its full length from 14th to 17th September in Brighton.

Registration finally opened last Friday. Since then members have been complaining about the short period for the Early Bird rates, ending on 23rd July, some noting that it did not cover a payday. It was also causing problems for people who were on holiday this month. So we are pleased to learn that the Early Bird deadline has now been extended to 31st July.

You can see all the rates and deadlines here. In summary, the Early Bird full rate is £90 (concessions £20), with a weekend pass at £60 (concessions £15). Concessions include full-time students, plus people on a range of benefits and allowances. Day passes are also available but do not give you the right to speak or vote in debates.  Register here.

Anyone can watch the proceedings in the Main Auditorium on the party’s YouTube channel for free. But there is also the option of online voting (pass costs £20) which I used last time and found worked well.

When registration was finally opened last week technical problems emerged, which is why it only really got underway last Friday. Members were still reporting errors when they tried to register over the weekend, and we have been given this advice: when you are asked for your address select Great Britain NOT United Kingdom. Apparently Northern Ireland is not included because of the presence of our sister party, Alliance. (I’m not quite sure what any Lib Dem members in Northern Ireland have to do – maybe contact HQ).

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17 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Ed Davey on King’s Speech: Liberal Democrats will make the voice of carers heard
  • Child Poverty: Right that Government looks at how to tackle child poverty after economic damage by Conservatives
  • Chamberlain tables WASPI Parliamentary motion
  • London Lib Dems – King’s Speech – Extra Powers for Metro Mayors Welcome, but Need the Financial Powers to Back Them Up
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to King’s Speech
  • Renew Europe: End Orbán’s Council Presidency

Ed Davey on King’s Speech: Liberal Democrats will make the voice of carers heard

Responding to the King’s Speech, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

After years of crisis and chaos under the Conservative Party, it is clear our country faces enormous challenges. The Liberal Democrats will carefully scrutinise the Government’s plans, striving hard to stand up for our constituents.

We will continue campaigning to fix the NHS, boosting GP numbers, tackling delays to cancer treatment and improving access to dentists and pharmacists.

We will make sure the voice of carers is heard, from increasing the Carer’s Allowance to the big challenge of fixing social care – so that our loved ones can get the support they need.

Child Poverty: Right that Government looks at how to tackle child poverty after economic damage by Conservatives

Responding to news that the government has created a ministerial taskforce to tackle child poverty, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

It is right that the government is looking at how best to tackle the scourge of child poverty. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in poverty after years of chaos and economic damage by the Conservatives.

Scrapping the two child cap would be the quickest and most cost-effective way to lift children out of poverty and bring long-term benefits to our society and economy. We hope that ministers listen to the evidence and the many charities that their task force will meet and act accordingly.

Chamberlain tables WASPI Parliamentary motion

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, has today tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for the new Government to honour the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s report first came out in July 2021 and stated that women born in the 1950s had suffered significant financial loss due to maladministration by the Department of Work and Pensions. The final report was published in May 2024 and recommended 1950s women are owed compensation.

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Data-based analysis on the LibDem performance in the general election

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The Week in Polls* has an interesting analysis on the LibDem performance in the general election, entitled “7 things we know about the LibDems and 2 things we don’t“.

Some headlines: We won because of health, bar charts and local candidates pointing at things. Our targetting was strong and there was large tactical voting, particularly in the last few days before voting.

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Legalising cannabis: Correcting historical wrongs and embracing diverse production

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The Liberal Democrats have always championed progressive and pragmatic approaches to drug policy, and their stance on cannabis is no exception. It’s time to acknowledge that the criminalisation of cannabis—a natural herb—was a historical misstep. The Liberal Democrats advocate for legalisation, emphasizing that this approach is not only more sensible but also just.

Ending Criminalisation

Cannabis should never have been criminalised. The Shaffer report in 1972 advised against criminalisation, but Nixon banned it anyway, along with psychedelics, which also have ancient healing properties. This ban was never about public safety; it was a politically motivated attempt to attack Nixon’s enemies in the Black, immigrant, and liberal populations. For over 50 years, people have been trying to defend themselves from a position of criminality. Decriminalisation corrects this historical wrong, ensuring that individuals are no longer penalised for cultivating or consuming a plant that has been used for thousands of years for medicine and spiritual purposes.

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16 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • King’s Speech: Fixing NHS and care must be a priority
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for First Minister to go
  • Rennie: Scotland needs good governance, not SNP chaos
  • Rennie comments on ferry contract decision

King’s Speech: Fixing NHS and care must be a priority

Commenting ahead of the King’s Speech tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Years of chaos under the Conservatives have left us with a stagnant economy and health services in a state of crisis. Millions of people are stuck on NHS waiting lists and struggling to get the care they need to return to work.

Fixing the NHS and care would put rocket boosters under economic growth in our country.

The Liberal Democrats will keep campaigning for our policies to tackle the health and care crisis and get our economy back on track. That is what millions of people voted for at the General Election, we will not let them down.

Welsh Lib Dems call for First Minister to go

Responding to the recent resignations from Vaughan Gethings cabinet, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

Vaughan Gething has now lost both the confidence of the Senedd and several members of his own Government; he must resign from his position as First Minister.

We cannot afford to allow internal fighting in Welsh labour to distract us any longer from the range of serious issues facing our country.

The Welsh people are sick and tired of constant political scandals and broken promises, they want to see a political system that works for them.

We as the Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver that change.

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Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Jo Swinson to face Horizon inquiry

The Guardian reports that Ed Davey will appear before the Post Office Horizon inquiry this Thursday, with Vince Cable and Jo Swinson appearing later this month:

Ed Davey hit the headlines for falling off a paddleboard, bungee jumping and Zumba dancing as part of his unconventional election campaign. But the Liberal Democrat leader’s attention-grabbing stunts paid off when his newly resurgent party won 72 seats, its highest total since 1923.

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LibLink – Jess Brown-Fuller on her first week as MP for Chichester

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Over on the Guardian, our new MP for Chichester, Jess Brown-Fuller, provides diary of her first week as an MP:

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to “swear in” – taking my oath of allegiance to the crown – and officially take my seat in parliament, which was a particularly special moment in the day. I then hit the ground running by writing a letter to the environment secretary on pressing matters affecting Chichester, organising meetings for the weekend to discuss sewage and water quality, dealing with media inquiries, supporting residents and, last but not least, trying to remember where I’d last spotted a ladies loo.

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We need to be ambitious on planning and housing – while telling uncomfortable truths

Now that the election is over, and we have successfully made inroads into the Conservative Blue Wall, it’s time to reflect and learn from our past. Moving forward, it’s crucial that we balance our national progressive platform with the needs of our Blue Wall constituents. We must navigate this balance with confidence, avoiding the pitfalls of timidity that have hindered us in the past. In a landscape marked by fragmented politics and widespread distrust, we can’t afford to be complacent.

Our victories in this election were not isolated as an endorsement alone but were also influenced by a split on the right. It poses a threat for us. People have an appetite to “shake-up” the system feeling that, for years, Governments have neglected issues like housing, development and infrastructure. We need to be mindful of the rising threat of far-right politics, which often scapegoats marginal groups instead of addressing the real issues. The performances of parties like Reform and the lukewarm vote share for Labour highlight the concerns of many communities. These communities feel “threatened,” suffer from managed decline, and lack regeneration. It’s our duty to ensure that the gains we’ve made in the Blue Wall, while substantiated, also remains meaningful and sometimes brave.

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15 July 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Cancer polling: New govt’s number one priority should be to get NHS back on its feet
  • Lib Dems call for new laws on GP appointments and cancer care in King’s Speech
  • Far North MP to lead debate on access to rural healthcare

Cancer polling: New govt’s number one priority should be to get NHS back on its feet

Responding to Cambridge University polling, conducted by Public First, showing that cancer is the biggest health concern among the UK public, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP said:

On the doorsteps throughout the campaign, we heard countless harrowing stories of people enduring unacceptably long waits to start cancer treatment.

The Conservative party has brought our health service to its knees and getting the NHS back on its feet needs to be the number one priority of the Labour government.

Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right for all patients to start cancer treatment within two months and for a boost in cancer nurses to help deliver this.

It is patients who are bearing the brunt of this neglect and they cannot wait any longer.

Lib Dems call for new laws on GP appointments and cancer care in King’s Speech

The Liberal Democrats have said that new laws to end the crisis in health and care need to be at the heart of the King’s Speech on Wednesday.

The party said this should include giving patients new legal rights to see a GP within a week and to start cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent diagnosis, with new laws putting a statutory duty on the Government to deliver them. The Liberal Democrats are also calling for the introduction of free personal care to tackle the crisis in social care.

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I AM because YOU ARE – Remembering Srebrenica

Living in the UK gives me incredible opportunities to work and meet people from every corner of the world. Although some disagree, this is in my opinion one of the British greatest assets and advantages; the mixture of talents, skills and ethnicities. I think that I was lucky enough to be well prepared for my life in a very multicultural British society, especially during my studies in Croatia. My stay in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, made a huge impact on my personal development. This is where, for the first time, I actually experienced living among a diverse community and encountered many people, who were displaced by the recent war. I’ve learnt the language, which also helped me to integrate better and understand the complex elements of Croatian history and heritage. It is still one of my favourite parts of Europe.

Since coming to Hertfordshire and Welwyn Garden City, almost 20 years ago, I was blessed and privileged to get to know a wonderful Bosnian community and members of the Bosnian Saturday School in Borehamwood, many of whom are my friends.

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17-19 July 2024 – this week in the Lords (and some demographic data)

Yes, they’re back, and so, with a new Parliament to look forward to, let’s try again with this column…

A King’s Speech means only one thing, huge amounts of pomp and ceremony whilst seventy-two Liberal Democrat MPs (and Jennie) try to work out where best to get a vantage point for “His Majesty’s Gracious Speech”. Meanwhile, the Lords Chamber will be packed with Peers and their spouses in all of their finery – unfortunately, my tiara is in for cleaning, so I won’t be present. But, after lunch, the robes will be back in storage as the debate on the content of the Speech as well as consideration of “An Address in Reply to His Majesty’s Gracious Speech” begins.

That debate will run over six days, including a Friday session this week, each day focussing on the following:

  • Thursday 18 July: energy, the environment and housing
  • Friday 19 July: education, early years and health care
  • Monday 22 July: economic growth, infrastructure and employment
  • Tuesday 23 July: constitution and devolution
  • Wednesday 24 July: justice and home affairs
  • Thursday 25 July: foreign affairs and defence

One of the proposals expected to appear in the King’s Speech is a mandatory retirement age of eighty for Peers, and the House of Lords Library has produced some data on the likely impact of such a rule which is fascinating.

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Our MPs swear an oath to the Monarch – that’s wrong

This article was inspired by a clip I came across on Instagram of Labour MP Clive Lewis being sworn in, where he noted that he made the oath under protest, in the hope that one day people would live in a Republic. This reinforced to me the idea that our Members of Parliament swear an oath not to their constituents or the people who elected them, but instead to the Monarch and his heirs. My distaste for the Monarchy as an institution is well known to those around me, but I think that regardless of your opinion of the institution as a whole, you can concur that our MPs’ oath should focus more on their role as representatives of the people, as opposed to their status as servants of the King.

Our Constitutional settlement is messy and complicated, but in the modern day we accept our Monarch as a figurehead, and the actions of the State are conducted almost entirely through HM Government – who must command the support of the House of Commons. I don’t like it, but it does work.

What many people don’t realise however is that our Ministers don’t rule in conjunction with the Monarch, but rather through their authority. Each law must gain Royal Assent, each Secretary of State derives their authority from the King. Indeed, in the brief window between Rishi Sunak resigning and Sir Keir Starmer arriving at Buckingham Palace; all executive power rested with King Charles III. Our Monarchy is fundamental to our political system, engrained into every element of our governance.

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Showing who we are in our HR practices

A few years ago, I wrote for Lib Dem Voice arguing that Lib Dem politicians who employed people should up there game when it came to HR practices.

I argued that the best way of explaining liberalism is to show what in means in all that we do – especially in how we treated our staff colleagues. With Westminster now paying for the staff for 72 (yay!) fine Lib Dem MPs (and Short Money hopefully adding to the central staff we can afford), this is a good time to be reminded of this.

However, that’s not why I’m writing today.

The other day, the Federal Party issued a job advert for a senior communications role. The advert asked applications to prepare a CV (no more than two pages) and a covering letter explaining why they would be a good fit in the role. I am sure that a serious applicant will spend quite some time and effort getting this right.

This role looks important and I’d hope that the Party will attract serious and experienced applicants.

So what does the Party say to those serious and experienced applicants who we want to spend time and effort on an application?

We will not notify applicants if their application has not been successful at the shortlisting stage

As I tweeted to the Federal Party President, this essentially says “please put a lot of work into the application but we won’t show you the courtesy of even acknowledging that application because we don’t respect you”.

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The liberal view from Suella Braverman’s constituency

After a campaign where she promised commitment to the interests of local residents, the MP for Fareham & Waterlooville, (re-elected with a  majority reduced from 26086 to 6079) flew immediately to Washington to continue her cultural campaign in a speech to the National Conservatism Conference (NATCON) and subsequently repeated her remarks via a transatlantic link to a Westminster conference of Popular Conservatism where she spoke of the need to insulate government bodies from what she called the lunatic woke virus”.

The immediacy of her attention-switch from apparent local concerns to distant and divisive hate-filled ideology is a sharp reminder of why Conservative ranks in the UK are now much diminished.  Even Conservative voices (with the unelected exception of Rees-Mogg) were united in condemnation of her views.  The extremists argue that the Conservative cause was lost because they were insufficiently extreme – whereas the overwhelming common judgement was a preference for competent delivery rather than divisive dogma. 

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I went to a Reform UK rally. This is what I learned.

Bored in Oxford, three weeks after the end of term and with everyone else having gone home, I decided to take an impulsive day trip to see the Reform UK rally in Birmingham on the last Sunday before election day. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, as a committed Liberal Democrat and a son of immigrants, I was most certainly apprehensive. I was viewing it essentially as a learning experience, a chance to discover what had driven these people towards Nigel Farage’s newest political entity. 

After an extremely pleasant National Express bus trip and getting slightly lost in the NEC- I found myself in a huge hall, which I later learnt houses around 5000 people. There was an unmistakeable buzz in the room. I got the feeling that the people there felt like they were witnessing something really important. I doubt many of them had been to a political event before, and they’d been uniquely drawn in by Reform. I saw lots of England football shirts, and even a couple of Make America Great Again hats. It was a notably old audience, it seemed like the vast majority were 50+ with an assortment of young men too. I saw very few young women, and very few people from ethnic minorities.

The event was extremely well run, with food and drink stalls, and they even managed to drive their election bus in somehow. The speaker line up consisted of Chief Exec Paul Oakden, Ann Widdecombe, major donor Zia Yusuf (I recommend that you watch this speech in particular), Richard Tice and of course Nigel Farage. When my friends realised where I was off to, I was surprised at the number of messages I got saying ‘stay safe.’ I had never considered that I might be at risk at this event, but apparently a number of my friends (all students) thought that I would be utterly unwelcome. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Everyone was exceedingly polite, and while I didn’t make any effort to engage in any political conversation, I’m sure they would have been more than willing. 

The speeches centred on a few central political themes- the Tories have failed, the state is too big, we should be patriotic, immigration is too high, there are only two genders. ‘Put British people first’ was uttered repeatedly. Each speaker got a rapturous reception from the audience. 

I think they were translating anger into messaging in a way that other parties failed to do in this election. These are people who haven’t seen palpable economic growth in years, seen the culture of their cities changing, and their public services creaking. Reform have managed to direct that anger, to give them a sense that the ‘British’ people had been ignored, and that they present the answer. 

I share very little politically with Reform UK. The way that they’ve continuously demonised immigrants has been a significant contributor to the horrible nature of our public discourse on the issue. Their attempts to erase trans people are deeply damaging. Some of their candidates demonstrated the very worst of what British politics has to offer. Their rhetoric is dangerous, and we need to ensure that we challenge it at every turn. I’m sure many of our nation’s bigots and racists showed up to vote for them on the 4th July; but I also think that many of their voters are just normal people, completely disillusioned with our politics. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

European Parliament

Patriots for Europe is a political oxymoron designed to confuse the public about its true intentions. It stands alongside other political oxymorons such as The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aka North Korea, which is neither democratic, a republic or run for the benefit of the North Korean people.

Patriots for Europe is a new political grouping in the European Parliament. And the political reality is that none of the national political parties that belong to this group feel the least patriotic leanings towards the European concept.

In fact, they are all Euro-sceptics whose main mission in life is to undermine the concept of a united Europe and drag their countries back to the 19th century when Europe was a patchwork of feuding nationalistic states.

The intellectual driving force behind Patriots for Europe is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. His Fidesz Party was booted out of the centre-right European People’s Party in 2022 for being too right-wing and has been politically homeless ever since.

Soon after the announcement of the results for the recent European Parliament elections – a victory for the far-right – Orban flew to Vienna to launch Patriots for Europe alongside Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. Their stated manifesto was: weaken the EU, focus on European cultural identity, introduce stronger anti-immigration measures and oppose the EU’s climate change policy which aims to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050.

The core trio quickly attracted far-right groups from across the EU. By the end of this week it had grown to 84 seats drawn from 12 member states. This places it in third place behind the centre-right European People’s Party (176 seats) and the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (139 seats). There are a total of 720 seats in the European Parliament.

Conspicuous by its absence from the new party is Germany’s AfD (Alternative for Deutschland). Recent Nazi-related scandals have put the far-right Germans beyond the pale even for the likes of Viktor Orban.

A catch was France’s National Rally (RN). It achieved a major victory in the European Parliamentary elections with 30 of France’s 79 MEPs. National Rally then went on to place a disappointing—and surprising—third in French parliamentary elections.

RN’s Jordan Bardella had expected to be French Prime Minister. He has had to settle for the job of President of Patriots for Europe. He secures the job as leader of the national party with the largest number of MEPs in the new political group.  He will be using the parliamentary building at Strasbourg as a platform from which to attack France’s left and centre in preparation for the French presidential elections in 2027.

Iran

“I am a reformist principlist”, declares Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran’s newly-elected president.

But what is a “reformist principlist”? According to Pezeshkian it is someone who is loyal to the principles of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, but wants to liberalise/reform the principles of that revolution.

That means, for a start, swearing allegiance to Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khameini, which he did throughout his campaign. In fact, in his victory speech Pezeshkian praised the “guidance” of Khameini which he described as a major factor in his electoral success.

Khameini, for his part, made a rare post-election speech in which he acknowledged that some Iranians dislike his regime. He then added: “We listen to them and we know what they are saying.”

The question is: What is Khameini hearing and what will he allow Pezeshkian to do about it?

The new president campaigned on a pledge to rein in the morality police who had been arresting women who refused to wear head scarves. He also wanted to improve relations with the West and resume talks on Iran’s nuclear development.

The headscarves issue is likely to be a win for the protesters. The government is unlikely to make a song and dance about it, but they will probably inform the morality police to turn a blind eye to the absence of scarves.

An Iranian initiative to resume talks on nuclear development may also be on the cards. This is because, according to US intelligence, the Iranians have recently slowed down their race to develop nuclear weapons. Thus there is more scope for talks on time limits and associated issues.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 19 Comments

Political violence and intimidation is not new, and it needs to end

I was about to go to bed last night when news started to filter through about shots being fired at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania. The initial pictures showing a bleeding Donald Trump being taken from the stage by the Secret Service agents who had courageously got between him and the bullets that were being sent his way were incredibly disturbing.

Thankfully, he was ok, though he is bound to be shocked but two people died and two people are, at the time of writing, critically ill.

I was incredibly impressed by how calmly and articulately BBC reporter Gary O’Donaghue described what was going on while lying on the ground taking cover behind a car outside the rally.

It should go without saying that candidates and people should be able to conduct and participate in democracy in safety. Too often, we are seeing the opposite. In this country we have seen two MPs killed while carrying out their surgeries in the past 8 years.

In the recent election, Jess Phillips described in her victory speech the intimidation and harassment she and her campaigners had experienced. It’s a tough listen. Nobody should have to go through this.

She should have been accompanied by Jo Cox’s family on polling day, but she asked them not to come out of worry that it would be too traumatic for them to see what she was going through.

She went into more detail about the emotional impact on her on the Electoral Dysfunction podcast the day after the election.

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SNP must repair relations with councils and unions as more than 210,000 days lost

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has today said that the Education Secretary must rebuild relations with trade unions and local authorities as he revealed that more than 210,000 staff days were lost to strikes in just 18 months.

Freedom of information requests submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats have revealed:

  • In 2022/23, at least 170,049 school and council staff days were lost due to strikes, while a further 46,197 were lost between April and October 2023;
  • Children missing out on up to a dozen days of education;
  • Among the local authorities which responded, Glasgow lost the most days of staff time with 29,295

Posted in News, Press releases and Scotland | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

A special request to Federal Conference Committee

My goodness, Conference is going to be an absolute blast this year. Our annual jaunt to the seaside takes place from 14-17 September in Brighton will be so much sweeter after our spectacular General Election result.

I wasn’t going to go because of caring responsibilities, but I’ve managed to book a flying visit for 24 hours as I can’t bear the thought of not being with the Lib Dem family in such a special year. I mean who wouldn’t want to be around to congratulate 72 MPs and maybe get  a cuddle with Jennie if she’s off duty? And I can vouch for the fact that she does love a cuddle. If you think I am talking about Jennie Rigg, well, her too.

Before I say anything else, I should make the point very strongly that Federal Conference Committee have even more of a challenge than usual this year because someone decided to go outside on a wet Wednesday and call an election round about the time we’d normally have our motion submission deadlines.  Whether you agree with every decision FCC makes or not, I think it is important to acknowledge the huge amount of work that they do.

So, this request to them comes from a place of love. Registration for Conference opened earlier this week. The Early Bird discount is only available for around two weeks. Until 23 July, a members’ pass to the Conference costs £90. After that, until 13th August, it goes up to £130.

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Observations of an Expat: Special Relationship

It’s time for the Special Relationship to be extracted from the diplomatic cupboard and dusted off.

Britain needs it. Europe needs it. And, although they are less keen to admit that they need help from any quarter, the US needs it to become the cornerstone of a new Transatlantic Alliance.

For years the UK shared the “Special Relationship” tag with France and Germany. In fact, after Brexit, Britain probably slipped into third place in Washington’s relationship arrangements.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has politically castrated himself with the recent political elections and the dull and dreary German Chancellor Olaf Scholz fails to inspire either the Germans or the wider world community

Britain may no longer be an EU power, but Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide victory gives him latitude at home and kudos abroad.

He is helped by a foreign secretary who has the potential to go down in history as one of the best in modern times. David Lammy wasted no time in stamping his image on British foreign policy. Almost before Sir Keir had finished his acceptance speech, Lammy was on the plane for Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Kyiv. This week he was at the prime minister’s elbow for the NATO summit in Washington where Sir Keir was the only NATO leader awarded a tete a tete with President Joe Biden.

Lammy also has extensive American connections. The new foreign secretary has worked, studied and lived in the US. He has family in America and his father is buried in Texas.

But what if Donald Trump returns to the White House? A prospect which appears increasingly likely as Joe Biden ages with every passing day. Lammy is on record as labelling Trump a “woman-hating neo-Nazi sympathising sociopath” and a “profound threat to international order” as well as a racist and a fascist.

But both Sir Keir and Lammy have said that the transAtlantic relationship remains the “bedrock” of British foreign policy. And in a recent speech at the conservative US think tank the Hudson Institute, Lammy said that Trump’s comments on European security had been “misunderstood.” He has also gone out of his way recently to meet senior Trump foreign policy advisers.

Unfortunately, Trump’s negative policy towards Europe is based on good, sound politics. It is a reflection of a growing US isolationism which in turn is a reaction to series of foreign policy reversals. That feeling of being hard done by the rest of the world (especially its European allies) will continue regardless of whomever win the November election.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 7 Comments
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